Interview: Colombia International Marathon

22 Dec 2016 07:00
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Credit : Annie Ross

Hello, on February 18th 2017, you’ll be organizing the Colombia International Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located?

The race is taking place on the north coast of Colombia, in the oldest surviving city in Latin America – Santa Marta. It is known as La Perla (The Pearl) as it is nested between the Caribbean Sea and two of the nation’s most beautiful national parks: Sierra Nevada and Tayrona.

The race itself winds its way from the tiny town of Minca in the Sierra Nevada down through the trails to finish on the beach front in the centre of Santa Marta. Vibrant, full of life and with sunsets like you wouldn’t believe, it’s a great host city.

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

This is our first year! And it’s a super exciting time to be working in Colombia. As the nation pushes ever closer to lasting peace, the race is a celebration of the work done to this point but also we are here to lay further foundations for peace.

The Impact Marathon Series is unlike any other race series in the world in that we are inspired by creating a lasting social impact, and introducing our athletes to their ability to make the world a better place. The race is the final day of a week-long trip. Our runners will be living in our Athlete’s Village in the countryside out of the city. They will spend three days visiting and working with the exact projects they have fundraised for.

Seeing, feeling and understanding their impact – whilst helping the community achieve their goals.


What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

It’s a seriously challenging but varied route. You start up high in the Sierra Nevada National Park. It’s hot and humid, and nearly all on trail. You’ll be following jungle paths, river crossings, some tough uphills and technical descents. It is as varied a course as you will find.

And as you leave the jungles with around 8km to go you find yourself running along an amazing railway line, with a vibrant and loud atmosphere, music blaring and brightly coloured houses that back onto the course. It’s an extraordinary little stretch.

You then drop down onto some roads into the finish line that is right on the beach front of Santa Marta – so a cooling swim in the Caribbean Sea will finish the race off perfectly.

The Route

What are the distances on the agenda?

5km, 23km and 42km distances.

What type of runners do you plan to attract?

We have such a varied group of runners at our races. Even in Nepal with 2000m of climbing we found people taking on the 42km distance for the first time! Our races are not about finishing first, or getting a PB – you won’t be able to!

It’s about running somewhere stunning, with others, for others. It’s about lifting people up and bringing them together through the power of running. When you take on the hardest race of your life, when you complete it, when you’ve spent a week meeting the most awesome friends, and working in the community – the finish line feeling is ultra-intense and truly special. So every ability is welcome!

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

The beauty of Santa Marta is that it is summer everyday! So expect 30 Celcius upwards and a strong punch of humidity. The hills are tough, but the heat is probably tougher.

Credit : Annie Ross

Have you planned festivities around the event?

The Impact Week and living in the Athletes’ Village is the key part of what makes Impact Marathons unique. That said, we are partnered with pop superstar and UN Goodwill Ambassador Carlos Vives – so I imagine we will have some fun at the finish line. Although he has decided to run the 23km, so see how he feels after that course!!

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Santa Marta before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

The Lost City Trek is a must – hike deep into the hills around Santa Marta and you find an ancient city only recently discovered. We are indeed organising for a group of our runners to head up afterwards, it’s unmissable – Colombia’s answer to Macchu Pichhu.

In addition, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Cartagena is a short bus ride away, getting lost on the cobbled streets is like living in an actual post card so that is something everyone should enjoy. There is so much, I can do a whole other interview on Colombia alone!

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Colombia International Marathon?

No other race in the world can combine such a brilliantly challenging trail and real impact, real purpose – you are running with the very people whose lives you are changing and building a future of peace for an entire nation! That’s seriously awesome…

Credit : Annie Ross
Nick Kershaw
Credit : David Altabev

Interview with Nick Kershaw, CEO of the Impact Marathon Series.

Two years ago, after successfully creating the award-winning Uganda International Marathon, he left a career in finance to build an organisation that empowered communities through running and empowered our runners through travel. Since then they have organized the inaugural Nepal Impact Marathon in November 2016 where they, as a community, built a 5 km pipeline bringing clean water to the village they were living in for the entire year. They are now working with the UN Global Goals to ensure we are tackling the major social issues facing the world today and have races in Nepal, Colombia, Malawi and Guatemala.