John Stephen Akhwari (born 1938 in Mbulu, Tanzania), is a Tanzanian former marathon runner. He represented Tanzania in the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

  • 1968

    Olympic Marathon in Mexico City

    John Stephen Akhwari (born 1938 in Mbulu, Tanzania), is a Tanzanian former marathon runner. He represented Tanzania in the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

    While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, Akhwari cramped up due to the high altitude of the city. He had not trained at such an altitude back in his country. At the 19-kilometer point during the 42 km race, there was jockeying for position between some runners and he was hit. He fell badly wounding his knee and dislocating that joint plus his shoulder hit hard against the pavement. He however continued running, finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started). The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27, when there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium, and the sun had set. A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.

    As he finally crossed the finish line a cheer came from the small crowd. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race."

  • 1968

    Athletic Career

    Akhwari competed for many years before and after the 1968 Olympics. He finished first in the African Marathon Championships before the Olympics. He finished fifth in the marathon at the 1970 Commonwealth Games where he ran a 2:15:05 time. The winner had run 2:09:28. In those same Games he ran a 28:44 in the 10,000-meter race and was only about 30 seconds behind the leaders. He ran marathons in the 2:20 range on a regular basis both before and after the 1968 Olympics. He was a world class runner for most of the 1960s and 1970s.

  • 1983

    Post-Athletic Career

    Akhwari has lived for many years in his village in Mbulu, Tanzania with his wife and six children. Once in a while the world beckons him back. He was awarded a National Hero Medal of Honor in 1983. He lent his name to the John Stephen Akhwari Athletic Foundation, an organization which supports Tanzanian athletes training for the Olympic Games. He was invited to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He later appeared in Beijing as a goodwill ambassador in preparation for the 2008 Games. He was a torchbearer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on April 13, 2008, for the Olympic torch relay through his country. In August 2018, the Olympic Committee in Mexico City invited Akhwari together with Kenji Kimihara, Silver Medalist of the 1968 Olympic Marathon as torchbearers in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Mexico City Olympics.

  • 2019

    marathon event on 9th June 2019

    Mr. John, who turned 80 years old in March 2018, wishes to leave a legacy in Athletic World. His first initiative is to organize a marathon event on 9th June 2019 which will subsequently be held annually in June. The event is deemed to be a platform upon which he expects to achieve his long-term ambition of starting a ‘John Stephen Akhwari Athletic Foundation’. The aim of the foundation is to identify and nurture young Tanzanian talents and develop them to world class Olympic champions.

    The purpose of the race is also to formally recognize his contribution to the athletic world, raise awareness to the general public on healthy-living to people from all walks of life. Proceeds from sale of tickets to the race shall be deposited to a designated account to assist with formation of John Stephen Akhwari Athletic Foundation.

    Akhwari now appeals to all well-wishers and to the general public both within the country and beyond to join him in the effort to make this race a success. If you wish to get in touch with Mr. Akhwari or assist in any way to this noble cause, kindly contact the Organizing

John Stephen Akhwari International Marathon

Athletic Career

Akhwari competed for many years before and after the 1968 Olympics. He finished first in the African Marathon Championships before the Olympics. He finished fifth in the marathon at the 1970 Commonwealth Games where he ran a 2:15:05 time. The winner had run 2:09:28. In those same Games he ran a 28:44 in the 10,000-meter race and was only about 30 seconds behind the leaders. He ran marathons in the 2:20 range on a regular basis both before and after the 1968 Olympics. He was a world class runner for most of the 1960s and 1970s.

Congratulations on a very successful John Stephen Akhwari International Marathon. What a lot of work! Our group really appreciated Wild Frontiers’ organization, right from the airport pickup through the hotel arrangements, the briefing, the dinner, and the event itself, we added a trip to Arusha park and it was great as well!

Sylvester Orao
CEO, John Stephen Akhwari International Marathon

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