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Havana Marathon: another call for world peace

Havana Marathon: another call for world peace
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
16 November 2001 – Havana, Cuba – The Havana International Marathon and Half Marathon (Marabana) will celebrate its 15th birthday this Sunday, when nearly 3000 athletes from 73 countries will run for world peace.

Following the same spirit of Berlin, Washington and New York, Marabana will again show sport as a good way to unite peoples in harmony, against terrorist and warlike actions affecting our world today.

With no prize money for elite runners, the Havana has a different concept: focusing on the International Olympic Commitee’s Sport for All campaign, promoting Cubans’ physical and mental welfare through the run.

The athletic contest will also celebrate the 482nd anniversary of the city’s foundation and the National Day of Sport.

On the occasion, many short races will be held simultaneously along the Islands, expecting to draw nearly half a million participants, specially kids.  Artists such as poet Nancy Robinson and painter Carlos Reyes devoted their art to one of the largest international competitions ever held in Cuba.

Sanctioned by the International Associations of Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) and supported by Madrid and other international marathons, Marabana has provided great opportunities for Cuban long distance specialists in a nation characterized by great jumpers, hurdlers and thowers.

This is true for Mariela Gonzalez and Aguelmis Rojas, the half marathon defending champions, who achieved notable progress this season.  Gonzalez, 27, won gold at the Central and Caribbean championships last July in Guatemala, the country’s first area title since 1991. 23-year old Rojas was third among the Americas’ runners in the World Half Marathon Champs in Bristol, England, where Cuba made its debut in this event.

Since its creation in 1987, Marabana has crowned 21 champions, but only three of them are foreigners: Mexico’s Alejandro Salvador (1992) and Marcelin Lopez (1993), as well as Italy’s Anna Zachi (1993).  The 21,0975 race has been held since the first running of the event, while the 42,195km run emerged in 1990.  Most titled winners are Emperatriz Wilson (eight titles) and Alberto Cuba (seven).

39-year old Cuba, gold medalist in the 1991 Havana Pan American Games, owns the record for both half marathon (1:04.23), set in 1990, and the marathon (2:13.37).

The latter was established together his brother in 1994.

Wilson has been the fastest in the 21,097.5 km race (1:16:16) while Yesenia Centeno set the standard for the 42,195km run (2:44.12).

Other frequent winners have been Mariela Gonzalez (5), Yesenia Centeno (4), Jose Ramon Rodriguez, Luis Cadet and Alexis Cuba (3).  In a world affected today by terrorism and the war in Afghanistan, thousands of runners will gather in Havana on Sunday, showing again that sports are certainly a good way to achieve peace and friendship in our planet.