Ellina Mhlanga Senior Sports Reporter
IT’S just a few days to go before the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon takes place and local athletes are looking forward to another exciting edition of this international road running event.
Most of the country’s leading distance runners are set to be part of the field on Sunday.
The event will be held physically for the first time in two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic-induced break in 2020 and 2021.
The main race of the day is the 42.195km marathon. There is also a half-marathon, a Fun Run and a half-marathon relay (10kmx2) on offer.
Lyno Muchena, who came third in the men’s race in 2019 in 2hours 25minutes 48seconds, said he is looking forward to a better time this time around.
“I am expecting a little bit difference even the winning time. I think my time is going to change this year. I am expecting to run 2:17 or 2:18.
“It’s (the race) going to have a better time, if you look at the quality, the field of athletes, they have been running fast times this year.
“The weather is a bit fine, sometimes we run under hot weather conditions. So I think the weather is going to be fine and times can change to be faster. It’s also a new course.
“The focus is on time but I can even win the race, it’s possible,” said Muchena.
The Econet Victoria Falls Marathon, which started in 2006, was last held physically in 2019, when it attracted a field of over 3 500 participants from more than 40 nationalities around the world, making it one of the biggest and anticipated events on the global road running calendar.
The race is now widely regarded as Africa’s premier marathon because of its unique setting in the iconic Victoria Falls and because of the growing number of local and international runners.
Moses Tarakinyu of Black Rhinos Athletics Club has had one of his best seasons so far and is hoping to continue with his fine form on Sunday.
Tarakinyu won the half-marathon in 2019 and will be part of the 5 000 participants expected to grace the event on Sunday.
“I will try my best to repeat what I did in 2019.
“This year I am targeting to run a personal best time in all the events I am competing in. I just want to improve each time I run.
“So I am looking forward to chasing another personal best time and I think there is going to be stiff competition at this event,” said Tarakinyu.
Last Sunday, he won the Tanganda Tea half-marathon in Mutare, earning himself a ticket to represent Zimbabwe at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in China later this year.
“This is what I was expecting this season. At the beginning of the year we had camps organised by NAAZ and ZOC, so I had my targets and in June I ran my personal best in the South Africa Championships.
“Then (for the) Tanganda half-marathon, I was looking forward to the race because it is used for selection for the World Half Marathon and I qualified.
“With the Tanganda Tea half-marathon and Econet Victoria Falls half-marathon coming one after the other and are both big races, I had to take a risk and run both, back-to-back,” said Tarakinyu.
Female wheelchair athlete Stellah Jongwe is also looking forward to competing in the 21km race.
“The return of the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon to me it’s a blessing. I really appreciate it because that’s where I can show the world that I have a talent.
“It gives us a chance as athletes to showcase our talent and in Zimbabwe it’s among the big races.
“I am not expecting to bring a gold medal as such but at least something, bronze or silver. I am also focusing on my time, just to improve my time,” said Jongwe.
Correctional Stars Athletics Club are also set to field their athletes that include Jonathan Chinyoka, Kelvin Pangiso and Patience Murowe in the main marathon event.
Caroline Mhandu and Nomore Wiriki are scheduled to participate in the half-marathon.
The club’s coach Collen Makaza says they are ready to compete.
“We have done well in our preparations. We had a chance to assess our preparedness by running the Tanganda Tea half-marathon and Mashwede Holdings 10km race to build up towards the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon.
“So I am looking forward to better results,” said Makaza.
This year’s edition of the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon is expected to see an increased participation with 5 000 participants expected to take part on Sunday.