Running as a serious sport, a recreational pursuit, a fun social activity and a way to get and stay healthy is enjoying a massive global boom in which Zimbabwe shares, with a proliferation of annual events.
Harare Athletics Club’s (HAC) 20-Miler Race (32km) started in 1971. Sponsored by Europcar, this year the race is on 7 December. It’s a gruelling race, starting on the Shamva Road and ending at HAC’s home, Old Georgian’s Sports Club. There are cash prizes in all age categories and a lucky draw for SAA air tickets for individual finishers.
HAC organises around 24 running events annually, some with corporate sponsorship. Its calendar is based around training for members wishing to run the Two Oceans and the Comrades Ultra Marathons but all events offer shorter distances too. These include two marathons – the Peter Gradwell and the Roger Brackley marathons – each February and March. There is also a Cross Country Series of five scenic races in winter, currently sponsored by Irvine’s and Fuchs. There is the World’s View Run in Nyanga, 6 additional half marathons through the year, and the HAC 32km Memorial Run in January. There are also several others of 16km and below.
Among other Zimbabwean events are the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon and Half Marathon held each June, the Old Mutual Vumba Mountain Run (usually in October but this year on 7 November), the Kariba Half Marathon each August over Heroes Weekend, the Old Mutual Westgate Half Marathon in September, the Spar Fun Run in June, Rooney’s High Five and Extreme 15 Fun Run in September and The Colour Run, which will take place on 6 December at Borrowdale Race Course.
Run/Walk for Life is a South African franchise club which helps people get fit and lose weight. The organisation has grown rapidly locally, helping members stay on track with training programmes and get fit safely and sensibly. Run/Walk for Life holds regular events; a monthly Charity Challenge, a series of Progressive Marathons in which participants run the marathon distance in chunks over 5 days, the Donnybrook Challenge held annually in November and several weekly social training sessions.
There are also a growing number of Fun Runs organised by NGOs as fundraisers, notably AWARE Trust’s ‘Run for Rhino’ events held in game parks and Mukuvisi Woodlands’ Sunday Run/Walk.
Long distance running is for men and women, although until 1971 the marathon (42.2km) was considered beyond the capability and dangerous to the health of women who were barred from entering. It was only at the 1984 Olympics that the Women’s Marathon was finally allowed. This is hard to imagine today with thousands of women of all ages running marathons and even ultra-marathons of extraordinary distances, often in challenging terrains and conditions.
You can take up running no matter your age! Most sports are not kind to the body as one ages and sports people end up retiring while still quite young – running is different. For a riveting read about why this should be try Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. His theory is that our species is built for running and that it’s part of our evolution. Our greatest advantage is our ability to sweat and not overheat over long distances. Our early ancestors ran their prey to death through taking advantage of this adaptation. It takes eight years to reach one’s running peak while it takes an incredible 45 years to come off it! This means someone who starts running aged 19 will peak at 27 before gradually slowing down until at age 64 they run at the same speed as they did at 19!