BY the time of conclusion of proceedings last week on Saturday, the inaugural NetOne-Albun Honde Valley Marathon, had, not only been successfully held in the Eastern Highlands, but had also created history for both Mutasa District as the host and Manicaland in general.
For this was the second time since the turn of the millennium the province was holding a full marathon — the 42km race — while such an event had never taken place before in the scenic and mountainous area. The first one was the Africa University Marathon.
The occasion also witnessed a 92-year-old fitness enthusiast — Gogo Julia Zisengwe — complete the 5km fun run. Another senior citizen, Langton Sigauke (78) crossed the finish line first in the 21km race’s grandmasters category.
On the podium, seasoned athletes, Lyno Muchena and Rudo Mhonderwa — who both competed in another marathon in Botswana a fortnight ago — came out tops in the 42km race in the men and women’s categories respectively.
Also among the competitors was the elite trio of 1999 World Championships and 2000 Summer Olympics athlete, Samukesliso Moyo as well as seasoned runners, Mike Fokorani (2008 Beijing Olympics), Elijah Mabhunu and Moses Tarakinyu.
Winners in the 5km, 10km, 21km and 42km categories walked away with prize money ranging from US$50 to US$500 as well as hampers from some of the sponsors.
The NetOne-Albun Honde Valley Marathon was graced by the local leadership, with Chief Mutasa being the guest of honour, while Mutasa North legislator Obey Bvute participated in the 5km race.
Organisers said the event went on well and managed to accomplish some of its objectives.
The occasion was meant to promote the tourism opportunities the host area and its vicinity in Mutasa District offer; raise awareness on environmental conservation; advance rural development through industrialisation and charity through sport; cultivate business synergies as well as harness a culture of exercise and fitness among the participants, local community and the province.
“The NetOne-Albun Honde Valley Marathon was highly subscribed and achieved several of its goals. Most of the people who had never been to this place were delighted by the tourist attractions in the area and they pledged to visit more often. This then speaks to the need to protect the environment, safeguard the land from degradation and reduce the impact of climate change, which was one of the aims of staging the event. Among the partners and sponsors, some expressed interest to set up business enterprises in Honde Valley after identifying some opportunities.
“Participants in the marathon were also charmed by the terrain during the course of the races. It was a delightful challenge for them to navigate that terrain as it contributed to good competition. On our part as the organisers, we are looking forward to transforming the face of Honde Valley through rural development and industrialisation, while also empowering the local people through different initiatives,” said former footballer, Alois “GazzaMan” Bunjira of Albun Fitness Club, who were among the organisers.
Bunjira said they have plans to host the Honde Valley Marathon annually and take it international.
Principal sponsor of the event — giant mobile network provider, NetOne — said investing and participating in initiatives that promote the development of communities is important.
Said NetOne representative in Region Three, Farai Matope: “As NetOne, we are driven by several causes, among which include tourism as well as health and wellness. We are committed to enriching communities through digital transformation and all this dovetails with the NetOne-Albun Honde Valley Marathon’s theme of sustainable development through environmental conservation and wellness of the community, who forms our subscriber base.
“On the other hand, we are also promoting the unlocking of the tourism potential Honde Valley and Mutasa District possess as well as raising awareness on drug and substance abuse through our digital drive as NetOne. As we do business in the communities, we also look at how we can give back to them.”
He said they will continue supporting programmes that drive development and social transformation.
List of NetOne-Albun Honde Valley Marathon winners:
42km: Women (open)
3. Tsveta Gamuchirai
21km: Open (women)
1. Waison Blessing
1. Matende Millen
1. Paradzai Adona
3. Sipanera Godknows
10km: Veterans (women)
10km: Masters (women)
10km: Grandmasters (women)
3. Nyamhano Rosy
2. Chimbetete Goodwin