Running a marathon through the Lewa Wildlife conservancy, the Safaricom Lewa Marathon



The Safaricom Lewa Marathon is a unique race even for the Kenyan road racing scene. Justin Lagat wrote this piece on the race and what it does for the community.

This Saturday, the 25th of June, 1,200 runners from over 20 countries will run in the wild at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy; a sanctuary for over 100 rhinos, herds of Elephants, Buffaloes, Zebras, giraffes and other wild animals in the northern central part of Kenya.
There will be three race categories: the 5km fun run, the half marathon and the full marathon. The full and half marathons follow the same course, only that the half marathon runners will do the loop once while the marathon runners will do it twice.
With game rangers manning the entire route to ensure the safety of runners from wild animals, water and aid stations being set up after every 2.5km on the course and live TV coverage of the event, this is one of the most organized marathon events in Kenya.
Most runners who have ever run in this marathon have gone ahead to write about their amazing experiences at this race and the race has been featured in many international magazines including the Runners' World. It is now arguably one of the top ten "must do" marathons in the world.
Although the race does not focus much on the elite runners and winning prizes, high profile Kenyan runners often grace this event.
Also, winners in various categories are actually awarded prize money and goodies that are not specified on the race's website. Besides that, every other runner who crosses the finish line receives a finisher's medal and a goody bag as well.
Because of the need to minimize the interference of wild life in the conservancy, only a limited number of runners are entered in the races and it is often hard to get an entry to any of the races despite the relatively high entry fees. The maximum number of runners is always filled up within a short time. The race first started in 2000 with only 150 runners taking part in it, but it has quickly grown into one of the most sought after races to run in the world.
Tusk Trust, which initiates and funds conservation, community development, environmental and education programs across Africa together with the Lewa Conservancy are the race organizers, while Safaricom is the main sponsor.
The main aim of the race is to touch lives and make an impact in the communities around the wildlife conservancy as well as care for the natural environment. Many projects being supported by the marathon include the building and equipping of healthcare clinics in the area, distribution of clean water to the locals, micro-credit programs for women groups, educational scholarships for youths and agricultural programs for the local farmers in the area, among other initiatives.
I wish success and fun to all runners running the Lewa Marathon this weekend for a great cause of changing lives and preserving the wildlife.

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