RENE KALMER IS IDEAL AMBASSADOR FOR SPAR CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Rene Kalmer has been running in SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge races for more than half her life.
She has also been winning Challenge races for many years, notching up her first win at the tender age of 14. In fact, Kalmer has won more SPAR races than anyone else. She has also won the SPAR Grand Prix three times – in 2007, 2009 and 2012, and finished in the top 10 for the first 10 years of the Grand Prix’s existence.

SPAR Women’s Challenge ambassador Rene Kalmer getting ready for a SPAR race at the SPAR Women’s Challenge Pietermaritzburg last month.
Photo credit : Reg Caldecott


So Rene Kalmer is an ideal ambassador for the SPAR Challenge – a position she has held since 2016, when she was out of action because of a long-standing injury and her pregnancy.
“I am very proud to be an ambassador for the SPAR races,” said Kalmer.
“The SPAR races have been part of my life for so long and now that I am a working mom, I feel even closer to the thousands of women who take part,” she said.
“The races are so important. Many women get the running bug after taking part in a SPAR race, and women only races are always great. There is always a great atmosphere and it is specially good for the winner, who is the first person to cross the finish line.”

Kalmer said she was determined to finish in the top 10 in the Johannesburg Challenge at Marks Park on October 7.
“The Johannesburg race has always been my favourite, because of the great vibe and because I am totally committed to the charity associated with it, which is Reach for Recovery, a support group for women with breast cancer.

“The route from Marks Park is very pretty and it is quite challenging. It is relatively flat for the first five kilometres, with lots of twists and turns, and then a steep climb past the Parkhurst golf course.”
Kalmer has been giving back to the race that has been so much a part of her life by mentoring about 20 runners from Vorentoe Hoerskool in Auckland Park.
“I am really enjoying my interaction with these girls,” said Kalmer.

“I have enjoyed watching them develop and gain confidence and we have had a lot of fun together. We had so many when we went to the Pretoria Challenge that I had to call on my husband for help so that we could transport everyone. “Afterwards, we all went for a burger and everyone was able to share their experiences and I was able to bond with them. Most of them are boarders, so running helps them to get away from school for a while.”
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XABA CLAIMS FIRST SPAR CHALLENGE WIN

Pretoria, South Africa - Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) ran a superb race to clinch her first SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge title on Saturday when she won the Pretoria race at Supersport Park in a fast time of 33.56 minutes.
Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) was second, in 34.24 minutes and defending Grand Prix title holder, Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) was third, in 34.47.
Three times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl stunned everyone by finishing fourth in 34.56 minutes, exactly eight weeks after the birth of her second son.
A group of six runners , including Xaba, Nyahora, Molotsane, van Zyl, Susy Chemaimak (Nedbank) and Rudo Mhonderwa (Nedbank), ran in a bunch for the first six kilometres before Xaba and Molotsane broke away and ran side by side for the next two kilometres.

The top 3 finishers: Rutendo Nyahora (2nd), Glenrose Xaba (Winner) and Kesa Molotsane during the Spar Women’s Challenge at SuperSport Park on August 04, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images)

Photo Credit : Reg Caldecott


Xaba took the lead at eight kilometres, putting some distance between herself and the rest of the pack. Van Zyl was in third position for much of the race, but gradually fell back, while Nyahora steamed past Molotsane.
Xaba finished second in the first three races, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, and was thrilled to achieve her first SPAR Challenge win.
“I came into the race with a lot of confidence after winning the Totalsports 10km last month,” said Xaba.
“I decided I was going to run my own race and run it fast. I wasn’t too worried about Kesa (Molotsane) because I knew I was faster on the hills than she is, and this is quite a hilly course.”
Nyahora said she had a good race and was pleased to be running well again after a hamstring injury,
“Deep down, I really wanted to win. I have won this race twice. It’s a tough course, but I like it because I am a tough athlete.”
She said she was also very happy that her teammate, Van Zyl, was back in action.
“Irvette is a great competitor and it was wonderful to have her back in the leading pack,”
Molotsane said she was happy with her top three finish.
“I haven’t been very well recently, so I am very pleased to be back,” she said
‘I tried very hard to stay with Glenrose, but she was just too strong today. I am very happy for her because winning will do a lot for her career. I will do my best in the last two races to earn enough points to defend my Grand Prix title.”
“I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t finish in the top three, because it’s always tough to finish fourth,” said Van Zyl.
“But I am very happy to be running competitively again. I was very fit before the baby arrived – I was planning to run a 10km race the day he was born, but then my waters broke. I had a caesar, so I only started running again three weeks ago, but I am very hungry to win. It felt good to be back today – especially 10kgs lighter.”
Twenty-five-thousand-740 runners took part in the 10km race and the 5km Fun Run, which was run in warm and windy conditions.
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Results of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge run at Supersport Park on Saturday afternoon

Senior: 1. Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) 33.56; 2. Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) 34.24; 3. Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) 34.47; 4. Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) 34.56; 5. Susy Chemaimak (Nedbank0 35.34; 6. Rudo Mhonderwa (Nedbank) 36.17; 7. Cornelia Joubert (Boxer) 36.29; 8. Caroline Mhondu (Maxed Elite) 36.40; 9. Mapaseka Makhanya (Massmart) 36.43; 10. Portia Ngwenya (Nedbank) 36.46

40-49: 1. Charne Bosman (Nedbank) 37.47; 2. Bulelwa Simae (Nedbank) 39.58; 3. Jacinta Murugu (Nedbank 40.030

50-59: 1. Grace de Oliveira (KPMG) 44.25; 2. Dawn James (Dolphin Coast) 47.49; 3. Amsa Strydom (51.21)

60-69: 1. Margie Saunders (Nedbank) 44.56; 2. Erica Geldenhuys 51.01; 3. Francis van Blerk 53.3

70+: Annelie Greyvenstein (Irene) 57.25; 2. Deirdre Larkin (Randburg Harriers) 70.07; 3. Marie van Dyk (Irene) 83.57

Juniors: 1. Liza Kellerman (UJ) 39.27; 2. Shanley Koekemoer (KPMG) 38.55; 3. Chantell Bester (Monnas) 40.54


SOLID START FOR DEFENDING CHAMPION IN SPAR GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - Defending champion Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) has made a solid start on the defence of her SPAR Grand Prix title with a comfortable victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Kesa Molotsane (KPMG), winner of the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Port Elizabeth on Saturday tops the SPAR Grand Prix leader board. Molostane is the defending SPAR Grand Prix winner.
Photo credit : Reg Cladecott


Molotsane, who also won the Cape Town race, has a total of 40 points and is two points ahead of Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) , who finished second in both races. Rudo Mhonderwa (Nedbank) who was fourth in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is in third place, with 34 points.
So far, none of the top senior runners has achieved bonus points for beating the 2017 time. Bonus points are often the difference between the top runners. However, there are still four races to be run, in Durban, Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg and Pretoria, so there is plenty of time for someone to stamp their authority on the Grand Prix.
In the category for runners between 60 and 69, Margie Saunders earned five valuable bonus points, and she now leads the category with 10 points, despite not having competed in Cape Town.
Molotsane was the dominant force in the Grand Prix last year, winning the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg races, finishing second in Durban and Johannesburg and third in Pretoria to finish with a total of 156 points. She was the first runner to win the competition on debut.
Molotsane entered the SPAR races last year as a means of boosting her training for track events, and she says she may not be able to run all four of the remaining races.
“I am trying to qualify for the 5000m in the African championships, and I also do cross-country. My coach and I are currently trying to juggle my participation in all three disciplines, so it depends on what other events there are,” she said.
“But I would really like to win the Grand Prix again, so I will do my best to get to all the events.”
Three-times Grand Prix winner Irvette Zyl, who was runner-up last year, missed the Port Elizabeth race because she is more than seven months pregnant. She caused a sensation when she finished third in Cape Town in March, despite being pregnant, but decided to give the Port Elizabeth Challenge a miss. She is currently eighth on the leaderboard, with 18 points. Another top runner, Nolene Conrad, who was third in the Grand Prix last year, missed the Cape Town race because she was doing national duty in the world cross country championships and decided to skip the Port Elizabeth race because she was still recovering from participating in the Vienna Marathon the previous week.
Molotsane’s club, KPMG, is currently in the lead in the club competition, with 168 points. Nedbank is in second place, with 137 and Boxer is third, with 105.
The next SPAR 10km Challenge is in Durban on June 24. The Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg races are in August and the final race, in Johannesburg, takes place in October.

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MOLOTSANE IN POLE POSITION BUT WATCH OUT FOR CONRAD

Johannesburg, South Africa - The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series moves to Port Elizabeth this weekend, with the Friendly City race being run from Pollok Beach in Summerstrand at seven o’clock on Saturday morning.
Last year’s SPAR Grand Prix winner, Kesa Molotsane, who dominated the Challenge Series last year, got her 2018 campaign off to an excellent start, with a convincing victory in the opening race in Cape Town in March. She has also been in good form on the track, winning the 5000m and 10 000m titles at the South African Students Athletics Championships in Sasolburg last month.
But Molotsane would do well to keep a watchful eye on KPMG teammate Nolene Conrad, who appears to be in the form of her life.
Conrad recently became the latest South African to achieve IAAF Gold Label status after finishing 25th in the World Half Marathon championships in Valencia, Spain. This opens the way to more international competition for Conrad, who was South Africa’s top ranked woman marathon runner last year.
She recently finished eighth at the Vienna Marathon, in a time of 2 hours 38.17 and she also won the Two Oceans Half Marathon in March.
In the past few years, Conrad has been a familiar figure on the podium at SPAR Challenge races, and was third on the Grand Prix ladder last year. She missed the opening race in Cape Town this year because of her world half marathon commitment, but with five races to go, the battle for the title is still wide open.
Three-times Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl, who finished third in Cape Town, despite being six months pregnant, is still undecided about whether she will run on Saturday.
“I’m running the Wally Hayward 10km on Tuesday, and I’ll see how I go,” said Van Zyl.
“If I finish in about 35 minutes, I might run on Saturday, but there’s no point in going all that way and not finishing in the top 10. Also, I am a bit nervous of flying – I would hate to go into labour on the plane.”
Other runners to look out for are Glenrose Xaba, who was second in Cape Town, Christine Kalmer, who is back in form after a quiet 2017 because of illness, and the Phalula twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang, who are both former Grand Prix winners.

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DEFENDING CHAMPION TOPS THE SPAR GRAND PRIX TABLE AFTER FIRST SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE

Cape Town, South Africa - Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) gave notice of her intention to defend her SPAR Grand Prix title when she cruised to victory in the opening SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race at the Bellville Stadium in Cape Town on Sunday.

Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) addresses the media after winning the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Cape town on Sunday, Molotsane the defending SPAR Grand Prix champion tops the Grand Prix leaderboard. To the right of Molotsane is Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) who finished 2nd in Cape Town and to the left of Molotsane is Van Zyl (Nedbank) who finished third.

Photo credit : Reg Cladecott


Molotsane dominated the six race Challenge series last year, winning in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg, coming second in Durban and Johannesburg and third in Pretoria – and she intends to do just as well in 2018.
The Cape Town race was moved from the flat seafront course in Greenpoint to a more challenging course in Bellville, where the runners had to contend with a long slow uphill from the third to the seventh kilometre. As a result, none of the top senior runners was able to earn bonus points for running a better time than last year.
Molotsane tops the Grand Prix ladder with 20 points, followed by Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) with 19 and Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) with 18. Van Zyl, who has won the Grand Prix title three times, in 2010, 2011 and 2016, was runner-up last year, but she is nearly seven months pregnant, which could affect her participation in the other SPAR races.
“The Two Oceans half-marathon next week will probably be my last race before the birth,” Van Zyl told the media after Sunday’s race.
“But I will see how I feel. Maybe I will run in Port Elizabeth in May – if I am still allowed to fly by then.”
Molotsane and Xaba said they had no plans for major races before the Port Elizabeth Challenge race, and would be focusing their attention on preparing for it.
“The SPAR races are very important and I will be taking them very seriously,” said Molotsane.
Xaba, who last had a podium finish in a Challenge race in Pretoria in 2016, said she would be working hard to ensure that she had more top three finishes.
The second leg of the SPAR Grand Prix will be the Port Elizabeth SPAR Women’s Challenge on Saturday May 5th.
The 2018 SPAR Grand Prix calendar is as follows;

Bellville, Cape Town Sunday 25 March 2018
Port Elizabeth Saturday 5 May 2018
Durban Sunday 24 June 2018
Pretoria Saturday 4 August 2018
Pietermaritzburg Sunday 19 August 2018
Johannesburg Sunday 7 October 2018

FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO
http://www.sparwomensrace.co.za/

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SPAR GRAND PRIX SERIES KICKS OFF ON SUNDAY

FIRST SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE RACE OF 2018 SEASON TO TAKE PLACE IN CAPE TOWN THIS WEEKEND

Johannesburg, South Africa - Thousands of women will take to the streets of Bellville next Sunday, kicking off the 2018 SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series .
This will be the first of six races that make up the 2018 SPAR Grand Prix series.

2017 SPAR Grand Prix winner Kesa Molotsane is excited for the start of the 2018 SPAR Grand Prix season which kicks off in Cape Town at the Bellville stadium on Sunday the 25th March 2018.

Photo Credit : Reg Caldecott


After number of years in Greenpoint, the Cape Town Challenge has returned to its original home at the Bellville Stadium.
SPAR Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton said the change of venue would have an impact on the race, and on the Grand Prix series.
“The route at the Cape Town Stadium was flat and fast, whereas the route at Bellville is fairly hilly. I imagine the winning time will be slower, and the top runners will not be able to get time bonus points, which can make all the difference in the battle to win the Grand Prix,” he said.
“There are lots of ups and downs, and I think it could be quite a challenging course.”
As always, the race has attracted the cream of South African roadrunners, but all eyes will be on Kesa Molotsane, who dominated the series last year. Molotsane, who was better known as a track athlete, took to the road like a duck to water and won the Grand Prix title at her first attempt.
Molotsane is only the seventh person to win the title, and the only one to do so in her debut year. She won the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg races, finished second in Durban and Johannesburg and third in Pretoria to finish with 156 points – 10 ahead of her nearest rival, three-times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl, who won in Pretoria and Johannesburg, came second in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and third in Pietermaritzburg.
Irvette van Zyl, who has won the Grand Prix title three times, will be competing and will be going all out to win, despite being six months pregnant with her second child. She and Glenrose Xaba have been performing well in local races in Gauteng in recent weeks.
Two former Grand Prix winners, Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebogang Phalula, will miss the race, because they are doing national duty at the world half-marathon championships in Valencia, Spain that weekend. Others who will miss the SPAR Race because of the world championships are Nolene Conrad, who was third in the Grand Prix last year, Cornelia Joubert and Jenet Dlamini.
The top runners competing in the race will all be seeking to earn Grand Prix point. The prize money for the Grand Prix has been boosted to a whopping R185 000 for the winner – R12 000 more than last year. The runner-up will receive R60 000 and the athlete finishing third in the Grand Prix will take home R35 500.
Grand Prix points are earned in the six SPAR Challenge races run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg.
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MOLOTSANE WINS HER THIRD SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa - Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) virtually clinched the SPAR Grand Prix with a stunning win in the Pietermaritzburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge on Sunday.
She finished in 34.21 minutes. Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) was second in 34.44 and Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) was third in 34.37.

This is the first time the Pietermaritzburg SPAR race has formed part of the Grand Prix series, so the route was unknown to many of the runners. It was a very hilly route, and the race was run on a chilly morning, with 4 500 runners taking part.

Van Zyl took the lead early on, followed closely by Lebogang Phalula, Nyahora and Molotsane. Van Zyl looked strong on the steep hills, but at about six kilometres, Molotsane made her move and caught up with her. Phalula dropped back, but the top three ran side by side. Molotsane, who is known for her amazing ‘kick’, left the other two and crossed the finish line looking as if she could run another 10 kilometres. The top three all earned bonus points for finishing inside the target time.

Phalula, who won the Pietermaritzburg race last year finished in 34.50 minutes.
“I love hills, and I really liked this route,” said Molotsane, who left almost immediately after the race to join her South African teammates at the World Student Games in Taipei, where she will compete in the 5000 metres event.

“I had to get special permission to stay behind to run this race, but it was very important to me,” she said.
Molotsane said her training for the track helped her to maintain speed on the road.

Nyahora, who ran the marathon in the World Athletics Championships in London two weeks ago, said that at four kilometres, she felt she had no strength left in her legs.
“But I just reminded myself that I wasn’t running a marathon and it was only a few kilometres to go. I tried to stay with Kesa, but she has such a strong kick. I am very happy with my race,” said Nyahora.
Van Zyl, who won the SPAR race in Pretoria two weeks ago, praised Molotsane and Nyahora.

“I tried my very best, but it wasn’t good enough today,” she said.
“Kesa was just too good. She ran an amazing race, and Rutendo was also amazing, just two weeks after running a marathon. I just didn’t have the strength in my legs to stay ahead.”
The final leg of the SPAR Challenge series takes place at Marks Park in Johannesburg on October 8.

SPAR WOMEN’S 10 KM CHALLENGE RESULTS

Results of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge run at the Pietermaritzburg Oval on Sunday

Senior
1. Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) 34.21; 2 Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) 34.34; 3. Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank0 34.37; 4 Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) 34.50; 5. Bertha Chikanga (Maxed Elite) 34.58; 6. Maria Shai (Boxer) 35.02; 7. Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) 35.05; 8.. Nolene Conrad (KPMG) 35.11; 9. Nicole Louw (KPMG) 35.23; 10 Rudo Mhonderwa (Nedbank Zimbabwe)

Junior
1. Nicole Louw (KPMG) 35.23; 2. Shanley Koekemoer (KPMG) 37.27; 3. Lyndi Roelofse (Boxer) 37.44

35-39
1. Jane Grundling (Boxer) 37.22; 2. Makhosi Mhlongo (32 Gi0 37.41; 3. Fikile Mbuthuma (Nedbank) 39.02

40-49
1. Tanith Maxwell (Boxer) 37.56; 2. Janene Carey (Boxer) 39.55; 3. Delia Jay (Dolphin Coast Striders) 44.40

50-59
1. Judy Bird (KPMG) 39.54; 2. Grace de Oliveira (Boxer) 44.10; 3. Gail Babich (Savages Athletics Club) 46.47

60-69
1. Blanche Moila (Savages Athletics Club) 49.19; 2. Sonja Laxton (RAC) 50.34; 3. Jenny Taylor (Saints Athletics Club) 51.13

70 +
1. Gill Tregenna (Westville Athletics Club) 59.22


MOLETSANE STILL LEADS GRAND PRIX TABLE

Pretoria, South Africa - Kesa Moletsane and current title holder Irvette van Zyl are locked in a titanic struggle to win the 2017 SPAR Grand Prix and the generous R173 000 prize.

Kesa Molotsane in action during the SPAR Women’s Challenge at SuperSport Park on August 5, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott


With four races completed, and two to go, Moletsane has 107 points, giving her a 19-point lead over Van Zyl, who has 88 points.
Van Zyl won the Pretoria race on Saturday in 34.36 minutes, while Moletsane finished third, behind Nolene Conrad. All three earned 10 bonus points for finishing within the target time set by the race organisers.

Moletsane won the Port Elizabeth race and finished second in Durban. She has also been declared the winner of the Cape Town race, after the winner, Louisa Leballo, was removed from the Grand Prix standings because she failed an out-of-competition dope test on March 20. Leballo has been banned for eight years, and her SPAR Challenge results were nullified because she failed the test before the start of this year’s Challenge series.

Van Zyl was elevated to second place in Cape Town, and finished second in Port Elizabeth. However, she had to drop out of the Durban race because of an injury.
Conrad was sixth in Cape Town, fourth in Port Elizabeth and eighth in Durban, proving that runners can do well in the Grand Prix if their results are consistent.

