THE Bulawayo Athletic Board (BAB) this year expects professional foreign athletes to grace the PPC Matopos 33-Miler Ultra Marathon which has been set for April 4.

BAB co-ordinates the country’s premier race in which PPC Zimbabwe partners leading sports timing information technology group Champion Chip Africa for electronic timing.

Board chairman Manuel Mpofu yesterday paid tribute to PPC Zimbabwe for their continued support for the race.

“We thank PPC for their continued support. Now that the date has been set I am sure they are working on the budget and the registration fees for this year. We are hoping that this year we will have one or two professional athletes from our neighbouring countries to challenge our own athletes to improve their times. We have had visitors in the past from South Africa and Botswana who take part in the veterans and grandmasters categories. We also expect to improve on the numbers,” Mpofu said.

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The winning prizes for the athletes could be a deterrent for runners from outside the country, but the race makes a good preparation for South Africa’s prestigious Comrades Marathon which is run in June.

Confirming the date on its official Facebook page, PPC Zimbabwe said: “The date is set for the PPC Matopos Marathon and the journey begins towards April 4. Which marathon race are you running?

The countdown begins to the 2020 PPC Marathon on April 4. It is set to be another memorable experience in one of Zimbabwe’s magical wonders.”

The race starts at the centre of the Matopos National Park and takes a gruelling 53km course ending at the Bulawayo Athletic Club and incorporates a 21,1km half marathon, 10km and 5km fun runs on the same route.

Last year, PPC Zimbabwe poured in close to $50 000 in local currency compared to $16 000 the previous year with the winners of the 33-Miler getting $3 000 in the race which attracted over 3 000 athletes including wellness and fitness enthusiasts from across the country, compared to 2 000 in 2018.

Black Rhinos’ Andrew Chimbidzikai won the race in 3:12:22 with Blanket Mine’s Nkosiyazi Sibanda on the second spot to grab $2 250, while Airforce of Zimbabwe’s Peter Tumbare walked away $1 500 richer after coming third.

Mr Pace’s Chiedza Chokera won the women’s race with Mucheneta Gwata coming second, while Monica Kativhu finished third.

Moses Taranyika won the men’s half marathon to pick up $1 500 with Caroline Mhandu crossing the line first in the women’s category.