Distance runners pushing for qualification NAAZ president Tendayi Tagara said the move was meant to encourage athletes to push for fast times so that they become competitive at international events. 

Ellina Mhlanga-Senior Sports Reporter

NATIONAL Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president Tendayi Tagara believes they still stand a chance of a few more marathon runners making the qualifying times for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

So far Isaac Mpofu has qualified for the Games due to take place from July 26 to August 11. 

The qualification period for the marathon closes on April 30. 

The qualifying time for men is 2 hours 8 minutes 10 seconds. Women are chasing a qualifying time of 2 hours 26 minutes 50 seconds. NAAZ are pinning their hopes on Moses Tarakinyu, Tendai Zimuto, Blessing Waison, and Ngonidzashe Ncube in the men’s category while South Africa-based Rutendo Nyahora and Fortunate Chidzivo are the hopefuls in the women’s section. Tarakinyu and Zimuto are scheduled to compete at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands on April 21. 

Ncube and Nyahora are going for the Vienna City Marathon, also to take place on April 21. 

The pair of Waison and Chidzivo are expected to run at Durban International Marathon on April 28. 

“I think we have a strong chance of qualifying Nyahora. Chidzivo is a dark horse, she has been running 21km and her performance is not bad. 

“For men, we have Tendai Zimuto, Moses Tarakinyu, Blessing Waison, and Ngoni Ncube. Of the four, one or two must qualify.

“Ngoni has the experience. Tarakinyu is a dark horse but he is fast, same as Waison, he is a dark horse but can run the qualifying time,” said Tagara. Tarakinyu took part in the FNB Kazungula Bridge Marathon over the weekend. 

He ran the half marathon as part of his preparations for the upcoming marathon and came first in 1 hour 3 minutes 41 seconds. 

“If you look at Tarakinyu’s time at Kazungula, it’s a tough race but it’s a good result. It’s encouraging and he stands a chance to run within the qualifying time,” said Tagara. 

Tarakinyu said the weekend’s race provided him with a platform to assess his progress. 

“It seems I am on the right track in terms of my preparations for the marathon I want to run. “According to my time at the Kazungula half marathon, there is something positive, there is a chance I can run 2 hours and 08 minutes if the course is fast. 

“Winning the half marathon was not a surprise to me because I was fully prepared for it. But it was just to boost my confidence for my marathon preparation. I just wanted to test the level of my fitness since this race is an international race and many athletes from different countries attend it. 

“Unfortunately, I was trying to push myself to run under 1 hour and 3 minutes but I was running alone, I think from 6km until I finished the race. I broke away from the pack I was running with because they were too slow. So I started to push myself. 

“Maybe if there were other fast runners, we could have pushed each other, and maybe I could have achieved the targeted time. But when you are alone for most of the race it becomes difficult. And the course was very tough. Also, the temperatures were not favourable,” said Tarakinyu. Other Zimbabwean athletes who took part in the Kazungula event include Ethel Pangiso, who won the women’s mara-thon in 2 hours 42 minutes 18 seconds.

“The race was much tougher than the previous years. There were many foreigners, especially Kenyans…In 42km there were seven Kenyans, two South Africans, athletes from Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, and I, so it was not easy to win the race but I managed.

“Even the weather was an added disadvantage, it was very hot. The course was very tough,” said Pangiso. Lizzie Chokore finished on position eight in 3 hours 11 minutes 26 seconds. Rudo Mhonderwa participated in the half marathon and came third in 1 hour 20 minutes 2 seconds. Patience Garauzive was fourth with a time of 1 hour 21 minutes 20 seconds while Ossly Murambidzi crossed the finish line on position six in  1 hour 23 minutes 27 seconds.

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