WHAT started as a fun run event 10 months ago, has turned overnight to become the biggest and richest sponsored race on the athletics calendar for the year 2012.
Report by Brian Nkiwane
When the Old Mutual Westgate 16km Fun run event was launched in November last year, no one would have thought that one day the event would become the richest event in the country’s athletics.
Like Delta Beverages, who have always stood by Zimbabwe’s sport — sponsoring most sporting disciplines from grassroots to the highest level in this country, Old Mutual is slowly getting there and recently put another foot into football sponsorship.
As the country witnessed the launch of this year’s edition of the Old Mutual Westgate Half Marathon in the capital on Wednesday, Gweru also witnessed the launch of a football tournament, which saw social clubs battling it out for top honours under the Old Mutual banner.
The tournament was held at Gweru Sports Club and Bata Sports Club and four teams: Bata, Zim Glass, MSU and Sino Zimbabwe took part yesterday.
The athletics event, which is expected to attract more than 3 000 participants, will be run under the blessings of the athletics governing body, National Athletics Association of Zimbabawe (Naaz), with the Iaaf rules and regulations in play.
The event, which started at 6:30am today at Westgate Shopping Centre, comprises four races — 21km, 10km, 5km and a 5,25km x 4 relay.
A number of races have been cancelled this year due to lack of sponsorship, but with such an event, the executive was nowhere near Chapman Golf Club on Wednesday.
Unlike in other countries, where athletes do not have to crack their heads pondering on how they would pay affiliation and joining fees, Old Mutual has made sure that all athletes that intend to take part in their event are registered freely.
Handsome prizes from the sponsorship package of US$16 000 has made the event more entertaining and competitive.
The winner in both male and female categories would pocket US$3 000 with second and third place athletes getting US$1 500 and US$750 respectively. The sponsors have made also sure the first 10 winners are rewarded in both categories
The race would present spectators with a chance to see some of the renowned athletes, who include 50km World Championship record holder, Collin Makaza and Marko Mambo, who came fourth at this year’s Comrades Marathon.
Zimbabwe’s 2012 Olympic Games participants, Cuthbert Nyasango and Wirimayi Zhuwawo, would be the pacesetters in the 21km race.
The race has a developmental flavour as it allows children as young as 10 years to participate.
Apart from registration and affiliation hustles, transport to the starting line venue would be free.
The inaugural race was won by veteran long distance runner, Kelvin Pangiso, who clocked a time of 50:27 minutes last year.
Rutendo Nyahore, an independent athlete, came home first in the Open Women’s category, clocking 58:50, beating favourites like Sharon Tavengwa and Constance Nyasango.
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