“Louisa being banned doesn’t really affect the Grand Prix,” said Van Zyl.
“It just means that Kesa and I get an extra point each. I haven’t given up on winning the Grand Prix this year. I won it last year, despite not being able to run the Pretoria race because I was injured,” said Van Zyl.
The three-times Grand Prix winner said she had set her sights on doing well in the two remaining Challenge races, in Pietermaritzburg on August 20 and in Johannesburg on October 8.

“And I am also training for the Cape Town Marathon on September 17,” said Van Zyl.
Moletsane, who is running in the SPAR Challenge Series for the first time this year, said she was determined to stay ahead of the pack in the race for the Grand Prix title.

“I am enjoying running on the road instead of the track, and I would like to cap my year with the Grand Prix title,” she said.
In the club competition, Moletsane and Conrad’s club, KPMG, has stretched its lead over Van Zyl’s club, Nedbank, from eight points to 91. KPMG have 441 points, and Nedbank 350. Boxer are in third position, with 314 points.


ONE SECOND VICTORY FOR LEBALLO IN SPAR GRAND PRIX SEASON OPENER

Cape Town, South Africa - In one of the closest finishes in years, seasoned athlete Louisa Leballo (Nedbank) sprinted across the finish line to snatch victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Cape Town in 32.58 minutes, just one second ahead of Kesa Moletsane (KPMG). Last year’s SPAR Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) was third in 33.07 minutes.

The top 3 finishers of the Cape Town SPAR Women’s Challenge run at the Greenpoint Stadium precinct in Cape Town on Sunday 02 April 2017. From left to right: Irvette van Zyl (3rd), the winner Louisa Leballo and second placed Kesa Molotsane.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


It was the closest finish in recent times.
Van Zyl surged into the lead from the start and appeared to be running strongly. She maintained the lead until the sixth kilometre, but Leballo, Moletsane, Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebogang Phalula were close on her heels. By the 7km mark, 39 year old Moletsane was giving her a run for her money. It was a tight race for the finish, with 39-year-old Leballo outsprinting Moletsane across the line. Leballo’s previous fastest time was 33.29, set in Soweto in 2003.
“I never thought I would win today. I wasn’t feeling well after the World Cross Country champs in Uganda, so it was a bit of a surprise to win,” said Leballo.
“At the beginning, the race was very fast. It was my first SPAR Challenge race in Cape Town, so I didn’t know the route. I have been struggling with injury for the past four years, so I am happy to come back strongly.”
“It was my first SPAR Challenge race, so I didn’t really plan anything,” said Moletsane.
“I have just come from two hectic races – I was running the World Cross Country in Uganda, and Varsity Athletics on Friday. I just had to run and it was perfect for me today. I come from inland, and it is always good to run at the coast,” she said.
Van Zyl said she had not run a good tactical race.
“I am an impatient runner, so I can’t sit and wait until somebody makes a move. I think maybe that hurt me at the end, because I was really wobbly from 8kms. I didn’t realise Kesa was in the race until 7kms. Maybe, if I had known at the start I might have run differently. In the last kilometre, I knew I was in big trouble. Kesa has a big kick and Louisa was a surprise. Then when the cyclist said 500 metres to go, it was just bam! Everyone kicks and I had no energy and wobbly legs.
SPAR wants us to run fast times and so we will be going all out. The first race of the 2017 season is over and we can settle in and watch each other in the next five races,” said Van Zyl.
Twenty-one thousand runners took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run at the Cape Town Stadium.
The second leg of the SPAR Grand prix will be held on Saturday morning 6 May 2017 in Nelson Mandela Bay.


NEW LOOK SPAR GRAND PRIX GETS UNDER WAY ON SUNDAY

Johannesburg, South Africa - The new look SPAR Grand Prix gets under way on Sunday, when 21-thousand women line up for the start of the Cape Town Women’s Challenge at the Mother City’s Green Point stadium precedent .
For the first time, non-South Africans are eligible to accumulate Grand Prix points, which is very good news for Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora, who has been one of the most consistent top ten runners in the series for the past few years.
Two of South Africa’s most popular road runners, Mapaseka Makhanya and Rene Kalmer, have been named patrons of the Grand Prix this year. Both are former Grand Prix winners, with Kalmer having won the title three times and Makhanya once. Kalmer gave birth to daughter Karli less than two weeks ago, and is not expected to take part in any of the races before the Durban Challenge in June, and Makhanya is making her way back into contention after a series of injuries.
“I feel very honoured to be a patron of the SPAR Grand Prix,” said Kalmer.
“I have been unable to run for nearly a year, first because of a hip injury, and then because I was pregnant. So I am very happy that I am still able to be part of the SPAR Women’s Challenge Series.”
Makhanya said she was very excited about the changes that had been made to the Grand Prix. These include the addition of the Pietermaritzburg race 20 August 2017 , which joins Cape Town 2 April 2017, Nelson Mandela Bay 6 May 2017 , Durban 11 June 2017, Pretoria 05 August 2017and Johannesburg 08 October 2017 as races where elite runners are able to acquire Grand Prix points. Prix money has also been increased substantially, with the winner taking home R173 000. There will also be cash incentives for winners who meet target times.
“I am particularly excited that the Grand Prix is now open to non-South Africans, and I am so happy for Rutendo. She is going to make life tough for the rest of us who are trying to win Grand Prix points,” said Makhanya.
“I am very excited about being named a patron of the Grand Prix. It is a big honour, and I know I will have to be a role model for other runners.”
Kalmer said the SPAR Challenge races had been very important for the development of road running in South Africa.
“I ran my first SPAR race when I was 13, and they have played a very important role in my development as an athlete. I think many runners have discovered the joy of running after taking part in one of the SPAR races.
“At the top level, competition is very tight – you used to be able to win the race with a time of 35 minutes – now you might not even make the top twenty with a time like that,” she said.
“Because there are five – and now six – races in the Grand Prix, you are motivated throughout the year.”
Makhanya said it was particularly fulfilling to run in races designed specifically for women.
“The atmosphere of the SPAR races is very special. I can’t wait to get going with this year’s chase,” said Makhanya.


SPAR GRAND PRIX BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER

Johannesburg, South Africa -The SPAR Grand Prix, one of South Africa’s most prestigious athletics events, will be bigger and better than ever this year.
The Grand Prix has been expanded to include a sixth race – the Pietermaritzburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and the prize money has increased by seven per cent, with the eventual winner pocketing a whopping R173 000. In addition, the Grand Prix is now open to all woman runners, regardless of their nationality.
“The inclusion of international runners is an important step,” said Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton.

Last year’s SPAR Grand Prix winner Irvette Van Zyl holding the tropy after the announcement.

Picture by: Reg Caldecott


“For ten years, we helped a generation of local runners move into the international arena. Now it’s time to open it up to everyone, because our local girls are ready to take on the world.
“With six races this year, these international runners need to come to at least four, and probably five, of the races if they want to win. That means we could have several African stars here for the whole series,” said Laxton.
“That’s good for road running in South Africa and we plan to eventually become a destination for world class women athletes. We invite the Kenyans, the Ethiopians and other world class runners to come to the SPAR Grand Prix in 2017.”
Laxton said the tenth anniversary of the SPAR Grand Prix in 2016 had been very special, but the organisers knew that they had to continue to improve the race.
“We decided to include Pietermaritzburg as one of the Grand Prix races because we wanted to expand the Grand Prix, and the Pietermaritzburg race was ideal for our purposes. It is well run, and well supported, so it has enough clout to fit into the Grand Prix, and it has been sponsored by SPAR for a number of years.”
“We are excited about the improvements to the Grand Prix,” said SPAR Marketing Director Mike Prentice.
“The SPAR Challenge races and the SPAR Grand Prix are among our most important sponsorships, and it is important that they change and improve every year. We look forward to another titanic battle for Grand Prix points in 2017.”
One runner who will be delighted by the expansion of the Grand Prix to all nationalities is Rutendo Nyahora. The Zimbabwean has been a regular top ten finisher for several years, with a number of Challenge wins to her name, but until now she has been excluded from the Grand Prix.
“I didn’t mind that it was only for South Africans,” said Nyahora.
“But I am so happy that I can now also get Grand Prix points, and stand a chance of winning.”
As part of efforts to raise standards, there will be a cash incentive for runners who beat target times for each of the races. The targets are the fastest winning times in the past three years. In addition to the cash prize of R5000 in the open category and R2500 in the age categories, runners who meet the target times will receive bonus points. Only the winner will receive the cash bonus, but all runners who beat the target times will receive bonus points.
The first race is the Cape Town Challenge on Sunday April 2. The Port Elizabeth Challenge is on Saturday May 6 and the Durban race is on Sunday June 11. There will be two Challenge races in August, with the Pretoria race on Saturday August 5 and the Pietermaritzburg race on Sunday August 20. The final race is in Johannesburg on Sunday October 8 at their new venue, Marks Park in Emmerentia.


VAN ZYL CROWNED AT 10TH SPAR GRAND PRIX AWARDS

Kempton Park, South Africa - It’s been the best of years, it’s been the worst of years for Irvette van Zyl.

Winner of the 2016 SPAR GRAND PRIX Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) with her trophy.

