Samoa Independence National Marathon is back. The iconic race, a staple of Independence Weekend celebrations, has been missing for a couple of years.
Race Coordinators, the veteran U.S. Vets have new priorities which has meant many of the stalwarts are no longer available to put time into organising the race.
But now Samoa Events is set to relaunch Samoa Independence Marathon bringing it back this year on Saturday, 3rd June – minus the marathon. The full marathon will just have to wait until 2018 for its comeback. This year’s race will restart with a Half Marathon, 10km, 5km and 3km distances.
The other major change is the trajectory of the event, Samoa Events favouring a more traditional route and moving it from the old course the Vets used that went out east and back. The new course is point to point from the Airport to Apia.
The Half Marathon this year will start at Faleasiu, the exact 21km mark from downtown Apia. The 10km distance race will kick off at Faleula just on the airport side of the Methodist compound. The 5km walk and run will start at ANZ Vaitele, while the 3km walk will start at Lepea and all the way to a Town finish.
In the New Year the Marathon will kick off at Samatau with a one-way course to the finish at Apia.
Though a very awkward course in terms of traffic interference, the idea of running from the airport to Apia is the traditional gesture of the National marathon.
It has been done before, by other folks pre-U.S. Vets. Then, the marathon ran from Mulifanua to town. The 42.2km distance was made up by various detours around Apia until the distance was complete.
The race this year is being placed back in the Independence window, though next year it can easily be relocated to September for the Teuila Festival Celebrations. That might make sense, to separate the two marathons, Savaii in April and Samoa National to September.
The other U.S. Vets race now being run by Samoa Events, the Samoa Perimeter Relay (S.P.R.) currently sits in the Teuila week, but may move in 2018.
With the Independence Marathon back in the fold, Samoa will boast a feast of long distance races. The country will have two full Marathons – Savaii and National.
There are four Half Marathons – Savaii, National, Lalomanu in July and the newly appointed Le Lava Half Marathon scheduled for 5 August this year.
Samoa Events has put Le Lava in the north coast tourist belt of Savaii. That Half Marathon race will start at Manase and out to the village of Mauga past the Lava field and back to Manase to finish. Other distances are laid in between.
In the full spectrum of the new era – Samoa will actually be a Runners paradise starting in January with the Falefa Falls Run, and ending in November with Falefa Falls again. In between sits the two Marathons and three Half Marathons. Add the popular S.P.R., and other now annual races such as the ANZAC Challenge and King of Vaea.
The country will be spoilt for choice. But as Samoa Events Director Afoa Seti Afoa points out, these races are for another market, the tourist market.
“The local market can only take in so much running. Samoa can build a network of running events. That is what visitors now look for when they travel – something other than sipping wine by the pool to do,” Afoa said.
Afoa’s other dream of building the Samoa National Trails (S.N.T.) still flickers in his vision for sustainable tourism for the country.
He has invited some friends from New Zealand in September to test out Phase 1 from Aleipata to Sauniatu taking in the Atua volcanic cones, and out to the coast to Ti’avea through to Fagaloa to the tip of Mt Fao and back down to Falefa Valley and follows the Falefa River upstream to Sauniatu.
The outcome is good for the country. There will be more runners and walkers traveling to Samoa to participate in the various events and walk the Samoa National Trails. When completed, S.N.T. will take in the full length of the country from Aleipata in the east to Falealupo in the west – sunrise to sunset.
“There are no stadiums or built up infrastructure for these events. The only thing visitors in these events will leave are footprints. This is sustainable tourism at best,” Afoa added.
For the Independence or National Marathon, Samoa Events will kick off this year’s race early on Saturday morning with a 6am start for the Half Marathon at Faleasiu.
“We want to get it out of the way before the full flow of Saturday traffic kicks in,” Afoa said.
And being a National Marathon, there will be Prize Money for the winners and certificate awards for all those that complete their chosen distance.
The race will finish on Beach Road.