Seasoned middle and long-distance athletes Misheck Sithole and Olivia Chitate emerged as winners of the annual Tanganda half-marathon at Mutare Sports Club on Sunday.
Sithole of Lobels Athletics Club was first to cross the finish line in one hour six minutes and 11 seconds to claim the men's title ahead of favourites Canicious Nyamutsika, the defending champion who finished a disappointing eighth, and African Games-bound Munyaradzi Jari, who was a distant fifth.
Second and third places in the men's race went to Ngonidzashe Ncube (1:06:31) and Abel Chibanda (1:06:48). Speaking after the race, Sithole said he was happy to reclaim the Tanganda half-marathon crown which he won in 2017 and it gave him a platform to test himself as he prepares for the Nelson Mandela Bay half-marathon in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on the July 27.
"I am very happy that I have reclaimed my title I won in 2017. The field was full of top runners but it was my goal to win again the Tanganda half-marathon after missing out last year when I came second.
"Now I am looking forward to the Nelson Mandela Bay half-marathon ASA championship in Port Elizabeth," he said.
There was also joy for Chitate who cruised to victory in the women's race in 1:19:45, beating the defending champion Caroline Mhandu (1:20:39) into second place. Rudo Mhonderwa settled for third place in 1:21:09.
For their efforts Sithole and Chitate walked away with $4 000 each.
Chitate said she has been working hard and the results are now coming her way.
"I have managed to do well in all the races I have participated in this year and I owe it to hard work. I have been practicing a lot for these races and I am looking forward to continue doing well. "The level of competition is very high and everyone will be targeting the big one so I will continue to practice," said Chitate.
In other races, Wellington Varevi and Patience Murove won the 10km male and female events respectively.
In the wheelchair category of the half-marathon, the first three places in the men's race went to Samson Muroyiwa (1:10:13), veteran Elford Moyo (1:10:52) and Munyaradzi Katiyo (1:29:18) while Irene Moyo came home first in the women's race in 3:41:00. Second and third places went to Moline Muza (3:43:01) and Sifiso Moyo (3:48:16).
National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) president Tendai Tagara applauded Tanganda Tea Company, the organisers of the Tanganda half-marathon, for giving a platform to locally-based middle and long-distance runners to compete against each other.
"Over the years Tanganda has stood by our athletes through sponsoring this race and it is a joy to many. "We have the likes of Munyaradzi Jari and Caroline Mhandu who will represent the country at the African Games and IAAF World Championships in Athletics to be held in Qatar, who were here competing. I urge the management of Tanganda Tea Company to keep sponsoring this race," he said.