Picture by: Reg Caldecott


But the positive side of 2016 was foremost on Thursday night, when Van Zyl collected her third SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix award at a glittering ceremony at Emperor’s Palace.
Van Zyl, who gave birth to her first child in September last year, had a great start to the year. She appeared unstoppable; winning every race she took part in, including the SPAR women’s races in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban.
She was selected to run the women’s marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly.
But at the Olympic Games, her world came crashing around her ears. She developed a stress fracture in her foot, and had to withdraw from the marathon.
“I was devastated,” said Van Zyl.
“I didn’t finish the marathon at the London Olympics, because of an injury, and I wanted to make up for that by doing well in Rio. I am not normally prone to stress fractures, so this was a terrible blow. After going to two Olympic Games, I still can’t call myself an Olympian.”
Van Zyl came back from Rio and started intensive rehabilitation, but she was unable to take part in the Pretoria SPAR Challenge.
“I was really worried – I was on top of the Grand Prix table, but I was worried that one of the Phalula twins could overtake me,” she said.
Van Zyl eventually started training again a couple of weeks before the last and deciding Grand Prix in Johannesburg. But on race day, she put any doubts about her fitness to rest, leading from start to finish and winning the race in record time to clinch victory in the Grand Prix by 21 points.
It was her third Grand Prix victory, putting her on a par with Rene Kalmer, who also has three Grand Prix titles to her name. Van Zyl previously won in 2010 and 2011.
Last year’s winner, Lebogang Phalula was second, with 79 points and Christine Kalmer was third, with 70. Van Zyl collected a cheque for R160 000, Phalula took home R53 000 and Kalmer R32 000.
“I am so happy to have won the Grand Prix. It has helped to make up for my huge disappointment at the Olympic Games,” said Van Zyl.
“I want to thank SPAR for all they have done for road running. The Grand Prix has been going for 10 years now and it has added an extra dimension to the SPAR Challenge races. The thought of the very generous prize money is a great incentive on those cold winter mornings when you really don’t want to get out of bed and train.
“The Grand Prix has ensured that the top runners take part in as many races as they can, which means the competition is very stiff. Congratulations to SPAR and I wish them many more successful years with the Grand Prix.”
SPAR Group Marketing Executive Mike Prentice said SPAR was very proud of the Grand Prix and the achievements of the top runners.
“The SPAR Grand Prix, which allows our top end athletes a chance to compete for year-end glory, complements each of the SPAR Women’s Challenge races and over the past 10 years has elevated the series to one of the biggest athletics brands in the country,” said Prentice.
SPAR is passionate about women and the promotion of women across the sporting spectrum and our involvement through sponsorship of women’s sports over the years is testament to that commitment,” he said.
“Congratulations to Irvette on her splendid victory and congratulations to all the other top runners. I also love the wonderful spirit of camaraderie among our top runners, who try their hardest on the road, and then hug one another at the finish.”


IRVETTE WINS THIRD SPAR GRAND PRIX TITLE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) made short work of snapping up the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix with a magnificent victory in the final SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series race in Joburg on Sunday.

SPAR Grand Prix 2016 title winner Irvette Van Zyl at the SPAR Women’s Race Joburg at the Wanderers Sporting Club on Sunday the 9th October 2016 celebrating after crossing the finish line.

Photo Credit : Reg Caldecott


Van Zyl dominated the SPAR Grand Prix throughout the year. She won the first three races, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, where her record time earned her 10 valuable bonus points. But a foot injury prevented her from competing in the Pretoria race in August, and it appeared that the Grand Prix might not come her way after all.
“I was determined to come back and earn enough points in the final race to win the Grand Prix and make up for my horrible Olympic Marathon disappointment,” she said.
Van Zyl‘s foot injury forced her to withdraw from the Marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I so badly wanted to do well in the Marathon to make up for my Olympic Games disappointment in London, when I had to drop out of the race before the finish because of an injury. So now I have two massive Olympic Games disappointments and I was determined to win the Grand Prix as some form of compensation for those disappointments,” said Van Zyl.
Although she could have won the Grand Prix with a place in the top five in the race, Van Zyl left nothing to chance. She surged to the front right at the start of the race and finished nearly a minute ahead of second-placed Mapaseka Makhanya and earned bonus points for a record time.
Van Zyl finished the year with a total of 100 points. She will pocket R160 000.
Second place went to last year’s winner, Lebogang Phalula, who had 79 points. She will receive R53 000. Christine Kalmer, who finished nine points behind Phalula, finished in third place and will receive R32 000. Two points behind her was Phalula’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo, who receives R27 000. Makhanya, who is returning from injury, finished in fifth place with 61 points.
The SPAR Grand Prix celebrated its 10th anniversary this year by matching promising young runners up with former Grand Prix winners, who acted as mentors to the juniors. The mentorship programme proved worthwhile, as the first three in the junior category, were all in the programme. Simonay Weitsz, who was mentored by Makhanya, was top, with 35 points. She also finished in 10th position in the open category, with 33 points. Van Zyl’s protégée, Nicole van der Merwe was second, with 21 points, and Ashleigh Simonis, who missed two of the races, was third with 19 points. Simonis has Lebogang Phalula as her mentor.
In the club competition, the Phalulas’ club, Boxer, finished first, with 365 points. KPMG were second, with 328 and Nedbank were third, with 158 points.
Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton thanked the elite runners for making the effort to run in as many of the races as they could.
“This competition is without doubt the premier road running competition in South Africa for women, for both the mass of social runners and walkers as well as the professional elite group,” said Laxton.
“It is clear from a glance at the leader-board that our top athletes, virtually without fail, did their best to run as many races as possible, notwithstanding big international opportunities including World Championships in Cross-Country, European track and road races and, of course, the Rio Olympics. Where our regular elite athletes did not run, generally this was because they were injured,” said Laxton.


STORMING VAN ZYL WINS SPAR 10KM CHALLENGE AND GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - A determined Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) led from start to finish in the Joburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Sporting Club to win in 34.58 minutes. At the same time she made sure of winning the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix for the third time.

The top three finishers in the 2016 SPAR Women’s Joburg 10km Challenge held on Sunday 9 October from left 3rd position Rutendo Nyahhora (Nedbank) 35:00, winner Irvette Van Zyl (Nedbank) 34:58 and 2nd position Mapaseka Makhanya (Olifantsfontein) 35:46

Irvette Van Zyl (Nedbank) crosses the finish line of the 2016 SPAR Women’s Joburg Challenge, winning the 10km race in 34:58. In winning the race on Sunday at The Wanderers Sporting Club, Van Zyl captured the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix title.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


Mapaseka Makhanya (Olifantsfontein) came from nowhere to claim second place in 35.46 minutes, ahead of Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank), who finished in 36 minutes.
Van Zyl, who had to withdraw from the Olympic Marathon in Rio in August because of a stress fracture in her foot, set the pace from the start and opened up a 40 second gap before the first kilometer mark. Van Zyl won the first three races, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, but was unable to run in Pretoria because of her injury.
“I knew what I had to do to win the Grand Prix. I got into the lead on the first uphill and decided that I was going to run my own race. If the others wanted to catch me, it was up to them,” said an elated Van Zyl.
“I’m so happy to have won and I am so glad it’s over – I have had nightmares about this race for about four weeks.
“I really wanted to win, to make up for my Olympic Games disappointment. I had planned to use the Olympic Games to compensate for my previous Olympic disappointment, when I had to drop out of the race in London, so I really need something good to happen.
“I think possibly I went out too fast and I forgot about one or two hills, so I struggled a bit in the last two kilometer’s, but I kept thinking about my little boy and my husband LJ, and was so happy when I got to the finish line and they were waiting for me,” she said.
With Van Zyl in command throughout the race, the real battle was for second place. Nyahora and last year’s winner Lebogang Phalula ran together for the first seven kilometers, with the lead changing hands frequently, before Makhanya surged ahead to claim second spot.
“I have been battling with injury for some time, and it was good to be running pain free,” said Makhanya.
“I am very strong mentally and I am very patient, and I used my patience today to surge at the right time. This 10km race is part of my training for the Shanghai Marathon at the end of October, and I am feeling very good,” she said.
“I was strong on the hills and that is what helped me.”
Nyahora said she was very happy to be on the podium and delighted to see her teammate Irvette van Zyl back in form.
“The SPAR race is always very important to me,” said Nyahora.
“Lebogang and I were challenging each other, but I think what helped me was that I was stronger on the hills. I am grateful to her, because she helped me push myself because I was determined I was going to beat her.”
Phalula, who ran her first marathon three weeks ago, dropped off the pace about midway through the race, and finished in sixth position, behind Glenrose Xaba and the Botswana runner, Onneile Dintwe. Phalula’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo, finished eighth.
A record entry of 14 562 women took part in Sunday’s race.


STILL TIME TO ENTER THE SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLNGE

Johannesburg South Africa - Time is running out – it’s just days before the SPAR Women’s Challenge, Joburg’s most beautiful road race at the Wanderers Club in Illovo on Sunday – but if you haven’t entered yet, don’t despair.

(From left) SPAR Women’s Race Joburg patron Mel du Bois, Kass Naidoo, SPAR South Rands Marketing Director Martin Webb,SPAR Women’s Race Joburg patron Rene Kalmer,Lebo Phalula,Ruthendo Nyahora and Kristine Kalmer all dropping a pair for charity at the official Media launch of the SPAR Women’s Challenge Joburg 2016 held at the Southern Sun in Hyde Park in Johannesburg.

Photo Credit : Reg Caldecott


Late entries will be accepted at registration at the Wanderers from Thursday to Saturday 09h00 to 16h00.
Join more than 12 000 women who will be having a fabulous day on Sunday, weaving their way through the leafy suburbs of Illovo, Melrose and Killarney.
The dynamic girl group, Blackbyrd, will provide entertainment after the race. The SAMA-award winning Cape Town group will keep your fingers snapping and your toes tapping with their unique blend of pop and country music, singing songs of love and heartbreak. Most of their songs are written by lead singer Tarryn Lamb.
Their hits include “All for Me,” “I feel good today” and “From the bottom of my heart.”
The SPAR women’s Challenge offers a wonderful outing for the family, with a Kiddies Corner, where mothers can leave their youngsters in safe hands while taking part in the race.
Prizes galore are on offer, including a brand new Suzuki Montana motorcar and a week for four at the luxury Crystal Springs resort in Mpumalanga. Other prizes include SPAR vouchers worth R15 000.
You can help others at the same time. Proceeds from the race go to Reach for Recovery, a non-profit support group for women with breast cancer.
A new initiative at the SPAR race is the Drop off a Pair and Show you Care campaign. Many disadvantaged children cannot afford shoes and have to run barefoot. People taking part in the Challenge or the 5km Fun Run can drop off an old pair of shoes when they collect their race numbers. The style and size don’t’ matter, but it is important that the shoes are in good condition.
If you drop off a pair of shoes, you stand a chance of winning one of five pairs of New Balance running shoes, one of five R1000 SPAR vouchers or one of five hair vouchers from TANAZ in Sandton.
So what’s stopping you from taking part? If you are daunted by the prospect of running 10kms, remember that walkers are welcome. There is also a 5km Fun Run, where you can meet and greet thousands of women from the City of Gold.
So put on those shoes and get to the Wanderers Club on Sunday for a day of fun in the sun.


