One of the country’s most underrated long-distance runners, Collen Makaza, is among the eight runners from Chitungwiza-based Mr Pace Athletics Club expected to be on the starting line at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town on Saturday.
Following his triumph in the IAU 50km World Trophy in Galway, Ireland in August last year, Makaza will be out to prove that his victory was not a fluke by improving on his 12th place finish last year.
Other athletes from the Mr Pace Athletics Club are Paul Mhizha, Robson Chigora and Kingstom Maringe who will take part in the main 52km race, while Kevin Pangiso and Jonathan Chinyoka will take part in the half marathon.
Female long-distance runner, Cathrine Nyakushire, will also take part in the ladies’ full marathon.
However, the spotlight will be on Makaza, who wrote his own piece of history by finishing one of the most high-profile ultra-marathons in Europe in two hours 47 minutes 21 seconds.
The Pace Athletics Club manager Wonder Choto said he was confident that the club’s top runner Makaza would do well at the Two Oceans Marathon.
“Collen is one of our top runners in the country although he remains underrated. Last year he finished just outside the top ten and this year we expect a much better performance from him starting this weekend and later in the Comrades Marathon.”
“At the moment all our athletes are in South Africa where they have been preparing for the race and come Saturday, they will be raring to go,” said Choto.
Besides Makaza, the other top local runner expected to do well in the race is Comrades Marathon champion, Stephen Muzhingi. Muzhingi who has finished fourth in the past two years has proved that he is able to run a good Two Oceans, followed by a magnificent Comrades.
However, this year there are three weeks fewer between the two ultras and it is unlikely that he will jeopardise his chances in the Comrades with too hard a run over Easter.
Four other Zimbabweans who will spearhead the challenge to the Lesotho stars include Mike Fokoroni who finished sixth last year and 2007 champion Moses Njodzi who finished seventh last year.
Another local runner who will be gunning for victory is 39-year-old Brighton Chipere of Nedbank Athletics club, South Africa who will be making his debut at the Two Oceans Marathon.
Chipere had a decent season last year in which he managed to win the Land of Legend Marathon in April in South Africa.
Zimbabwean athletes will however come up against defending champion Mabhutile Lebopo from Lesotho and 2006 champion Bethuel Netshishefhe, the only South African winner in the last seven years.
The Cape Town race which is run over 56km will be held for the 42nd time, while the accompanying half-marathon sees its 14th running.
The half-marathon, the largest in the country, has attracted the biggest field in its history with just over 14 000 runners entered.
The ultramarathon has about 9 000 entrants. The 56km is the second most important ultra race in South Africa after the Comrades Marathon in Durban.
The most intriguing entry in the longer race is that of national marathon record holder Gert Thys, who at age 39 will attempt his first ultra marathon.
The organisers increased prize money from $22 500 last year to $37 500 this year for both male and female winners.
An interesting statistic is that 1269 runners, or 5,6% of the field, will come from outside South Africa, with 77 nations represented.
The United Kingdom has the largest representation with 459 runners, while the US has 184.