BY FORTUNE MBELE
ZIMBABWE’s top ultra-distance athletes have confirmed participation at this year’s Matopos 33-miler (53km) ultra marathon taking place in Bulawayo on April 6.
Last year’s winners Andrew Chimbidzikai (senior men) of Black Rhinos Athletics Club and Mr Pace’s Chiedza Chokore (women) will be at the starting line in the heart of Matopos National Park to defend their titles.
Bulawayo Athletics Board (BAB) chairman Manuel Mpofu yesterday also confirmed that Marko Mambo who finished fifth last year in South Africa’s premier race, the Comrades Marathon, has also confirmed participation in the PPC Matopos race.
Six-time winner of the Econet Victoria Falls marathon Nkosiyazi Sibanda of Blanket Mine will also be in the contest.
“Athletes are confirming participation in the PPC marathon with over 500 athletes having registered to date. So far so good and everything is almost set for the event. Marko Mambo, Chimbidzikai and the sisters Chiedza and Lizzy Chokore have confirmed their participation. It is promising to be a better event than last year,” Mpofu said.
Lyno Muchena, who won the race in 2017, Tendai Zimuto and Wellington Varevi in the men’s section, are all in line to compete.
In the women’s categories, top athletes Bertha Chikanga and Rudo Mhonderwa are some of the competitors for this year’s edition.
The registration fees for this year’s race have been increased with athletes paying ZWR$25 for the 33-miler up from last year’s $10 and ZWR$20 for the half marathon (21,1km) from last year’s $10.
Fitness and wellness enthusiasts wishing to take part in the 10km and 5km fun run and walk are paying ZWR$10 from last year’s $5.
There is also a category for wheelchair athletes.
Chimbidzikai won last year’s ultra-marathon in 3:12:23 beating Muchena’s 2017 record of 3:13:28 while Chiedza crossed the finishing line in 4:09:10 and each pocketed $1 000.
Sibanda came second in the men’s race in 3:12:28 while Peter Tumbare was number three in 3:14:21.
Mambo came fourth in 3:17:08 before going to South Africa to represent the country well in the Comrades Marathon in July.
In the ladies section, Mucheneta Gwata came in second in 4:09:54 while Margaret Mahohoma was on the third spot in 4:10:01.