The cream of Zimbabwe’s road runners will this morning line up for the $3 000 on offer for the winners of the 21km Westgate Half Marathon that begins and ends at the famed Westgate Shopping Mall.
by Michael Kariati
Nowhere in the sport in Zimbabwe does an event offer such rich financial pickings, and that should be enough to attract the who-is-who in Zimbabwe’s marathon running.
Moreso, the second and third-placed runners will take home $1 500 and $1 000 respectively, which is still much more than what the other races of this nature have put at stake for the winner.
In fact, the financial pickings on offer compete favourably with some of the top marathon events on the continent, hence the reason why there has been increased international participation, notably from Kenya, where the world’s best long and middle distance runners hail from.
The Westgate Half Marathon is run under the rules and regulations of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and is sanctioned by the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, and bankrolled by Old Mutual.
Old Mutual property general Manager, Gilbert Gumpo said the integrated financial services group was giving back to the community by encouraging and promoting wellness and health in the community it serves.
“The Westgate Half Marathon further buttresses Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s commitment to Zimbabwe, as well as the sport of athletics in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“A healthy population will certainly contribute positively towards their nation’s economy”.
In 2014, the titles and the $3 000 on offer went to Jacob Mugomeri of Rimuka Athletics Club of Kadoma and South Africa-based Rutendo Nyahora who upon completion of the 21km, was so excited she jokingly said she did not know how she was going to spend the prize money.
Mugomeri finished the race in a time of 1 hour 3 minutes and 16 seconds, while Nyahora clocked 1 hour 13 minutes and three seconds. The two will certainly be on the road again this time, not only to try to retain their titles, but to improve their course records and set new times for future competitors.
Zimbabwe’s 2012 Olympic Games representative Wirimai Juwao, who has also been shortlisted for the 2016 Olympic Games, holds the Westgate Half Marathon’s course record of 1 hour, 2 minutes and 70 seconds and is also expected to be in the race.
Also expected on the course is 2013 winner Kelvin Pangiso, as well as another Olympic hopeful Cuthbert Nyasango.
Lewis Masunda, Edmore Sibanda and Jonathan Chinyoka are also billed to take to the field.
Not to be outdone is the female contingent of Sharon Tawengwa, who along with Nyahora, are likely to battle for the title with Faith Nyasango, Thabitha Tsatsa and the seasoned Samukeliso Moyo who races regularly in South Africa.
The winner of the 2013 competition, Constance Nyasango, is also expected to grace the event after returning from the 2015 Africa Games where she was representing Zimbabwe.
The Westgate Half Marathon also has a large spectator value as the route passes through a residential area where residents stand on their verandas to witness the runners “fly past” towards the winning point. There would also the shoppers at the winning point waiting to cheer the winners as they go for glory.
This morning’s event is the fourth edition of the race which was introduced in 2012.