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Historic virtual Econet Victoria Falls Marathon set to roar into life this Sunday

Econet's Victoria Falls virtual marathon

ABOUT 5 000 local and international athletes are expected to take part in this year’s Econet Victoria Falls Marathon on Sunday, now easily one of Africa’s largest marathons.

This year the popular event, which normally takes place in June or July, is being held virtually on December 13, due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year the event attracted more than 3 500 participants from 60 countries around the world.

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the marathon’s main sponsor, said it is expecting thousands of people to participate in this year’s run, despite the cancellation of the physical marathon event.

“We would have loved to have all athletes competing in one place as we have done over the years, while viewing the majestic Victoria Falls and the surrounding fauna and flora, as well as experiencing the resort town’s newly acquired city status.

“It is however not possible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and our desire to ensure that all participants are safe,” said Econet Wireless Chief Executive Officer Dr Douglas Mboweni.

“Nonetheless, this should not stop one of Africa’s biggest events from happening. As a digital network company, we have extended an invitation to everyone –  including local professional and casual athletes, running clubs, corporates, students, government institutions, and past international participants from across the whole world – to register for the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon and join us this Sunday, in a ‘virtual’ run,” Dr Mboweni added.

He said the positive outcome from this year’s edition will be that runners are not restricted by geographical barriers and can enter the virtual event by choosing from the three main distance categories, and run their favourite routes wherever they are, whether it is on the road, out in the country side, around their property or on a treadmill.

Runners can still register for the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon, which comprises a full marathon of 42km, a 21km half-marathon and the popular 7,5km fun run, on and pay a registration fee of ZW$650 using either EcoCash, Mastercard or Visa cards.

Participants can also download the SportsSplits App on the Google Play Store or on the Apple App store, look for Econet Victoria Falls Marathon, register and create their profile.

Those that have registered for the competition have already started using the tracking system during their preparations for the event.

On the day of the event, runners will select their own chosen route, record the finishing time and upload it on the race website to get certificates of participation, which they can print out.

There are also lots of prizes to be won during the marathon – now in its 14th year – including US$12 000 worth of Holiday packages in Victoria Falls, Botswana, Zambia or Namibia.

Local registered runners will be given 150 megabytes of data to use for the marathon on the SportSplits Tracker App while 10 percent of all registration fees will be donated towards Wildlife Conservation – with a particular focus on the conservation of elephants this year.

Already, the first 1 000 registered runners received numerous prizes, including smart watches, trainers, running pouches and water drinking bottles, among others.

Dr Mboweni urged runners in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Kariba and Victoria Falls to be on the lookout for refreshments that will be placed at strategic route points on Sunday.

“Racing time is open as it is a virtual race, but we are encouraging people to start early in the morning to avoid the high afternoon temperatures. We will also have MARS ambulance services on standby in selected towns, to cater for those who might require emergency medical assistance,” he said.

Dr. Mboweni, whose organisation promotes wellness and a healthy lifestyle, thanked Tanganda for supplying bottled water for the marathon and wished all the athletes well in their chosen races on Sunday.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende