Victoria Falls Marathon Start

From : Allafrica.com

By : Rosie Mitchell

27 August 2012

If, unlike me, unashamedly “not a morning person”, you leap out of bed early on Sunday and start reading your Standard, let me alert you to today’s Mukuvisi Woodlands Last Sunday of the Month Walk/Run which you can start any time from 6.30 to 11am.

Oh yes, I’ll be there – just not crack of dawn! This has become very popular, bringing hundreds more people to the Woodlands, there to explore parts not normally open to the public on marked trails from 3km to 8km. Hearty runners (myself included) can run the 8k twice. Family strollers with small children and dogs on leads can opt for a leisurely 3k. It’s very social and you can have a good breakfast afterwards in the Coffee Shop and catch up with friends.

The global running boom of the past two decades as an enjoyable pastime activity for fitness and health benefits at any age has led to a proliferation of marathons, half marathons and fun runs across the planet. This has turned into a whole new kind of tourism, recognised in Zimbabwe too.

The Kariba Half Marathon is a fine example, today’s Victoria Falls Marathon and Half, another. As a draw card for tourists, hosting a running event, sometimes coupled with additional extreme sporting options like our own Zambezi Man or the Kiliman Challenge at Kilimanjaro, offers undeniable economic opportunities. Combined with a shorter distance for less seasoned runners and those who prefer it, and a short race for children, you have the winning formula to boost visitor numbers to your town or city significantly — because you now offer something for the whole family to come and enjoy; which is exactly what the community-minded folks of Kariba did in 2006, with their inaugural Half Marathon, complete with 10k and kids’ races.

If you are thinking of getting into running for health and social benefits, you couldn’t be living anywhere better than here, with our moderate climate, short winter and wonderful scenery. Various races round the country on the annual calendar offer spectacular scenery, Vic Falls and Kariba probably the best of all — yet another way to kill several birds with one stone, enjoying the outdoors, keeping fit, and making new friends into the bargain!

‘Couch potatoes’ must get moving

Last month, newspapers worldwide highlighted latest Harvard research findings published in the Lancet on long term effects of a lack of physical activity, which were shocking, and will undoubtedly feed the increasingly insatiable thirst for running events. The studies showed one in 10 deaths globally to result directly from lack of exercise, with 1,5 billion adults worldwide facing a 20 to 30% increase in risk of death from coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer — simply through inactivity.

Perhaps most shocking was that close to eight out of 10 adolescents worldwide were shown to have an increased risk of disease due to inactivity. Our modern lifestyle with deskbound jobs, fixation on computer screens at work, for entertainment and even in our social lives, is creating generations of people for whom going outdoors, taking a walk for its own sake, or doing something more strenuous, is neither a priority nor even a source of enjoyment and recreation.

Which is why Edmund Makutya, disabled by childhood polio, and tens of thousands of other wheelchair racers across the globe, are so inspirational, putting able-bodied couch potatoes to shame. Edmund has won the Victoria Falls Marathon wheelchair race twice consecutively, the Kariba Half three times in a row, and is this very day defending his title in the Falls, thanks to generous sponsorship by Amalinda Collection, the group of lodges, which enabled him to get and stay there, and who also sponsor the whole wheelchair section in Victoria Falls annually.

We had the pleasure of meeting Edmund at the Kariba Half, a race he completed in an amazing 1 hour 43. This was a thoroughly gruelling race, run on two legs, with hills steeper than any I’ve so far tackled in a half marathon, and the last two k are on dirt. I can only begin to imagine the effort involved in getting up those hills and over that dirt in a wheelchair.

Edmund has also won both the Half and Full Marathons in the Outeniqua International Wheelchair Challenge in George South Africa, last year and this year respectively, finishing February’s Full Marathon in an astonishing 2 hours 19. Having options for disabled racers in most marathon and half marathon events worldwide is a fine thing indeed, and I am always filled with admiration for their determination and courage.