Preparations for the this year's edition of the popular Econet Victoria Falls Marathon are at an advanced stage, with athletes from several countries having already registered for the prestigious event.
Now widely regarded as Africa's premier marathon because of its unique setting in the iconic Victoria Falls, and because of the growing numbers of local and international runners it attracts, the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon -- set to be held on July 3, 2022 -- is expected to draw over 5 000 registered participants from around the world.
Many of the athletes, who will be gathering to run the marathon in person for the first time in two years due to the Covid-19 enforced break in 2020 and 2021, will be trooping to the event with their friends and family -- some of whom will not participate in the marathon. This means the actual number of visitors to the resort town could be well over 5 000.
Mr Kezito Makuni, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe's chief operating officer, an ardent marathon runner himself, said he was ready for the event, adding that this year's marathon was special, coming as it does as economies in the region and across the world are starting to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic.
"This year's marathon is special as it marks the reopening of borders and economies and the return of visitors to our beautiful resort and tourist destinations around the country following the pandemic, along with the economic benefits it brings to Vic Falls and the hospitality and tourism sector in general.
"We are expecting to have our biggest event ever this year, with at least 5 000 runners converging on Victoria Falls for the marathon. Our teams and our marathon organizing partners, Wild Frontiers, are pulling all stops to ensure that this is a successful and memorable event for all participants," Mr Makuni said.
The Econet Vic Falls marathon is entirely supported by local organisations, creating business and local employment opportunities for the Vic Falls community and the hospitality and tourism sector at large.
Mr Makuni said crowd and traffic control will be well provided for at the marathon.
"As in past events, we can assure visitors and athletes of world class organisation and crowd and traffic control, including communications and sweep cars, route marshals, clear signage, water at several points along the routes and most importantly, adequate first aid, medical and emergency services for the whole duration of the marathon," said Mr Makuni. Econet has been sponsoring the marathon since 2009. It has over the years become a favourite and important event with runners from around the world and across all categories ranging from some of the world's elite runners to a large and growing number of health conscious and wellness-minded amateur athletes.
Mr Makuni said Econet -- a strong and well-known proponent of health and wellness in the workplace and among families -- will once again use the marathon to encourage members of the public to adopt healthy lifestyles, that include active exercise and running.
"Besides helping to set the stage for this wonderful experience at a top tourist resort, we will be once again using the Econet Vic Falls Marathon as a vital platform to spread the word on the importance of keeping communities healthy through active lifestyles," he said. To underpin its growing importance, the Econet Vic Falls Marathon has earned the recognition of World Athletics and the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). The event will feature a rebranded "Elephant route", the 42km full marathon; a "Leopard route", the 21km half marathon; the "Lion route", the 7.5km Family Fun Run; as well as a half marathon 10.5km x 2 relay.
The last Econet Victoria Falls Marathon before the pandemic was held in 2019, attracting a field of over 3 500 participants from more than 40 countries around the world.