THE RACE IS ON FOR THE SPAR GRAND PRIX TITLE

Johanesburg, South Africa - The race for the SPAR Grand Prix title is going down to the wire – the winner will be determined by the outcome of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Current leader of the SPAR Grand Prix Irvette Van Zyl at another SPAR Women’s Race victory in Durban held on the 5th June 2016.

Picture Credit : Reg Caldecott


The top contenders for the title are Irvette van Zyl and last year’s winner, Lebogang Phalula. Van Zyl has had a long lay-off for injury and Phalula has been very active in recent weeks and may feel the effects in her legs.
Van Zyl has 70 points, after winning the first three races, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Her record time in Durban earned her 10 valuable bonus points, which proved important when she had to withdraw from the Pretoria race because of a foot injury.
Phalula has 64 points, after finishing third, second, 11th and four in the first four races. She won the Johannesburg Challenge last year to cement her 2015 Grand Prix title.
Van Zyl said she started training again about three weeks ago.
“I’m not where I would like to be, but at least I am running pain free,” she said.
“I’m going to give it my all on Sunday. I really want to win the Grand Prix to make up for my disappointment in having to withdraw from the Olympic Marathon in Rio because of my foot injury.
“I need to finish in the top five and hope that Lebogang doesn’t get a bonus point. Then I think I am safe,” said Van Zyl, who won the Grand Prix title in 2010 and 2011.
Phalula ran her debut marathon in September, when she finished third in the Cape Town marathon, in a time of two hours 38 minutes. Last week, she won the Joburg 10km City Run. Her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, finished second, but collapsed on the finish line and had to be taken to the medical tent for treatment.
Diana-Lebo Phalula said they were both feeling fine and were ready for the contest on Sunday.
“I collapsed because I didn’t eat anything before the race. I am better now and I won’t make that mistake again,” she said.
“Lebogang and I are both ready to do well on Sunday.”
Diana-Lebo is in fourth position on the Grand Prix ladder, with 55 points – three behind third-placed Christine Kalmer, who got married two weeks ago. Kalmer said at the launch of the Johannesburg race that she would be taking her running shoes on honeymoon.
“I don’t want to give up that place,” she said.
Kalmer’s third-place ranking is testimony to the value of running as many Challenge races as possible. She finished fifth, eighth, sixth and seventh in the previous races, but her constant presence in the top 10 has proved invaluable.
Diana-Lebo was unavailable for the Cape Town race because she was doing national duty in China. She finished third, third and second in Port Elizabeth, Durban and Pretoria.
Rutendo Nyahora won the Pretoria Challenge last month and could play an important role in deciding who wins the Grand Prix title. However, as a Zimbabwean citizen, she does not qualify for Grand Prix points, as the Grand Prix is restricted to South African citizens.


OLYMPIAN NYAHORA DEFENDS HER TITLE IN STYLE

Pretoria, South Africa - After a race in which the lead changed hands several times, Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) stormed to the front to win the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Supersport Park in Centurion for the second year in a row.

Ruthendo Nyahora crossing the finish line at the Super Sports Park at the SPAR Women’s Race Pretoria leg on Saturday the 3rd of September 2016.

Lebo Phalula who came 2nd and Ruthendo Nyahora together after the finish line at Super Sports Park at the SPAR Women’s Race Pretoria leg on Saturday the 3rd of September 2016.

Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


She finished in 35.25 minutes and was followed by Diana-Lebo Phalula (Boxer), in 35.40. Newcomer Glenrose Xaba (Eskom) was third in 36.16 minutes, while Phalula’s twin sister and teammate, Lebogang, finished fourth, in 36.32.
Nyahora got off to a good start and took the early lead, before she was passed by former Pretoria champion Mapaseka Makhanya (Olifants) and Diana-Lebo Phalula. Makhanya led for much of the way, until Diana-Lebo Phalula and Nyahora went into the lead, leaving the rest of the front runners well behind. At about seven kilometers, Nyahora surged into the lead and stayed there until the finish line.
Xaba stayed close to the front-runners for most of the race, and passed more experienced roadrunners to claim the third place.
“I am so happy to have defended my title,” said a beaming Nyahora.
“At one stage, Mapaseka and (Diana) Lebo were fighting for position, so I just stayed behind them and waited for my chance. I know this route very well, and I knew that they would get tired, so I just waited for my chance, and when it came, I took it.”
Nyahora and Diana-Lebo Phalula both ran the Olympic marathon in Rio last month, Nyahora for Zimbabwe and Phalula for South Africa, and both said that being able to call themselves Olympians had helped to boost their confidence.
“I know I have to make things happen for myself,” said Nyahora.
Phalula said she had a very good race.
“I was feeling very light and I wasn’t tired,” she said.
“Although it was hot here, it was nothing like as hot as it was in Rio. I feel different about myself now that I can call myself an Olympian. I didn’t feel any pressure and I just enjoyed the race. I came third last year, and second this year. Next year it’s my race,” said Phalula.
Xaba, who is the South African cross-country champion, said she had not focused on the other runners, but had concentrated on maintaining her pace.
“They got away from me at five kilometers, but I just carried on running my own race. I am very happy to finish third,” said Xaba.
The junior runners who are being mentored by Grand Prix winners took the first three places in the junior race. Diana-Lebo’s protégé, Koletso Senosi was first, in 38.22 minutes, followed by Nicole van der Merwe, mentored by Irvette van Zyl, and Makhanya’s protégé, Simonay Weitz, was third.
Van Zyl, the current Grand Prix leader, is injured and did not run.
Twenty-seven-thousand took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.

end


VAN ZYL’S BRILLIANT YEAR CONTINUES

Durban, South Africa - Irvette van Zyl’s brilliant year continued on Sunday, with victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Kings Park in Durban. It was her third consecutive Challenge victory.

Irvette van Zyl in action during the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge at Growthpoint Kings Park on June 05, 2016 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Reg Caldecott

Picture Credit: Reg Caldecott


Running in cool, overcast conditions, Van Zyl won the race in 33.26 minutes – a full minute ahead of Cornelia Joubert, who finished second, in 34.26. Diana-Lebo Phalula was third, in 34.39 minutes.
Van Zyl went into the lead from the start. She ran side by side with Rutendo Nyahora until the three-kilometre mark, when she surged into the lead.
“I had a fall in training two weeks ago, and hurt my knee. I thought about not running today, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall too far behind in the Grand Prix,” said Van Zyl.
“I expected the other runners to start faster than they did, but when it seemed that nobody wanted to run fast, it played into my hands. I was quite shocked when we got to six kilometres and I saw I had quite a big lead, because my training hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked. I am very happy that I ran today and very happy that I won.”
Van Zyl, who has not been beaten on home soil this year, said her focus from now on would be training for the marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“Winning races gives you confidence, but I also get confidence from training. When I went to the Olympics in London, it was quite overwhelming, but I think I will be better prepared this time because I know what to expect.”
Joubert said she was thrilled to have come second.
“Last year I came fourth, with a better time, but I am so happy to have come second. I trained very hard for this race, and will be training for the rest of the SPAR races this year,” she said.
“Durban is just the place for me, I think.”
Phalula said she was disappointed with her time, although she was surprised to have finished in the top three.
“My focus now is on preparing for the marathon in Rio. We need to run faster times in South Africa if we are going to succeed overseas,” she said.
More than 18 000 took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.

RESULTS OF SPAR WOMEN’S 10KM CHALLENGE - DURBAN

Open: 1 Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) 33.26; 2 Cornielia Joubert (Boxer) 34.26; 3. Lebo
Phalula (Boxer) 34.39; 4 Rutendo Nyahora (NedbankCGA) 34.48; 5 Glenrose Xaba (South
Africa) 34.50; 6 Christine Kalmer (KPMG) 35.05;

Junior: 1 Simonay Weitsz (KPMG) 36.27; 2 Yandiswa Shange (KPMG) 37.51; 3 Carina
Viljoen (KPMG) 37.56 ;

35-39 Yrs: 1 Janie Grundling (Boxer) 35:49 ; 1 Bulelwa Simae (Nedbank WP) 37:24 ; 3
Poppy Mlambo (Boxer) 37:32

40-49 Yrs: 1 Tanith Maxwell (Boxer) 35.39 ; 2 Ulrica Stander (FNB ) 38.04; 3 Janene Carey
(Boxer) 39.03

50-59 Yrs: 1 Ansie Breytenbach (Irene Athletics Club) 44:22; 2 Gail Babich (Savages
Athletics Club) 47.11; 3 Elize Cilliers 48:12

60+ Yrs: 1 Sandra Fismer (Hilton Harries) 46.25; 2 Blanche Moila 49:21; 3 Sheree Kristen
(Westville Athletics) 51.24


TOP RUNNERS HAVE MUCH AT STAKE IN THE SPAR CHALLENGE IN DURBAN ON SUNDAY

The 2016 Comrades Marathon is done and dusted and attention now turns to the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Durban on Sunday.
For years the Durban Challenge has taken place a week after the Comrades Marathon, and now there is an even stronger link – Charne Bosman, who won the women’s race last Sunday , is a former poster girl for the SPAR Women’s Challenge. She was a regular winner on the Challenge Circuit in the early years of the 21st century, and even provided novice runners with advice on how to prepare for a 10km road race.

Irvette Van Zyl leads the SPAR Grand Prix 2016 table after winning back to back SPAR Women’s Challenge 10km races in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. In form Van Zyl goes into this Sunday’s Durban leg of the Grand Prix as favourite.

