Ellina Mhlanga  Senior Sports Reporter 

LONG-DISTANCE runners seeking qualification to the World Athletics Championships to be held this year are scheduled to meet next month for a two-week training camp in Vumba. 

The camp, organised by the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, is expected to assist the athletes to fine-tune their preparations for upcoming qualifying races. 

NAAZ president, Tendai Tagara, confirmed the camp, scheduled to run from February 5 to 20. 

“In our endeavour for us to prepare for qualifying for the World Championships we are sending a team of prospect marathon qualifiers to help them. We want them to work on team work in helping to push one another,” said Tagara. 

Fifteen athletes — 10 males and five females — are expected to attend the camp. 

The national association had hoped to send some of the athletes to South Africa last December for a training camp but it was called off due to the outbreak of Omicron variant. 

Tagara said the current Covid-19 situation is also limiting their options for qualifying races and time is not on their side.

The World Championships are scheduled for July 15 to 24 in Oregon, United States. 

“Our target is to run the South Africa Marathon Champs on May 8. In-between one or two of these athletes will have the opportunity to run in Europe. 

“Due to Covid, races are difficult to come by. The team will be for both men and women. We are going to write to South Africa Athletics to request for special slots. 

“We know South Africa will also use the team to select and polish their marathon team, so are a number of countries in Southern Africa,” said Tagara. 

NAAZ have appointed a national event coaches team for middle and long-distance athletes to be headed by Benson Chauke. 

He is going to work with four coaches — Cephas Pasipamire, Collen Makaza, Cuthbert Nyasango and Zibusiso Nyoni. 

Chauke and his team will be in charge of the upcoming camp. 

Bulawayo-based athletes Isaac Mpofu and Ngonidzashe Ncube are among the earmarked athletes for qualification and the two have previously posted some promising times. 

Mpofu missed the qualifying time of 2 hours 11 minutes 30 seconds last year at Cape Town Marathon in October when he ran 2 hours 11 minutes 41 seconds. 

Mpofu is not giving up and is working towards his next race. 

“We are training. It’s just that Covid-19 is the problem. So far my manager is looking for races and I am looking forward to some races between March and April.

“If I look at my previous performance in Cape Town, I missed by just a few seconds so I think I just need one more chance. 

“So far I am in the right direction in terms of preparations. The issue is I need to get a race in Europe because there are no fast courses in Africa,” said Mpofu. 

Ncube is also optimistic as he said, he is hoping to get confirmation from some of the races he is targeting. 

“I am still waiting for confirmation. We are looking at the Prague marathon, Vienna marathon and Hannover marathon, that’s where we are hoping to get confirmation. 

“Training on your won is difficult . . . You need to have training partners for pacing. But so far so good, I am doing my best. We did track sessions and I am seeing an improvement, now I need to deal with pace,” said Ncube. 

Ncube said group training would be helpful in their preparations.

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