MORE than 1 000 long-distance runners are expected to converge in the eastern border city of Mutare for this year’s edition of the Tanganda Tea Half-marathon, two years after the premier athletics contest was put on ice owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s event has been pencilled for June 26.
Tagged as one of Zimbabwe’s premier long-distance contests, the Tanganda Tea Half-marathon is one of the major events on the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) calendar and it is hosted annually in Manicaland where the principal sponsor, Tanganda Tea Company, runs a diversified agribusiness.
The Tanganda Half-marathon attracts runners from across the country and from neighbouring countries as athletes usually participate in the 5km, 10km and 21km events.
Seasoned middle and long-distance athletes, Misheck Sithole and Olivia Chitate, emerged as winners of the annual Tanganda Half-marathon at Mutare Sports Club in 2019 when it was last held before the Covid-19 lockdown.
Manicaland Athletics Board (MAB) chairperson, Joshua “Zesa” Matume, whose organisation assists with logistical operations of the competition, expressed hope that they will be able to have more than 1 000 athletes turning out for this year’s Tanganda Tea Half-marathon contest.
“We started our general preparations this week. We are expecting about 1 000 athletes. We are excited that we will be able to host this competition two years after we last hosted it. We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic would not allow us to do so.
“We have no doubt that we will be able to attract more than 1 000 athletes for this year’s edition of the event given the thirst and hunger for competitions among athletes who have largely been inactive in the past two years,” Matume said. In winning the 2019 edition of the event, Sithole crossed the finish line in 1 hour 06 minutes and 11 seconds while second-placed Ngonidzashe Ncube came home in 1 hour, 06 minutes and 31 seconds.
Abel Chibanda settled for third position after crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 06 minutes and 48 seconds.
In the women’s category, battle-hardened Chitate crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 19 minutes and 45 minutes while Caroline Mhandu came in second position after completing the race in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 39 seconds.
Rudo Mhondera was third after completing the race in 1 hour 21 minutes and 09 seconds.
In a separate interview, a presentative of the sponsors, Tanganda Tea Company, Farai Garai, said the preparations are progressing well.
“The Tanganda Tea Half-marathon preparations are progressing very well. The responses we are getting are very encouraging from all requisite key stakeholders,” he said.
Tanganda Tea Company Limited, which moved from a single crop producer to a diversified agribusiness, recently invested in a complete overhaul of its processing plant to state-of-the art in Mutare and added avocados, macadamia nuts and Tingamira spring water to the company’s product portfolio, all unfolding in the background of a 14-year hiatus from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
Meanwhile, preparations for the Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner General’s Half-marathon to be held in Mutare next month are also at an advanced stage.
The race, which is set for Dangamvura Shopping Complex, is scheduled for June 11, a week before the Tanganda Tea Half-marathon.
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