Picture credit : Reg Caldecott


The current top runners, such as Irvette van Zyl, and the Phalula twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang, probably have no thoughts of running Comrades at this stage in their careers, although all the top runners have turned their attention to running standard marathons.
There will be a star-studded field for the Durban race on Sunday. Van Zyl and the Phalula twins will be joined by the Kalmer sisters, Rene and Christine, Mapaseka Makhanya, Nolene Conrad and Cornelia Joubert.
In addition to trying to cross the finish line first, the top runners will also be competing for valuable SPAR Grand Prix points, which are awarded to the top runners.
Van Zyl, who is a two-times winner of the Grand Prix, having triumphed in 2010 and 2011, has a narrow lead over Lebogang Phalula after the first two races in the five race series. Van Zyl has 40 points, after winning in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Phalula, the 2015 winner, has 37 points, after finishing third in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth, and Christine Kalmer and Nolene Conrad are in joint third position, with 29 points each.
Van Zyl, who has been unbeaten on home soil this year, said she was taking nothing for granted in the Durban race.
“In the first two races, we all had our minds on qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio in August, and most of us had run marathons,” said Van Zyl, who won in Port Elizabeth only two weeks after coming 15th in the London Marathon.
“But things have calmed down ahead of the Durban race, and I think we will be on a more equal footing. I wasn’t able to beat the previous time in either race, so I haven’t got those valuable bonus points, but I will be going all out to win in record time on Sunday,” she said.
The six women who have won the Grand Prix have each been paired with a promising junior athlete, who will also be running on Sunday. Makhanya’s protégé, Simonay Weitz, heads the junior section of the Grand Prix, with Lebogang Phalula’s partner, Ashleigh Simonis, hot on her heels.
ends


NINETY CHALLENGES FOR EVERGREEN SONJA LAXTON

Port Elizabeth, South Africa – Sonja Laxton, who has been breaking records on the track and on the road almost all her life, set another record on Saturday when she ran her 90th SPAR 10km Challenge.

Sonja Laxton ran her 90th SPAR Women’s 10KM Challenge race on Saturday, 07 May 2016 at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth

Picture credit: Wayne Webb


What makes her achievement even more remarkable is that two and a half years ago, Laxton was in intensive care, fighting for her life, after a horrific accident in which she suffered multiple fractures. At the time, it was thought she might never walk again, let alone run.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Laxton, who was the third Grandmaster home, in 49.43 minutes.
“The wind was really pumping, but I really enjoyed the race. The Port Elizabeth race is always special to me. I was at school here, and I had some very happy years in PE. I am very biased towards the Friendly City – I even feel I breathe better here than in Cape Town or Durban, although they are all at sea level.
“The first race I ran after my accident was in Port Elizabeth, so that was also something special.”
Laxton said it seemed a very short time ago that she had run her 80th SPAR race at the Wanderers in 2013.
“It goes quite fast,” she said.
“I would like to go on to get my century – I feel like a cricketer, in the nervous nineties. But if I run four or five races a year, I should get there.”
There was a time when Laxton was always the top runner in her category, but she has slowed down in the last couple of years, and can no longer claim to be the fastest in her age group.
“That doesn’t worry me,” she said.
“I think it might have, before the accident. But my perspective has changed since then, and I just feel privileged to be able to run. I certainly hope to keep on running as long as I can.”


VAN ZYL HAS NARROW LEAD IN GRAND PRIX STANDINGS

Port Elizabeth, South Africa - With back-to-back SPAR 10km Challenge victories under her belt, Irvette van Zyl has a slender lead on the Grand Prix points table after the second race in the five race series.

runners1.jpg : Irvette Van Zyl leading the Spar women’s PE challenge on Saturday at 7 May the 7km mark with twin sisters (lebogang D Phalula) and Lebo Phalula close behind in second and third spot.


Van Zyl who won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races, has 40 points. She is followed closely by the defending champion, Lebogang Phalula, who has 37 points, after finishing third in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth. Christine Kalmer and Nolene Conrad are in joint third position, with 29 points. Kalmer was fifth in Cape Town and eighth in Port Elizabeth, while Conrad was seventh and sixth in the two races.
Van Zyl, who won the Grand Prix in 2010 and 2011, said she was pleased to be in the lead, but there was a lot of work to do.
“I haven’t been able to break my last year’s time to get bonus points,” she said.
“The conditions in Port Elizabeth were against recording a fast time, and I had run the London Marathon two weeks before the race. I think we have all been focusing on other events – the SA championships were just before the Cape Town race, and several of us ran marathons shortly before the Port Elizabeth race,” said Van Zyl.
“A lot of us have been trying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio, either on track or on the road. But I think it will be very exciting when we run in Durban, because we will all have had a break, and things will be more even. I think that is where we will all be trying to break last years times and get that crucial advantage in the Grand Prix.”
Three of the junior runners who are being mentored by the six Grand Prix winners are among the top 20 in the open category on the Grand Prix ladder.She also heads the junior category, with 20 points. Ashleigh Simonis, who has been partnered with Lebogang Phalula, is in 13th place, with seven points, and Chery-Lee, who is being mentored by three times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer, is in 18th place, with four points. Simonis and Van der Merwe are in joint second position on the junior ladder, with 187 points each.
KPMG heads the club standings, with 139 points, followed by Boxer with 121 and Nedbank with 77.
The next race is in Durban on June 5.

Ends


RAIN NO CHALLENGE FOR NELSON MANDELA BAY RUNNERS

Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Nelson Mandela Bay may have served up some typically challenging weather, but the metro’s runners turned out in their thousands to tackle the 23rd SPAR Women’s Challenge at Pollok Beach on Saturday.

With Port Elizabeth comedian Gino Fabbri urging them on in his inimitable style, the participants’ spirits remained high as they lined up for the 10km and 5km events respectively.
Not even a gusting easterly wind and rain could dampen their fortitude as they emerged from a variety of sheltering spots for their runs.
The conditions meant a tough finish as the last two kilometres were into the teeth of the wind.
Johannesburg’s Irvette van Zyl, who is hoping to be selected for the Rio Olympics, outlasted her opponents in the 10km feature race to take her second Grand Prix Series victory of the year in 33:28.
She was followed by the Phalula sisters, who, in a display of spirit which typifies the SPAR races, came across the line arm-in-arm. Officially, Lebogang took silver in 34:09 with Diana-Lebo a further second behind.
Van Zyl, who had a baby last year, said she was particularly pleased to have won her first-ever SPAR race in the Windy City.
“The conditions weren’t that good, but I was very happy coming over that line. It was very special.
She said having a child had changed her focus.
“I think I’m more relaxed about my training. I take it as it comes and am not over-stressing as I used to do.
“I just break everything down into small periods, set my goals and then focus on what’s ahead of me.”
While Van Zyl was the talk of the day, plenty of grit and determination was shown across the running spectrum.
In the 5km, Sydenham’s Thuliswa Maka, 25, continued a remarkable run of having competed in every event since she was nine.
“I love this race. I have been running it for 15 years and every year I make the effort to enter.
“The ambience, the people and the vibe is so great that it really helps me and even the rain was nothing,” said Maka.
“I have a good selection of T-shirts from all the colours over the years and next year I will be doing it again.”
Lorraine’s Nikita Drury, who ran the 10km, said it was “an awesome experience”.
“The conditions were pretty tough, especially the last two kilometres, but it is always such a nice race,” said the 24-year-old.
Parkside’s Toegeda Vyver, who completed the 10km in 47 minutes, echoed the thoughts of her 9 000 fellow competitors.
“I would never miss it, whatever the conditions. The spirit of the race is still there.”
Garth Taylor, who performed live to a soaked but enthusiastic audience, shouted “don’t worry about the rain, you’re already wet” as he pointed the microphone to them to complete a line from a well-known hit.
SPAR Eastern Cape marketing director Abri Swart paid tribute to the participants.
“Women are the glue that keeps the community together,” he said, “and this event is to show what deep respect we have for the women in the community.”
He said it served to introduce women to the sport and a healthy lifestyle at the one end of the scale, while on the other it was a platform for the country’s top runners to compete at the highest level.
Swart confirmed SPAR’s additional contribution to the community, with R150 000 of the proceeds being donated to the Northwood Children’s Hospice and R100 000 to the Association for the Physically Disabled.


NINETY CHALLENGES FOR EVERGREEN SONJA LAXTON

Port Elizabeth, South Africa – Sonja Laxton, who has been breaking records on the track and on the road almost all her life, set another record on Saturday when she ran her 90th SPAR 10km Challenge.

Sonja Laxton ran her 90th SPAR Women’s 10KM Challenge race on Saturday, 07 May 2016 at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth.

Picture credit: Wayne Webb


What makes her achievement even more remarkable is that two and a half years ago, Laxton was in intensive care, fighting for her life, after a horrific accident in which she suffered multiple fractures. At the time, it was thought she might never walk again, let alone run.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Laxton, who was the third Grandmaster home, in 49.43 minutes.
“The wind was really pumping, but I really enjoyed the race. The Port Elizabeth race is always special to me. I was at school here, and I had some very happy years in PE. I am very biased towards the Friendly City – I even feel I breathe better here than in Cape Town or Durban, although they are all at sea level.
“The first race I ran after my accident was in Port Elizabeth, so that was also something special.”
Laxton said it seemed a very short time ago that she had run her 80th SPAR race at the Wanderers in 2013.
“It goes quite fast,” she said.
“I would like to go on to get my century – I feel like a cricketer, in the nervous nineties. But if I run four or five races a year, I should get there.”
There was a time when Laxton was always the top runner in her category, but she has slowed down in the last couple of years, and can no longer claim to be the fastest in her age group.
“That doesn’t worry me,” she said.
“I think it might have, before the accident. But my perspective has changed since then, and I just feel privileged to be able to run. I certainly hope to keep on running as long as I can.”


TIGHT RACE EXPECTED IN PORT ELIZABETH

Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Port Elizabeth will be the focus for South Africa’s top female roadrunnerson Saturday when they take part in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Pollok Beach on Saturdaymorning.

