RECOVERY to full competitive strength continues for veterans, Misheck Sithole and Olivia Chitate when the duo joins their counterparts in the undulating terrain of the eastern border City of Mutare for the exciting Tanganda Tea Company 21km Half Marathon on Sunday.
The annual half marathon bounces back after a two-year hiatus induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sithole and Chitate, have both won the Tanganda Half Marathon in its previous editions, but their performance in recent competitions including the Commissioner General of the Police’s 21km Road Race has shown signs of lethargy and rustiness after a long lay-off.
More than 1 000 middle and long distance runners will rub shoulders in the prestigious Tanganda Tea Company’s annual 21km Half Marathon whose genesis can be traced to the late 1980s.
The half marathon was held annually until 2002 when it took a sabbatical before bouncing back in 2012.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the marathon was not held in 2020 and 2021.
Sithole said: “Yes, it is has been a lengthy layoff owing to the Covid-19 inaction and naturally it will take more time to get to the state of fitness and competitiveness that we were as athletes. However, personally, I can see the improvement with each passing race. I am looking forward to a good race on Sunday.”
Sithole won the 2017 and 2019 editions of the Tanganda Tea Half Marathon, but was nowhere near the podium finish in the recent Commissioner General of the Police 21km Road Race held in Mutare recently.
In the same race’s ladies’ category, Chitate failed to defend her title as ZPCS’ Patience Murove snatched pole position.
In a statement, Tanganda Tea Company outlined the marathon’s objectives.
“Tanganda Tea is a cultural brand and this marathon presents the brand with an opportunity to interact with the community, bringing them together, while at the same time appreciating the support the brand (Tanganda Tea) gets from the same community by promoting talent.
“The Tanganda Tea Half Marathon is meant to promote sport, fitness and fun at the same time. The race itself is a test of endurance, it promotes fitness,” reads the statement
The diversified agribusiness company noted that the marathon is a way of contributing towards sporting excellence in the country.
“Participants will find this race very gratifying or heart-warming. They will find it very uplifting just like the Tanganda Tea brand which gives that uplifted inner self.
“It is also part of our objective to show our respect to the Ministry of Sport (Government) and National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ). Apart from creating employment for locals, the company through this marathon is also complimenting Government’s efforts in promoting sport. We all know that the Manicaland Athletics Board (MAB) and the NAAZ use this marathon for the selection of athletics to represent the country at various levels – both locally and international. Therefore, this marathon is therefore our way of showing respect to these bodies,” further reads the statement.
In an interview, Manicaland Athletics Club chairperson, Joshua ‘Zesa’ Matume said they are expecting more than 1 000 athletes to participate.
Matume said foreign athletes, including the highly rated Kenyans, have been inquiring about the event.
“The starting point for all race categories is at Mutare Sports Club along Park Road. All race categories will finish at same venue. Athletes are strongly advised to visit the Tanganda Tea Company website to have sight of the new route before the race day.
“We are expecting to have more than 1 000 athletes. We are excited that the race has generated a lot of interest, with foreign athletes also making inquiries including some Kenyans,” the Marymount Teachers’ College Physical Education studies lecturer said.