The Sunday News
Loreen Alutah Chari
To many, running is just but a sport. For some of us, it is another way of celebrating life, staying healthy and keeping the doctor away.
Through determination, hard work, consistency and passion, it is quite easy to cover long distances by running, of which the same qualities can bring success in life.
When Nyaradzo turned 20, we couldn’t think of any better way to celebrate their milestone other than integrating running into the activities lined up to mark that momentous occasion.
What started as an informal conversation later evolved into a unique idea that gave birth to the [email protected] marathon in Nyazura, which drew the attention of runners, including the seasoned ones.
In the athletics world, it is not uncommon for professional marathoners to run the number of years they are turning as miles (or kilometres), as part of their birthday funfair.
Likewise, having marvelled at Nyaradzo grow from strength-to-strength, notwithstanding an unstable economic environment they are operating under, it was befitting to dedicate a kilometre for every year of their existence.
The setting for the race was perfect. We chose the birthplace and rural home (Rukweza) for the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nyaradzo Group, Mr Philip Mataranyika, for the 20-kilometre race. This was in recognition of his sterling work in shaping Nyaradzo from a no-name label into an iconic global brand with Zimbabwean roots. The 20km route was along the Nyazura-Chivhu Road.
The starting point had to be Nyazura Town and the route for the fun-run was mapped in such a way that runners had to pass through Rukweza Primary School, where Mr Mataranyika who is popularly called by his totem “Nyati”, did his early childhood learning. Runners were also to pass through a grocery shop which Nyati built in the 1990s for his parents, who are now late.
Because most of the runners were coming from the capital city, Harare, Sahwira Mukuru was generous enough to provide buses for the 194km journey to Mr Mataranyika’s farm in Rukweza, where we were to put up for the night ahead of the gruelling race the next morning. There was so much fun along the way to Nyazura as we couldn’t hide our excitement and enthusiasm to join in the celebrations.
The bus drivers didn’t disappoint either, as they safely took us to our campsite at Nyati’s amazing farm in Rukweza, which has a game park. Once at the farm, we found the team from SEAL — Sahwira Events and Lifestyle — having gone out of their way to make our arrival an unforgettable experience.
The farm compound had been turned into an elegant campsite adorned with comfortable sleeper tents that were pitched to accommodate runners for the night. The tents were equipped with comfortable beds and solar lamps.
We all felt appreciated and loved, and I am sure even the heavens felt our gratitude in the sense that there was a heavy torrential downpour upon our arrival, which lasted for about an hour. As the night fell, we were served with sumptuous dinner and kept entertained by an excellent deejay so much that some barely slept.
Then came the D-Day! After being served cereals, we boarded our buses to Nyazura Town, the starting point for the fun-run, which was to terminate after 20km along the Nyazura–Chivhu Road.
The vibe at the starting point was palpable as we were all raring to go. All runners were smartly dressed in personalised Nyaradzo vests or T-shirts and buffers to conform to Covid-19 regulations. We couldn’t resist selfies with the man of the moment and star attraction for the day, Mr Mataranyika, who was on point with his red, technical T-Shirt and lightweight shorts. Thereafter, it was all systems go.
The run was not an easy one: There were numerous climbs along the way, but we couldn’t be deterred. What mattered to us was to finish the race, bag the medal to put the icing on our achievements and join in the celebrations.
The hydration team, which included Mr Mataranyika’s welcoming children, was also on hand. There was a water point after every 5km mark to keep runners hydrated. An ambulance was also on standby, in case of emergencies. Fortunately, there was none.
Along the way, runners would stop for a few pictures for posterity. The race made such a spectacle so much that residents of Rukweza and other surrounding villages came out in their numbers to catch a glimpse of the runners and cheer them on. We could feel their delight and amusement, with some of the villagers attempting to pace up the sweaty runners. A few courageous ones joined the highly-charged, emotional race, and even made it to finishing line.
To that, the runners could not resist cheering them on and keeping them motivated.
As we pushed harder and drew nearer to the finish line, we could hear the music from the public address system and that motivated us to push even harder and endure the pain of the climbs. Nyati was in terrific form, as he came among the top finishers. A few tried to pace him up but found his blistering pace too much to handle.
Investment banker, Alden Muhoni, came out the first finisher of the race, with Innocent Sandati, right behind him in second position. I was happy to be the first lady to reach the finishing line ahead of Pelagia Machona who came second.
At the finish point, the early birds were kept entertained with music and aerobics led by Kuda Matuso, popularly known as Kuda-Love.
Of course, the villagers who joined the fun-run did not go back to their homes empty handed. Many of them walked away with Nyaradzo T-shirts, masks and a lot more branded material.
The runners were later ferried back to the camp where we had our breakfast and massage therapies. There, we also took time to freshen up before joining scores of people from the nearby villages who were already in a partying mood.
It was fun! What a perfect way to celebrate Nyaradzo’s 20 years of commitment to service excellence. I was so humbled to be part of such a unique event, which clearly demonstrated that Nyaradzo’s popularity goes beyond towns and cities, into the villages.
I want to extend my utmost gratitude and appreciation to Mr Mataranyika for allowing us to be part of the Nyaradzo @20 commemorations and for being such a wonderful host. I am already looking forward to the next fun-run!