Irvette Van Zyl (Winner of the SPAR Grand Prix Cape Town 2016)

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


The Port Elizabeth Challenge is the second of five SPAR Women’s Challenge races held around South Africa. Irvette Van Zyl won the first race in Cape Town last month, with Nyahora in second place and Lebogang Phalula third.
Van Zyl and two other top contenders, Rene Kalmer and Diana-Lebo Phalula, all ran marathons the week after the Cape Town race, and may still be feeling the effects, but other top runners such as Nyahora, Lebogang Phalula, Mapaseka Makhanya and Christine Kalmer are all in fine fettle and the race should be a tight one. Van Zyl appears to be in the form of her life after giving birth to a son last September and may well be able to shake off the effect of her run.
The queen of South African road-running, Sonja Laxton, will be setting a new record on Saturday when she takes part in her 90th SPAR Challenge. Setting records is nothing new to Laxton – she’s been setting them for more than 45 years and one of her greatest achievements was to become the first athlete, male or female, to be awarded national colours in all three branches of athletics, track, road and cross-country.
In all, Sonja collected 70 national titles, on the track, on the road and in cross-country. She set 28 senior national records over the 1500m, mile, 3000m and 10 000m on the track, and over the half and full marathon distances on the road. She also set numerous SA age group and provincial records.
This year, for the first time, the six women who have won the SPAR Grand Prix – a prize awarded to the runner who fares best in the five Challenge races – are each mentoring a junior runner. Simonay Weitz, who finished 11th overall in Cape Town, has been partnered with Mapaseka Makhanya, and Ashleigh Simonis, who was 12th overall, has Lebogang Phalula as her mentor. Nicole van der Merwe, who was 15th overall in Cape Town, has Van Zyl as her adviser.
Poppy Mlambo, the second Grand Prix winner, has Lebohang Ramela as her junior, while Rene Kalmer is mentoring Chery-Lee Schoeman, who is a pupil at the school at which Kalmer used to teach. Diana-Lebo Phalula is taking care of Keletso Senosi. For the first time, all six Grand Prix winners and their juniors will be running on Saturday.
ends


IRVETTE VAN ZYL IN POLE POSITION GRAND PRIX

Cape Town, South Africa - Two-times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) has taken the early lead in the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix, after cruising to victory in the Cape Town Women’s 10km Challenge at Green Point on Sunday.
Van Zyl, who is in Britain to run in the London Marathon on Sunday, has 20 points. Lebogang Phalula (Boxer), who finished third in the Cape Town Challenge on Sunday, has 18 and Christine Kalmer (KPMG) has 16.
In a new venture, the six women who have won the Grand Prix title in the 10 years it has been in existence are each mentoring a junior runner, and the mentorship programme is reaping early rewards, as the top five in the Grand Prix Junior category are all members of the programme.
Two of them, Simonay Weitsz (9) and Ashleigh Simonis (10), finished in the top ten overall, while Nicole van der Merwe was 15th. Simonay, who has Mapaseka Makhanya as her mentor, heads the Junior category in the Grand Prix, with 10 points. Ashleigh, who has been paired with Lebogang Phalula, has eight, and Nicole, who has Van Zyl as her adviser, has six points.
The top runners were full of praise for the SPAR Challenge series after their race on Sunday.
SPAR has done so much for women’s road running,” said Van Zyl.
“When I won my first SPAR race in Pretoria 4 years ago there were only about 800 runners taking part – now there are thousands. These women inspire me to go out and train.”
Van Zyl said they all enjoyed running in a race that was all about women.
“In a mixed race, there are always men trying to stick with the leading women in the hopes of being seen on television, but the SPAR races are so different. It is wonderful to be the very first person to cross the finish line.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it had not been for SPAR,” said Van Zyl.
Lebogang Phalula, the reigning Grand Prix champion, said the Grand Prix had been crucial for her and for her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, who won the Grand Prix in 2014.
“My sister won a car, so we are able to get to training, and with the money I won last year, I was able to buy a house,” she said.
“Everyone wants to win the Grand Prix, and it certainly motivates us all to get out there and train.”
The next Challenge race is in Port Elizabeth on Saturday May 7.
SPAR GRAND PRIX STANDINGS AFTER CAPE TOWN

Open: 1 Irvette Van Zyl (Nedbank) 20 points ; 2 Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) 18 ; 3 Christine Kalmer (KPMG) 16 ; 4 Nolene Conrad (KPMG) 14 ; 5 Cornelia Joubert (Boxer) 13 ; 6 Janie Grundling (Boxer) 12; 7 Keneilwe Sesing (KPMG) 10; 8 Rene Kalmer (Modern Athlete) 9; 9 Simonay Weitsz (KPMG) 8; 10 Ashleigh Simonis (Carbineers) 7;11 Murendwa Davhana (TUT) 6; 12 Thembi Baloyi (TUT) 5; 13 Liziwe Mabona (TUT) 4; 14 Ntombesintu Mfuzi (Temp) 3; 15 Nicole Van Der Merwe (KPMG) 2; 16 Poppy Mlambo (Boxer) 1
Junior: 1 Simonay Weitsz (KPMG) 10 points ; 2 Ashleigh Simonis (Carbineers) 9; 3 Nicole Van De Merwe (KPMG) 8; 4 Yandiswa Shange (Temp) 2; 5 Chery-Lee Schoeman (KPMG) 1
40-49 Yrs: 1 Ulrica Stander (FNB Multisport) 10 points; 2 Theresa Fourie (Temp) 9; 3 Janene Carey (Boxer) 3; 4 Obertina Kanyongo (WCAC) 2; 5 Suzette Vermaak (Temp) 1
50-55 Yrs: 1 Judy Bird (Midrand) 10 points ; 2 Elmarie Coetzee (FNB Multisport) 4; 3 Mariette Strauss (Tygerberg) 3; 4 Renee Scott (Temp) 2; 5 Bev Charters (VOB) 1
Clubs: 1 KPMG 69 points ; 2 Boxer 47; 3 Nedbank 33; 4 Carbineers 16; 5 TUT 15; 6 FNB Multisport 14; 7 Midrand 10


VAN ZYL BACK ON TOP

Cape Town, South Africa - Fresh from her victory in the 5000m at the South African Championships in Stellenbosch on Friday, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) cruised to victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday morning, in a time of 33.24 minutes. Teammate Rutendo Nyahora was second in 33.52, followed by Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) in 34 minutes.

Irvette van Zyl after crossing the finishing line to win the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Green Point in Cape Town.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


A smiling Nyahora took the early lead, but Van Zyl overtook over at about three kilometres, and never looked back. Van Zyl, who gave birth to a son seven months ago, looked relaxed as she ate up the kilometres.
“I wasn’t planning to run fast,” she said. “My coach told me not to go under 33.20, because he didn’t want me too tired for the London Marathon next Sunday.
“I really didn’t expect to win, but everything went my way today. My legs are feeling alive again, and I’m very happy at the moment. I’m enjoying my running and I am enjoying motherhood.”
Van Zyl was pregnant for much of 2015, and before that had a number of injuries, but she appears to be in the form of her life. Earlier this year, she won the Two Oceans half marathon, and in fact has not been beaten in 2016.

Nyahora said she had enjoyed the race. “Everything went according to plan,” she said.
“I ran a marathon last week, so I knew I would be tired, but I ran better than I expected. The weather was perfect for running today.”
Phalula, the reigning SPAR Grand Prix champion, said she had also enjoyed the race, although she was tired after running the 1500m at the national championships on Saturday.
Van Zyl leaves for London on Tuesday, where she hopes to qualify for the marathon in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“We’ll see what happens there,” she said.
“If I don’t make it, I’ll try to qualify in one of the track events.”
Phalula is heading for Port Elizabeth, where she will run in the 1500 and 5000 metre events at the Night Series meeting on Tuesday, hoping to qualify for the Olympics. Her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, missed the Cape Town race because she was running a marathon in the Netherlands, also aiming to qualify for Rio.
A record entry of 27 532 took part in the 10km race and the 5km Fun Run.
In a new innovation, the six women who have won the SPAR Grand Prix are all mentoring promising junior runners.
Rene Kalmer, who has won more Challenge titles than any other runner, said she was happy to be mentoring a younger runner.
“I chose Chery-Lee Schoeman, because she is at the school I used to teach at, and because I think she has a great future.
“I think it is working well, and I predict great things for her.”
Chery-Lee, who was first junior home in several 10km races last year, said she was learning a lot from Kalmer.
“We don’t actually train together, but she is always ready to give me advice and to help me if I have a problem,” she said.
The Cape Town Challenge is the first in the five-race SPAR Challenge series. The second race is in Port Elizabeth on May 5, to be followed in June by the Durban race. The Pretoria Challenge will be run in September, and the Johannesburg race in October.

