Close to 600 U.S. runners competed in Havana's Marabana marathon last Sunday

Posted: 19-Nov-15 13:23

A record-breaking number of nearly 600 runners from the U.S. enlisted in this year's edition of Marabana - Cuba's largest annual marathon competition spanning 42 kilometres of racing grounds that go from El Capitolio in Old Havana to the panoramic Malecon seawall and the Revolution Square in the Cerro municipality. This 29th edition also broke a record in the total number of participants with a staggering 5,000 runners, of which 1,470 where foreigners. The race was won by Cuban Jorge Luis Suarez on the male category and Norwegian, Tonje Kvala on the female side.

Close to 600 U.S. runners competed in Havana's Marabana marathon last Sunday

The latest edition of Marabana took place last Sunday with a new starting point. It all kicked off in front of El Capitolio in a much wider avenue than the one previously used due to the need to accommodate a significantly larger number of runners in comparison to previous editions, with over 5,000 participants, of which 1,470 were foreign and breaking previous predictions that announced 421 had signed up, a total of 567 were from the U.S. – the largest ever number of athletes from this nation to participate in the event.

The race was won by Cuban Jorge Luis Suarez for the fourth consecutive time on the male category and by Norwegian competitor, Tonje Kvala representing the female side.

According to Diario de Cuba, Kvala, 22, became the second foreign participant (the first according to some sources) win the Marabana race in its 29 years of existence. The young medicine student who was on holidays in Cuba, said of winning and her experience running in Havana:

"I’m still in shock, I didn’t expect this result. While I ran I only thought on keep going, keep going."

She reached the finish line and stopped the clock at three hours, 28 minutes and 23 seconds, beating all other female athletes, including all Cuban female hopefuls, with neither being able to achieve any of the top three positions. Instead the second positon went to Heidi Johansen from the U.S. and Neyhsa Valez from Puerto Rico.

Speaking about how she was treated and her overall experience in dealing with Cuban people, Tonje Kvala said:

"People are very nice and kind here..."

She further went on to reveal that she would now concentrate on finishing her studies but hopes to return to Cuba soon, not only to run, but also to enjoy the many attractions of “this wonderful country”, as she described it herself.

President of the Marabana marathon's Organising Committee, Carlos Gatorno noted that a total of 60 nations were represented in this year's race, a record-breaking number, also highlighting it had the highest ever participation from U.S. runners, solid proof of the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba and the progress that has been made in re-establishing ties between the two countries.

The full circuit covered 42 kilometres and 1958 metres and 580 of the runners managed to complete it, an impressive figure never seen before either.

Officially overseen and sponsored by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races and the race was timed with the Mylpas system, brought over by organisers from the Madrid Marathon. This year's race was dedicated to the 496th anniversary of the foundation of Havana and the National Day of Physical Activity and Sports. The times achieved by the best racers will be valid to qualify for any major global racing event, including next year's Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.


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