The Rich History of The Ghana Milo Marathon
A Short History of Accra Milo Marathon.
Three thousand runners. Twenty-six miles. Thirteen water stations. Two tired feet. That is the international Olympic Marathon – a colossal challenge that dares runners to attempt its course. It’s often a grueling race for which athletes train, sweat, persevere, and condition themselves to prepare for participation. They find themselves running among countless other runners with the same goal in mind: complete the race. But not everyone makes it to the finish line. in the end, one runner claims the ULTIMATE. The Rich History of The Ghana Milo Marathon
This international race, the marathon, was introduced to the Ghanaian scene by the Dansoman Keep Fit Club led by the late Carl Reindorf,(former deputy minister of Information in the 2nd Republican Government led by the late Professor K.A. Busia), the late Sam Nelson (then deputy minister of Youth & Sports under the PNDC government),Mr. N.A. Adjin-Tettey,(a retired administrator of the National Sports Council), together with fourteen other members of the Club. The initial aim of the organizers, according to Mr. Adjin-Tettey, was to inculcate the habit of distant running in the youth as part of lifestyle change attitude – purely for health reasons.
The first race, the Accra Marathon, was run in 1986 with 107 athletes taking part. It was sponsored by the State Insurance Company Limited. The Internal Revenue Service, then under the leadership of the late Professor John Evans Atta- Mills as Commissioner of the Service, provided transport for the athletes and organizers. That race was won by Police Sergeant Amegashie who took home Ten Thousand Old Ghana Cedis equivalent of Ten New Ghana Cedis.
Seeing the mutual benefit that could be derived from the race, Mr. Eddie Annan, a member of the Club who was then with the sales department of Nestle Ghana Limited, arranged a meeting with the Club with Nestle to work out a partnership arrangement for sponsorship of the marathon race.
Nestle took up the challenge and sponsored the 2nd edition of the Accra Marathon. It was at that edition that the name ‘Accra Marathon’ was changed to Accra Milo Marathon.’
That arrangement or marriage of convenience has continued for the past twenty-five years and this year marks twenty-six years of Nestle’s participation and sponsorship of the event.
One may be tempted to admit that the mapping of route may have also influenced Nestle to sponsor the race. The route starts from the East coast of the city at THE POINT, Nungua, meanders through the central business district of the capital (through Makola) and runs through the most populous areas of this grueling city of Accra, and continues through the second largest market, the Kaneshie Market Street, and ends at the south-west, the Dansoman Estate, the biggest Real Estate in the whole of West Africa where the FINISH LINE is home to over 500 hundred thousand citizens.
Over the years, attempts have been made (at the urging of Nestle) to finish the rfacde at the Sports Stadium or the Black Star Square; but the end result had been very poor patronage of the closing ceremonies, which climaxes the event. For a company deeply involved in marketing healthy products for a generation, it has not been the best of venue to showcase products. Those areas are not homes of people like DASOMAN, the pudding capital of Accra.
The Race commences with the PRESS LAUNCH, which creates awareness of the race and alerts the athletes to prepare.
Devoid of Politics
Over the years, the Dansoman Keep Fit Club has invited public figures as guests of honour to start both races and to deliver the key note addresses at the closing ceremonies.
Ministers of State, Directors of Ministries and public figures have bestowed their privileges on the event by their acceptance and participation. Heads of State have come and their Vice-Presidents have also been invited. NPP Presidential candidate Nana Akuffo-Addo also made us proud by his participation. The late President, Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills started the race when he was Vice President.
However, in all that and in spite of the presence of such high political figures, the Club sternly made sure that political clout is never exhibited at the function. When President Kuffour came, his party functionaries wanted to exhibit party flags and colours, but we quietly and diplomatically entreated the sitting President to advise his people to the contrary. He adhered to our request and the functionaries quietly left the scene even before he entered the Carl Reindorf Stadium to commence the proceedings climaxing the event. Even though many of members are members of government, the never openly display their party loyalties on the ground. Majority Leader Hon. Avoka is a member; Ambassador to Rome Mrs.Aanaa Enin is an active member of the club. The late Finance Minister Kojo Baah-Wiredu, was our internal auditor, and many others. This is how the Club had been able to hold the race together over the years.
Over the years Nestle has committed colossal sums of money for the organization, media coverage and prizes for the athletes. Among other considerations, one must admit that it is the consistency of Nestle’s sponsorship that has enabled the race to grow from its humble beginning to the present size it has gained.
Most of the participants of the race come from within the country. However, a sizeable number of athletes and enthusiasts come from countries around the West African sub-region. They include members of the diplomatic corps of the various embassies around us and the American Peace Corps working in the sub-region.
Participants fall into three categories:
1. Those who take delight just being part of the race; the merry makers. One usually sees them with bread in the hand and they stop at ever refreshment point to have their fill of the Milo Mix. They make quite a chunk of the runners; but do not run beyond Teshie and Nungua, a distance of 4 kilo meters.
2. The second group comprises those who run for health reasons. Their aim is not to win the race and collect prizes; but to strengthen their heart muscles. Most of them run the whole course or at least two-thirds of the 42.2 kilo meter race.
3. The third category of runner who aim at the prizes at stake. Among these are the core marathon runners. You find the Zigah’s, Amegashies, Akuka, Yin etc. ).
Each year, the race organization experiences different challenges: late arrival of running vests, wrong numbering of the vests, wrong numbering of application forms, late delivery of invitation forms, challenges posed by poor security arrangement, water shortages at some points, banana shortages, and so on. But the most outstanding ones are the attempts by many runners to cheat and friends and relatives trying to aid the athletes to cheat. Even though this unsportsmanship attitude rears its ugly head in many international sporting arenas the world over, the organizers of the Accra Milo Marathon try as much as possible to minimize its impact on the race. As a precaution for instance, plain-cloth police men have been engaged to do special duty to try to flush out such cheats.
The Accra Milo Marathon has grown to become the biggest single annual sporting event that people – athletes and countrymen as a whole look forward to every year. Just after every Press Launch of the Race, enquiries come from around the globe, especially where there is a delay in the starting of the registration of participants, the organizers are bombarded with calls all over the place. It shows the enthusiasm that the race has generated over the years. Over one million people line the streets of the 42.2km marathon route, while the whole City of Accra comes to a standstill with commuters from the surrounding areas stuck in heavy traffic.
A few years ago, runners came from over Africa: Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Nigeria and Mauritania. The Rich History of The Ghana Milo Marathon
Why the Milo Marathon is no more in existence today…..
By Sammy Alornyo / Sekyere Richard
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