On May 23 (this year), Rwanda will host the 6th edition of the International Peace Marathon for both children and adults.
The event is organized by former professional athlete Ernzen Jean Pierre from Luxembourg working with soroptimist international in cooperation with the Rwanda athletics federation (RAF).
The name Soroptimist was coined from the Latin soror meaning sister, and optima meaning best. Soroptimist is perhaps best interpreted as ‘the best for women’.
From the founding of the first Soroptimist club in Oakland, California, in 1921, through to the present day where over 3000 clubs are flourishing throughout the world, Soroptimists have continued to strive to achieve ‘the best for women’ in every sphere of their lives.
In 2004, Soroptimist International Europe under the lead of Miss Bettina Scholl Sabbatini from Luxembourg had the idea to plan an International Sport event in Rwanda in order to promote peace development through sports.
Soroptimists inspire action and create opportunities to transform the lives of women and girls through a global network of members and international partnerships.
The organization has inspired women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realize aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide through use of sports.
After making sporting agreements with the ministry of sports (MISPOC) in 2004, soroptimist international and the ministry (of sports) agreed to organize an annual International Peace Marathon every May in Kigali.
The first edition of the international peace marathon took place on 15th of May 2005 and was a revelation to those who participated in it. Ever since, many sportsmen and sportswomen, Soroptimists and supporters from all over the world have joined the competition.
There is need to professionalize and educate our local athletes. This will be achieved if the Rwanda athletics federation (RAF) can improve on different levels; event organizing, fund raising, Sport and development structure as well as promotion of top athletes.
For this coming event, six races have been scheduled to take place. The first one is a 5 km race for children (girls and boys) aged 10-12 years; the second is Wheel Chair Race for people the wheelchairs that covers 1-5 kilometers, third one is a 5km run for fun and this is open to everybody, the fourth one is a half marathon of 21.1 kilometers and the fifth one is the full marathon race of 42 kilometers and a sixth race will be team marathon relay of 4 members open for associations, NGO’s, and companies. each of the four team members have to run 10.5kilometers.
Winners of each race are awarded with prize money as part of the sponsorship package.
Based on statistics from the organizers, the number of participants from various countries has been increasing each year.
For example in 2005 there were a total of 1800 participants from 24 nations, the 2006 event had 2000 participants from 23 nations, 2007 event had 2400 athletes from 25 nations, 2008 event had 2800 participants from 23 nations and the 2009 event registered 3000 competitors from 24 nations.
Mr. Ernzen, who is the chief organizer of the event, highlights that the international peace marathon comes to Rwanda to run for peace and reconciliation.
“Seroptimist international has been motivated by the Rwandan government willingness to support all the necessary actions to promote and install a culture of peace. This is also an important reason behind success of the annual international peace marathon,” Ernzen said.
Soroptimist offers sponsorship and logistic works that includes publicity of the event world wide.