Uganda’s tourism sector is looking to promote sports in the wild to attract more visitors to the country. Now Equator Heights, a local organisation of tourism enthusiasts, is planning to introduce an annual marathon to draw global attention to the Rwenzori Mountains, one of the country’s biggest attractions.
The Rwenzoris, also known as the "Mountains of the Moon" are ranges located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The highest peak reaches 5,109 metres, and is permanently snow-capped.
The marathon will be formally known as Tusker Lite Mt Rwenzori Marathon, named after its sponsor, and is set to be held on September 3 this year. It will be part of the Rwenzori Thelugi festival.
Organisers say they were inspired by the success of similar regional events, and the marathon is expected to attract 2,000 runners.
Additional events will include climbing the mountain, going on safari or exploring other attractions in the country’s western region. There will also be hikes, bird watching, boat rides on the Kazinga channel and a concert.
Local and international runners, professional and amateurs, can take part in the 42-km marathon, the 21-km half marathon or a five-km fun run.
Robert Kabushenga, one of the organisers, said the marathon will have a tougher terrain than those that have been held in Uganda before.
“Ugandans have shown immense interest in participating in the various marathons and runs that have been organised within Kampala. But there has been a burning desire among athletes and running enthusiasts to have a marathon in an entirely different environment. The iconic Rwenzori Mountains provide a new challenge, with the bonus of a scenic setting,” Kabushenga said.
Organisers say it has been organised to foster healthy lifestyles, highlight climate preservation and celebrate sports tourism.
The run will be the third of its kind in the region, after Kenya’s Maasai Marathon, one of Africa’s most exotic trail routes through the remote village of Kimanjo, and Tanzania’s Kili Marathon which draws attention to Mt Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro attracts about 50,000 hikers every year, but Uganda’s Rwenzori barely gets 1,000 annually.
“Our motherland is rich and this event will cast a spotlight on the many wonders of the Kasese region. This is a great opportunity to explore Uganda,” Amos Wekesa, one of the organisers, said.