The Vic Falls Marathon in Zimbabwe grew from the success of the Kilimanjaro marathon in Tanzania, and was first proposed by Wild Frontiers in 2005. The buy in of the local Tourism Board, the Athletics Association etc. was quickly forthcoming, and Wild Frontiers drew in local tour operators in Victoria Falls to partner in the event management. This has proved to be a very useful partnership for all.
As with the Kilimanjaro marathon, the idea was to use sport as a means of attracting tourism to the region.
The first event, in 2006 was very small – around 300 in total – and, mainly local runners. Sponsorship was also limited – the harsh economic conditions at the time in Zimbabwe made us make use of the ‘barter ‘system, for a lot of sponsorship deals – beer, water, flights etc. were all supplied rather than cash. At one stage we even considered giving the prizes in livestock – cows and goats etc ………….this did not happen.
The first few years started something in the Falls, and more people in the country/region were running socially, so people were coming to join the event but, it was a slow start.
In 2010, the improved economic situation allowed better numbers, and now the event is on the map, with a full, half, and 7.5 km fun run. It’s a unique event, running across a bridge over an international boundary, in the spray of Victoria Falls, through a World Heritage Site, and seeing big game such as elephant along the beautiful route. From a “sports tourist “point of view, in the surrounding area you have all you would ever want, game viewing safaris, boat cruises, walking safaris, canoeing, white water rafting, horse riding etc.
We could not have done this without some great sponsorship support over the years, and Zimbabwe’s top companies have all helped us to make this event a success’.
As well as being a great breeding ground for the local talent, the event draws quality runners from neighbouring countries, and from around the world – with up to 40 nationalities attending the event. Apart from the ‘sports ‘ element, the event has a big pay off in the region, with sponsors building their CSR around the event, and the economic benefits to the country and the region are huge. There is also a change of lifestyle across the country, with many more people taking up running, to keep healthy and socialise.