MIDDLE and long-distance athletes in Harare will be spoilt for choice over events as they will have to choose between competing in the Harare Athletics Board's Cross-country Selection meet and the Peter Gradwell Marathon tomorrow. Many of the young crop of athletes are expected to converge at Prince Edward School for the HAB's season-opening cross-country meet while the older athletes could be at Old Georgians for the Peter Gradwell Marathon.
The fast-paced cross-country event at Prince Edward will be used to select a provincial team for the Inter-Provincial Cross-country set for Allan Lowry Golf Club in Redcliff on February 16.
HAB secretary, Silas Muringani, is expecting more than 500 athletes, drawn from clubs and schools, within the metropolitan to take part in tomorrow's event at Prince Edward.
"We are hosting the Cross-country Selection event at Prince Edward and the idea is to come up with a good team for the province.
"The outstanding athletes stand a chance of representing Harare at the inter-pros in Redcliff.
"Most athletes would be interested in the cross-country because we will also use the inter-pros to select a national team for the regional cross-country championships in Lesotho later this year," said Muringani.
Muringani said they have already received confirmation from Millennium Athletics Academy who have now shifted their training base from the National Sports Stadium to Glen View Two High School.
Athletes from Black Rhinos, the Zimbabwe Prison Service, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Luxoc, Remidials and Air Force of Zimbabwe are also set to take part in this event while schools like hosts Prince Edward, Glen View 1 High, Epworth High, Dzivaresekwa 2 High and Divaharis Makaharis have also made inquiries.
"Most of the athletes who are eager to get places in the provincial team will come for the selection competition and we have created special categories for schools to prepare for their NASH championships," said Muringani. The senior men will compete in the dirt track over 12km while the junior men and senior women will run 8km.
Junior women (Under-20) and the Under-17 boys will fight for the top honours over 6km while the Under-17 girls take part in a 4km run.
"Pupils from primary schools have been catered for in special events that are outside the standard marathon distances.
"The idea is to bring all the athletes who can compete in cross-country to the selection event," said Muringani.
Across town, HAC will be hosting the Peter Gradwell Memorial marathon tomorrow.
Aaron White from HAC said their main race will start at 6am and they have also incorporated a half-marathon and 10km run.
"We are hosting the Peter Gradwell Memorial on Sunday (tomorrow) and hope to get over 300 participants.
"The athletes will be drawn from clubs and individuals," said White.
Gradwell, a former University of Zimbabwe lecturer, who took part in several Comrades Marathons, was the founder of the road running section at HAC in the early 1970s.
Back then, HAC was predominately a track and field club based at the University of Zimbabwe but Gradwell, a keen long distance runner, then introduced the longer road races. Gradwell did a lot to establish road running and at times worked at HAC as a coach, athlete and administrator before his death in 1982.