Francis Naali of Tanzania winning the 2002 Commonwealth Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 4 December 2003 – Singapore

Commonwealth champion Naali leads Tanzanian assault in Singapore

SingaporeFrancis Robert Naali, Commonwealth Marathon champion from Manchester 2002 will lead a strong Tanzanian presence in this Sunday’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (7 Dec).

Naali, 31, who has a 2:09:33 personal best from when finishing second at the 1996 Berlin Marathon, took the 2002 Commonwealth title in 2:11:58, and is accompanied on Sunday by compatriots Simon Mrashani Basiligitwa and Andea Geway Suja.

Simon Mrashani Basiligitwa, 39, has a personal best of 2:11:34, and took silver in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, and Andea Geway Suja, 37, has a best of 2:14:04 and was the bronze medallist at the same Games.

All three men are Policemen, Mrashani is an Assistant Inspector, and Naali and Suja are sergeants. All three work and run at the Police Training School in the town of Moshi, which is at 2000 metres altitude in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Their team manager, John Manyama says that Tanzania is playing catch-up with the Kenyans and Ethiopians in the marathon stakes. "We have lacked structure and organisation in the past, which wasn't good to help young runners, but we're starting to do like the Kenyans now. We have established two altitude training camps, to reunite our best runners. One is in Moshi and the other is in Arusha".

The immediate outcome is that Tanzania has six men vying for the three Olympic places in the team for Athens next year.

"I want to win, and I expect to win," Naali said yesterday, "I know the time will be slow, because of the humidity, but I think I can break the course record (2.18.30). “

Naali and his colleagues, who also include 1991 World junior cross country champion Andrew Sambu will have an early opportunity to measure themselves against their East African neighbours, because the Kenyans, as usual are out in force.

35 year-old John Rotich, who has a personal best of 2:12:32 from when winning this year’s Krems Marathon (14 September) and also won in Karlstad in May, leads the Kenyan challenge.