ZIMBABWEAN marathon runners will be looking for another clean sweep when the annual Nelson Mandela marathon takes place in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa next Sunday.
REPORT BY HENRY MHARA
The event was an all-Zimbabwean affair on its inauguration last year after veteran runner Brighton Chipere won the 42,5km male race where his compatriot Munyaradzi Jari came second while Muchaneta Gwata claimed gold in the female category.
Chipere, Jari and Gwata are some of the over 2 000 entries that have already confirmed their participation at this year’s edition.
“I have trained hard enough for this race. There is a lot of fresh blood this year, with the young runners from Kenya and elsewhere around the world, but I know what I need to do to defend my title and will do just that. This race needs experience and without that you won’t make it,” said Chipere.
The prize money for this year’s event has increased by 22%, with the first three winners, male and female receiving R40 000, R25 000 and R18 000 respectively.
In the 10km race, the first three winners will receive R3 000, R1 500 and R1 000.
Other Zimbabweans who have confirmed their participation include three-time Comrades marathon winner Stephen Muzhingi who has fully recovered from a nagging calf injury.
Muzhingi again confirmed on his Twitter account yesterday that he will take part in the race.
Collen Makaza, the 2010 IAU World 50km Champion, and his fiancé Precious, have also confirmed they will compete in the main and half-marathon races, respectively.
Other Zimbabweans who have set their eyes on the race include Prodigal Khumalo who recently recovered from an injury and Shepherd Chitake.
The Mandela Day Marathon, which has a R500 000 purse this year, is held over the gruelling course from Imbali outside Pietermaritzburg, through Hilton and then to the finishing line at Howick, a place where Mandela made his last speech before he was arrested and subsequently incarcerated at Robben Island for 27 years.
Organisers of the event said: “This race is destined for nothing less than being the greatest such as the icon it is associated with.”
Veteran athletes Bruce Fordyce, a nine-time Comrades gold medallist and 1992 New York Marathon winner Willie Mtolo have confirmed their participation.