As SSN has noted before, the cross-country season in Zimbabwean school sport is limited to the first month of the calendar and academic year. Among the trust schools in Mashonaland, such as, this year there were the traditional three main fixtures at Watershed, Arundel and Lomagundi. In other parts of the country, students often have the opportunity only to take part in one or two cross-country tournaments before the season is declared over and gives way to athletics meets.
In an effort to give keen long distance student-athletes with more training and timing opportunities, a few high schools are beginning to take part in some of the many organized running competitions offered outside of school fixtures. Chisipite has for several years taken girls to take part in the Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon in Cape Town over Easter weekend. To prepare, the Chisipite team spends the first term with an early morning training program. This year they will bring a team of nine student-athletes together with several faculty runners including Deputy Headmistress Lorraine Hill and Science teacher Susan Mahachi.
Arundel is another school expanding running beyond the traditional cross-country season with its “Running Club” coached by marathoner Martin Mbofana meeting weekly throughout the year. Yesterday morning (8 March 2015) Arundel, Chisipite and Hellenic Academy all fielded teams of eight athletes, with each athlete running 5.25 km in a 42 km marathon relay sponsored by Old Mutual with co-sponsors including ZiFM and Dendairy. Organized by the Harare Athletic Club, the marathon started and finished at Old Georgians Sports Club in Mt Pleasant. The event afforded the students an opportunity to compete in a road race along renowned Zimbabwean marathoners such as Stephen Muzhingi and Thabitha Tsatsa.
Arundel plans to have their athletes take part in Harare Athletic Club’s time trials and road races throughout the year and to take a team to compete in the Econet sponsored Victoria Falls Marathon on June 28, where teams of three girls will run 7km each to complete a half marathon relay on the famed hilly course. The National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) have partnered with the Victoria Falls Challenge to encourage participation of an increased number of schools.
As more students and schools involve themselves in distance running year round we are certain to see improved times and competitions in the 2016 cross-country school season. Ultimately, such initiatives can bolster the sport in Zimbabwe and our capacity to train youngsters to be our famed middle and long distance runners representing Zimbabwe on the international stage.