The 14th edition of the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon that was held virtually in various cities across the world on Sunday has been described as a great success by event organisers and athletes.
This was the first time since 2006 that the marathon – now one of Africa’s top sporting events – was held virtually, as runners complied with social distancing measures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisers of the event, which is believed to have attracted 5 000 runners from across 60 countries around the world, said they were overwhelmed by the response at a time other major sporting events have either been cancelled or moved to 2021 due to COVID-19.
“We would like to say a massive thank you to our amazing naming rights sponsors, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, who made this first-ever virtual race possible,” said race director John Addington.
Econet has over the past six years supported the popular annual event and this year had to bend over backwards to ensure the marathon – traditionally held in June – continued despite the effects of the pandemic.
Econet not only delivered the sporting kits to locally registered runners, the digital lifestyle network also awarded the first 1 000 registered runners with smart watches, trainers, running pouches and water bottles.
“We had an awesome time in Gweru participating in the marathon,” said 33 year-old Munyaradzi Philemon Tagwireyi, an athlete from Cartel Runmates. Tagwirei said his team was grateful to Econet, for providing support from registration, regalia distribution and attending to various pre-registration queries.
Makanaka Msipa, 22, from Harare, could not hide her excitement after she participated in the historic virtual marathon.
“I felt the physical presence of other athletes when I checked the leader board and I saw one leading with 3.5kms. At one point I felt like giving up, then realised I wasn’t the only one competing, and this gave me hope and new strength,” she said.
Blessed Simbarashe Marima, 24, from Makoni district in Manicaland said he was looking forward to the final results.
“I would like to thank Econet Zimbabwe for giving us an opportunity to participate, and to show ‘the beast’ in us,” he said. “This was my first time to participate in the marathon and I finished the 21km race within 2 hours and 18 minutes. I am eager to get the results soon because I am confident that I was one of the best runners of the day,” said the confident runner.
Meanwhile, Addington said his organisation was still collating the data from those who participated and uploaded their finishing time, and will be announcing the marathon winners and prizes in the coming weeks.
“Participants should visit our website www.vicfallsmarathon.com to both download their official finish certificates in the results section and to view their Virtual Goody Bag offering for various vouchers and discounts that they can redeem when they join us for the physical race on the 4th of July 2021,” he said.
Dr Douglas Mboweni, the Econet Group Chief Executive Officer, said the successful hosting of the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon underlined his organization’s commitment to wellness and a health lifestyle in all seasons of life.
“We could have easily postponed the event to next year due to COVID-19, but life doesn’t stop because of pandemics and the need to life and maintain healthy lifestyles continues,” he said.