MORE than 1 000 athletes had by yesterday registered for the country’s biggest race, the PPC Matopos 33-Miler Ultra-Marathon to be held this morning from Matopos National Park to Bulawayo Athletic Club.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
Bulawayo Athletic Board (BAB) chairman, Manuel Mpofu said the response for this year’s edition was overwhelming and they were expecting more runners, including top athletes, to trickle in for late registration.
“The response has been very good. We expect the professional athletes to come today (yesterday), they usually come on the last day. Everything is set. We are now doing physical registration, where athletes can come and collect their bib numbers and receive their packages,” he said.
“So far so good and registration has risen to 1 000 and we have top athletes confirming. We will make sure everything goes well and avoid the hitches that happened last year.”
Mpofu confirmed that some top athletes will not be taking part, as they opted for the Two Oceans Marathon to be held next Saturday in Cape Town.
“Some athletes chose not to do this one and concentrate on the Two Oceans Marathon. This one is a qualifier for the Comrades Marathon, which will be held in June,” he said.
Last year’s winner in the open men’s category Lyno Muchena is travelling to Cape Town for the Two Oceans Marathon.
Mpofu said Collen Makaza, who came fourth last year in the Two Oceans Marathon was one of the top athletes who has confirmed taking part in the PPC Matopos meet.
Other professional long distance runners who have confirmed taking part in today’s gruelling race are Wirimai Zhuwawo, Leonard Koki, Kelvin Pangiso, Nkosiyazi Sibanda, Dumoluhle Mkhwanazi and Tawanda Matunhu.
Muchena romped home in 3:13:28 last year, while the women’s section was won by Lizzie Chokore in 4:00:16 and they each pocketed $1 000, which is also the prize-money for this year’s race.
The race incorporates the 21km Half Marathon that was won by Misheck Sithole in the men’s section with Chiedza Chokore winning the woman’s category.
There are also other categories for 10km and 5km and for wheelchair athletes.
For the first time, the full 33 mile (56km) and half (21km) marathons will be electronically timed by South Africa-based ChampionChip Africa and the race will be used as a qualifier for the internationally acclaimed Comrades Marathon.