FOR Munyaradzi Jari, the Siena Marathon scheduled for Sunday is a relief considering the challenges which have posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He is battling to secure qualifying races for the forthcoming Olympic Games.
Jari, together with Ngonidzashe Ncube, Isaac Mpofu and Fortunate Chidzivo, left the country yesterday for Italy.
They will try to get the qualifying times for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The qualifying time, for men's marathon, is 2 hours 11 minutes 30 seconds while, for women, it has been set at 2 hours 29 minutes 30 seconds.
With the qualifying period for the marathon expected to close on May 31, the race comes as a relief for the athletes, since competitions have been limited due to the pandemic.
"For me it's a great relief because I have been waiting for this for a long time," said Jari.
"I have been waiting since last year in October.
"It's now six months of training, without racing, we have been preparing for the marathon but it was hard to get a marathon.
"So, I am happy to get this one as our closing date for the marathon is getting closer.
"This is something that boosts your confidence and even motivate you to say I have been training for a race and now I get the opportunity to compete.
"I have to use this opportunity wisely so that I stop worrying about qualification."
Jari had been scheduled to compete in the Lagos Marathon, in February, before it was postponed, with just a few weeks before the race.
The trio of Jari, Mpofu and Ncube were at the 2019 World Championships in Qatar while Chidzivo represented the country in 2017 in London.
They have been working with the national association, for some time, towards qualification for the Games.
"Based on how I have been preparing, I am not afraid.
I am just leaving everything to God now," he said.
"To my teammates I say let's do this for the nation.
I know our training was different, they had their own programme and I had mine, so it's obvious our times will be different but I believe it will not be a big difference.
"So we need to push each other so that we can qualify, all of us," said Jari.
Chidzivo will be the only female in this race.
She has had some encouraging results in the past, with her last one being the World Half marathon last year in October, in Poland.
She posted a time of 1 hour 10 minutes 50 seconds, setting a new national record in the process, despite finishing on position 27.
"Emotions are still mixed. I have had bad experiences with marathons before.
But, I have a bit of confidence boosted by the world half marathon," said Chidzivo.
"But, I still need to heal the bad memories from the previous races. I am praying and hoping for the best."
They will be accompanied by South African coach, Craig Fry, who is the coach for Jari, Mpofu and Ncube.
Locally, they have been working with their pair of Collen Makaza and Cephas Pasipamire, in their build-up to the race.
Rutendo Nyahora is also in the running for qualification, for the Games, and is expected to compete in a different race.