AFTER getting the invitation to take part at the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon in Nigeria, Zimbabwe's Munyaradzi Jari was excited and relieved since he has been looking to qualifying races for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for some time.
But it was short-lived relief as organisers of the race announced the postponement of the race on Monday.
Qualifying competitions have been limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Lagos marathon was slated for February 13 but it has been moved to April due to the second wave of the pandemic.
"On behalf of the organiser of Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, I want to inform you that due to the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the sixth edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon taking place on the 13th of February, 2021, in Lagos State, Nigeria will be postponed till the 10th of April 2021," read part of the letter by Access Bank Lagos City Marathon general manager, Yussuf Alli.
Speaking from Kenya where he has been training since last October, Jari said it's a disappointment but will remain focused.
"I am very disappointed, especially considering that I have been away from my family for so long. But as an athlete and as someone who has a goal to achieve, I will not lose hope because anything can happen between now and April," said Jari.
As the Olympic Games scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8 gets closer, Jari said he will keep on looking and is hoping he can get another race in March, if not then he will have to wait until April for the Lagos marathon.
"I will continue with my training here in Kenya because there are some races before April in Asia. So I hope by March I can get another race. But if I don't get any races between now and April, I will have to wait for the Lagos marathon, it will be my last option," Jari said.
Jari is one of the several long-distance runners the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe is hoping will make the qualifying time for the marathon, for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games.
The idea was for the athletes to go for qualification early in the year so that if they miss on their first attempt they still have another chance to try.
Despite facing challenges due to lack of opportunities for qualification, the seasoned distance-runner remains optimistic and is content with the progress he has made since shifting his training base to Kenya.
"As for training, everything has been going well and I am training with some of the best athletes and best coach in Erick Kamaiyo. We have the world record holder for women Brigid Kosgei in camp.
"The coach has said I have improved a lot compared to when I first arrived here," Jari said.
National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president, Tendai Tagara, was also disappointed by the development as he believes the race was going to be on right time for Jari.
"The challenge is with marathons when you peak you must compete and recover. We were hoping for a breakthrough for him because he was in great shape.
"We must accept because the world is upside down, we must move on. We go back to the drawing board . . . We must continue hoping the storm will come to pass," Tagara said.
Jari also missed out on the London Marathon last year, which he had targeted for qualification.
Other long-distance runners vying for qualifications are South Africa-based Rutendo Nyahora, Fortunate Chidzivo, Isaac Mpofu and Ngonidzashe Ncube as well as Olivia Chitate.