Petros Kausiyo in DOHA, Qatar
ZIMBABWE’S road queen, Rutendo Nyahora, is banking on her mental strength to see her through when she competes in the first midnight marathon at the 2019 World Athletics Championships here tonight.
Nyahora is the only female in the five-member Team Zimbabwe that will be at the global athletics showcase, which bursts into life at the iconic Khalifa International stadium today.
While the Team Zimbabwe cast easily pales into insignificance, when compared to such sides like the strong 141-athlete Unites States contingent, which includes eight world champions and 13 Rio Olympic gold medallists, Nyahora insists it will all be about the heart when she takes to the road at midnight.
Day-time temperatures of 38-40 degrees Celsius have meant the marathon, staged around DOHA’s waterfront called the Corniche, will be run against the backdrop of a beautifully illuminated skyline in the Qatar capital.
For those in the magnificent 48 000 seater stadium, which has undergone massive renovations, including the installation of air-conditioned warm-up facilities for the athletes, the conditions will be cooler at around 23 degrees.
International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe, unanimously re-elected for a second four-year term on Wednesday, has also heaped praise on the renovations undertaken at the Khalifa stadium.
Nyahora’s countryman, Chengetai Mapaya, will have better weather conditions for his triple-jump event, which also starts with the qualifying heats today.
“When I arrived yesterday in the morning, I was so stressed at the airport because I could not breathe (well) at first, the heat was too much as I had just landed,’’ said Nyahora.
“But, when I went for a jog and to see how the conditions are like, I realised that I could actually breathe and these are conditions you can still run in but you lose a lot of water quickly like in a space of five minutes.
“You just have to drink lots of water and I think I am going to do my best and I am injury-free.’’
Nyahora said a lot of focus was needed for her to ensure she runs within her capacity with the aim being to meet the personal target of running the marathon under 2hrs 40 minutes.
“I will have to go with the pace I can handle, the target I have been given by my coach is to run the marathon under 2.40 and my training has been going on well,’’ she said.
“If I can run a marathon under 2:40 I will be happy.
“If I can have a good position, I will be happy.
“I am not thinking about the Olympics because I already have a race next year which I will try to use to qualify for the Olympics.
“When I was discussing with my coach we said there is no way I could run my fastest here in Doha but, if it does happen that I qualify for the Olympics, it will be a huge bonus.’’