By Marianne Betts
An unknown underdog in the form of Boma waiter Wellington Ndlovu came from nowhere to beat favourites Jaya Mapfumo and Casper Mpofu to be the first Africa Albida Tourism staffer across the finish line in the Victoria Falls half marathon on Sunday.
Ndlovu completed the half marathon in an impressive 1 hour 29 min 45 sec, placing 44th out of nearly 1,500 runners in the 21.1km event, which was won by Zimbabwean Moses Tarakinyu in a time of 1 hour 5 min 47 sec.
In the lead up to Victoria Falls’ biggest sporting fixture the 26-year-old, who began work as a waiter at The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show last September, had heard whispers of the great rivalry between Mpofu and Mapfumo, who would be hard to beat.
“When I got to the race I was afraid these guys would beat me, but I just told myself, ‘I’m going to get it,’” he said.
After winning the hospitality group’s Ian Wallace trophy, Ndlovu’s playful message to his two closest rivals was, “As long as I’m here, the trophy will be at The Boma, as long as I’m here they won’t get that trophy again. Next year, I’ll make sure I train two months before the race.”
This was Ndlovu’s first half marathon, and he only started training for it just over a month in advance, running between 11 and 15km almost every day.
Five-time champion Mpofu, a housekeeping supervisor at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, had feared that turning 40 in the weeks before the bucket list event might give his younger rivals the edge … and it certainly did!
He joked his slightly younger – but so far less successful – rival Jaya Mapfumo, at 37, might just have the upper hand.
Mapfumo, a housekeeper at Lokuthula Lodges, took second place, completing the 21.1km run in 1 hour 38 min 7 sec, while AAT’s most decorated runner – and winner of last year’s event – Mpofu came third in 1 hour 42 min 2 sec.
These were three of a record 88 Africa Albida Tourism staff to take part in the July 7 Econet Victoria Falls Marathon, who ran to raise awareness of the plight of vultures, which are vital to the ecosystem, but are endangered due to a variety of human created issues, such as poisoning.
With a new winner in the mix, next year anything could happen!