The Lewa Safari Marathon planned for June 27 at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has been called off for the first time in 20 years.
The Chief Executive Officer of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mike Watson, on Thursday disclosed that the race organisers have been forced to cancel this year’s competition to help curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The title sponsors of this year’s competition were Huawei Kenya and Safaricom PLC.
“Despite our great willingness to push on, having weighed all factors, we have come to the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s race,” Watson said in a statement, noting that on March 25, the Kenyan government announced 28 cases of Covid-19 in the country and banned all international flights effective from March 25. Also banned are public gatherings and sporting events.
“A significant number of the marathoners, whose contributions are key to the success of the event, are overseas runners from the UK and the USA. In light of the new travel restrictions and severity of the situation, they will be unable to participate,” said Watson, adding that the government has also issued a public declaration advising Kenyans to avoid all non-essential public gatherings.
“While we are sure all efforts are being made by the Kenyan government to contain the spread of the virus, it is paramount that we heed the presidential directive to avoid all non-essential public gatherings and play our part in flattening the curve until all of this is behind us,” Watson added.
Charlie Mayhew, chief executive officer of Tusk, a company that funds wildlife conservation efforts, said the importance of the Lewa Safari Marathon to the company’s operations in Kenya cannot be overstated.
“It is our flagship fundraising initiative and undoubtedly a highlight of the Tusk calendar for the hundreds of international runners we host every year at the event,” said Mayhew, noting that the event regularly generates more than Sh50 million for numerous conservation, education and community projects across Kenya, and its cancellation this year is a big blow.
Mayhew said the safety of runners, supporters and local communities amid the global pandemic is paramount.
“We will return next year, stronger than ever, and meanwhile we are committed to continue supporting our partner projects as best we can,” said Mayhew, adding that the marathon is not just a running experience, but also a force for good.
“It not only helps us protect Kenya’s wildlife, but it also brings communities together and transforms lives. The extraordinary sums of money generated go directly toward our conservation efforts on the ground. It is an event like no other.”
Mayhew said holding such a highly competitive event to its usual standards may impose a financial strain on co-sponsors who, in these tough business climate, will struggle to support the event as they have done before.
Organisers will offer the participants the chance to defer their entries, as well as claim full or partial refunds. The cancellation policy can be accessed through the event’s website https://www.lewasafarimarathon.co.ke/cancellation-policy/. Participants can also mail organisers via the address [email protected]
The 21st edition of the race sought to raise Sh50 million for community projects and wildlife conservation at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.