RESULTS OF SPAR WOMEN’S 10KM CHALLENGE - CAPE TOWN

Open: 1 Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) 33.24; 2 Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank CGA) 33.52; 3. Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) 34.00; 4 Onneile Dintwe (Nedbank CGA) 34.06; 5 Christine Kalmer (KPMG) 34.11; 6 Tish Jones (KPMG) 34.14; 7 Nolene Conrad (KPMG) 34.53; 8 Cornelia Joubert (Boxer) 34.57; 9 Janie Grundling (Boxer) 35.13; 10 Fortunate Chidzivo (Nedbank WP) 35.27
Junior: 1 Simonay Weitsz (KPMG) 35.39; 2 Ashleigh Simonis (Carbineers WP) 35.46; 3 Nicloe Der Merwe (KPMG) 36.32 ; 4 Yandiswa Shange (Yandiswa) 38.29 ; 5 Chery-lee Schoeman (KPMG) 40.16
40-49 Yrs: 1 Ulrica Stander (FNB Multisport) 37.46 ; 2 Theressa Fourie (Temp) 37.49; 3 Janene Carey (Boxer) 39.07; 4 Obertina Khayongo (WCAC) 40.04; 5 Suzette Vermaak (Temp) 40.27
50-59 Yrs: 1 Judy Bird (Temp) 39:43; 2 Elmarie Coetzee (FNB) 40.24; 3 Mariette Strauss (TygerbergNLC) 42.56; 4 Renee Scott (Temp) 43.37; 5 Bev Charters (VOB) 44.53
60-69 Yrs: 1 Margie Saunders (Temp) 42.30; 2 Nancy Will (Pinelands) 43.55; 3 Charmaine Cupido (Nedbank WP) 47.52; 4 Leonie Van Wyk (Temp) 58.57; 5 Seugnet Van Wyk (Temp) 59.20
70-79 Yrs: 1 Veronica Van Niekerk (Temp) 49.48; 2 Pixie Sparg (Celtic Harriers) 54.53; 3 Marlene James (Pinelands) 58.26; 4 Wilbe Fourie (Temp) 01.05.25; 5 Nola Wahl (Temp) 01.06.31


TOP PERFORMANCES EXPECTED AT SEASON OPENING SPAR WOMEN’S 10KM CHALLENGE

Cape Town, South Africa - There is an air of excitement ahead of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Cape Town on Sunday morning.
Most of South Africa’s top female roadrunners will be taking part in the race, which starts at the Cape Town Stadium and ends at Greenpoint Common. The standard is expected to be very high, with many of the top runners trying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. The SPAR Grand Prix champion in 2014, Diana-Lebo Phalula will be in the Netherlands, where she hopes to qualify for the marathon, while last year’s Cape Town winner, Mapaseka Makhanya, has withdrawn for personal reasons.
However, runners of the calibre of former Cape Town winners Rutando Nyahora and Rene Kalmer, as well as Kalmer’s sister Christine, Phalula’s twin, Lebogang, and Jenna Challenor will be fighting it out for top honours. Irvette van Zyl, who won the Two Oceans half marathon in March, appears to be back at full strength after giving birth to a son in September, and many predict that this could be Van Zyl’s year.
In addition to trying to win the Cape Town race, which is the first in the five-race Challenge series, the top runners will be striving to win valuable Grand Prix points. The Grand Prix is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and with prize money totalling more than R400 000 rand, there is plenty of incentive for runners to do well. The Grand Prix winner will take home R160 000 and the runner-up will receive R53 000.
In an exciting new development, the six women who have won the Grand Prix title, will each take a junior athlete under her wing. This mentorship programme will include the junior runners travelling to the races with their mentors, and having access to advice about training, strategy and various aspects of competition.
The six juniors who have been selected for the programme are no strangers to the SPAR Challenge series and include the three who took top honours in the junior category of the Grand Prix last year.
Kalmer, who has won the Grand Prix title three times, has been paired with Chery-Lee Schoeman, who represents Gauteng in track and cross-country. In 2015, Chery-Lee was first junior home in several 10km road races, including the Northgate 10km, where she was third overall in 38.44 minutes.
Two times Grand Prix winner Van Zyl will mentor Nicole van der Merwe, who won the junior Grand Prix title last year. Van der Merwe has represented South Africa in cross-country and has an impressive personal best time of 34.52. She was first junior home in the Durban Challenge race last year.
Simonay Weitsz, who boasts eight national athletic titles, and who has represented South Africa in athletics and cross-country, has been paired with Mapaseka Makhanya. Simonay was first junior home in the Challenge race in Port Elizabeth last year, and was second in Durban.
Lebohang Ramela was handpicked by her mentor, the inaugural Grand Prix winner, Poppy Mlambo, who says her protégé is a future star. Lebohang excelled at the South African schools championships, and won three 5km races in 2015, including the Totalsports 5km, in a record time of 17.16 minutes.
Diana-Lebo Phalula will mentor Tuks High School pupil Keletso Senosi, another young runner who has excelled in track and cross-country. She won gold at the AGN 10km Championships, and was one of the stars of the SA Schools Track and Field championships.
Lebogang Phalula has been paired with up and coming Ashleigh Simonis of the Western Cape..
SPAR has announced that there will be a cash incentive for the combination that do best over the five races, with their top three performances taken into consideration.
Kalmer, who has won more Challenge races than any other runner, said she was very excited about the mentorship programme.
“I think it’s awesome that we are going to mentor some of the junior runners,” she said.
“I feel privileged to be able to give something back.”
She said the junior runners would find that running was not always plain sailing, but their mentors would be there to help them through the bad patches.
“The juniors will travel to the SPAR races with us, so we will be able to advise them and to help them with training programmes and race tactics. I think we will be like a helpline for the juniors. It is all part of building for the future,” said Kalmer.


SPAR GRAND PRIX LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

Johannesburg, South Africa - The most sought-after title in women’s road running, the SPAR Grand Prix, is 10 years old this year, and is celebrating by looking to the future.

Left to Right; Dr. Bernadus Van der Spuy (Chief Director Department of Sport and Recreation), Poppy Mlambo (Athlete), Mike Prentice (SPAR Group Marketing and/Merchandising Executive), Mapaseka Makhanya (Athlete), James Moloi (Central Gauteng Athletics President) and Rene Kalmer (Athlete) pose for a group picture.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, SPAR has announced that each of the runners who have won the Grand Prix title will take a promising junior runner under her wing. This mentorship programme will include the junior runners travelling to all five races with their mentors, and having access to advice about training, strategy and various aspects of competition.
The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series is by far the biggest in South Africa, with more than 100 000 women competing in the five races held around the country. Many of South Africa’s elite athletes have launched their careers in the SPAR Challenge, with runners like Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl stamping their mark while still running as juniors.
In an environment where women’s sporting achievements are largely under-reported, the Challenge has been an opportunity for the top runners to receive the recognition they richly deserve.
The Grand Prix was launched in 2007 to consolidate the five SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge races into a single series for elite athletes. It has proved highly successful, with South Africa’s top runners vying for the top spot and raising the profile of each of the five races, which are held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Five of the six runners who have won the Grand Prix have either qualified, or are in the process of qualifying, for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year, and Kalmer and Van Zyl both took part in the London Olympics in 2012.
Rene Kalmer has won the Grand Prix title three times and Irvette van Zyl has won it twice.Poppy Mlambo won the inaugural title. The ebullient Mapaseka Makhanya won in 2014, and the road running twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang Phalula took the title in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Kalmer said she was very excited about the mentorship programme.
“I think it’s awesome that we are going to mentor some of the junior runners,” she said.
“I feel privileged to be able to give something back.”
She said the junior runners would find that running was not always plain sailing, but their mentors would be there to help them through the bad patches.
“The juniors will travel to the SPAR races with us, so we will be able to advise them and to help them with training programmes and race tactics. I think we will be like a helpline for the juniors. It is all part of building for the future,” said Kalmer.
Ian Laxton, founder and coordinator of the Grand Prix, said the SPAR series had been a beacon of light for woman runners of all ages.
“At the elite end every single athlete considers these races to be the equivalent of national championships,” said Laxton.
“ Spar has assisted numerous runners establish and consolidate their careers in an environment where there is little opportunity other than trying to get into races overseas or moving up to ultra distances. The 10km distance is perfect because it caters for both established world-class runners as well as youngsters trying to make their mark.
“Moving into its second decade, the Spar Grand Prix is again opening the door for elite runners to earn big prize money, attract sponsors, run world class times, compete with international athletes coming into South Africa and offering them a unique opportunity to compete in world-class events without men. And now the addition of the junior-mentorship element will assist South African running to have a new generation of world class runners to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Rene, Elana Meyer and the Phalulas,” said Laxton.
SPAR Marketing Director Mike Prentice welcomed the mentorship programme.
“The SPAR Challenge races and the Grand Prix are among our most important sponsorships,” said Prentice.
“The Grand Prix has been going for 10 years now, and it has gone from strength to strength. With this programme, we will ensure that the current high standards will be maintained in the future, and our Grand Prix winners will be part of an exciting development programme.”
The prize money for the Grand Prix has been increased, with the winner taking home R160 000. The runner-up will receive R53 000 and the third-placed athlete R32 000. There are cash prizes for the top 15 athletes. There are also cash prizes for the top runners in the junior, veteran, master and grand master categories. Prize money for 2016 amounts to a whopping R405 000.
In another innovation, the winner of each race will be paid a bonus of R10 000, in addition to the race prize money.
The first race takes place from the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on April 17.


SOUTH AFRICA TO HOST THE AFRICAN JUNIOR TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Pretoria, South Africa - The International Tennis Federation (ITF) and tennis South Africa (TSA) jointly announced that the 39th African Junior Championships would be hosted in South Africa,
The Championships will be played from Wednesday 9th March to Friday 18th March at the HPC at the University of Pretoria.

120 players from 28 countries are set to take to the hard courts to contest this year’s individual and team trophies in the 14 & Under and 16 & Under events.
Also up for grabs will be the all-important team trophy, which was won by Egypt in 2015. Egypt, who has already wrapped up the boys’ singles title at the recently contested 18 & Under will be facing stiff competition this year from hosts, South Africa, along with Tunisia which claimed the girls’ singles title of the 18 & Under event at home and Morocco.

Most of the players arrived over the weekend to acclimatise to the high altitude conditions in Pretoria. The girls 16 & Under event will be headed by Sada Nahimana of Burundi, who will be looking to win her third African Junior Championship title in as many years, after winning the 14 & Under titles in 2014 and 2015.

Yousef Khamis of Egypt, ranked 230 in the world junior rankings, heads the entry in the 16 & Under boys event. Following some strong performances in the Southern African Junior Championships held in January, the South Africans look like a dominant force in both the girls and boys 14 & Under events.

This year’s Championship will be taking on a new format with an extensive round robin stage followed by play-off draws. The event comes to an end with the finals on Friday 18th March.
Participating teams : South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Benice, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Morocco, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

South African team;

Boys 14 and Under
Kholo Montsi (GN)
Damien Nezar (SWD)
Connor Kruger (GN)
Andreas Scott (GC)

Boys 16 and Under
Philip Henning (FS)
Justin Liebenberg (GC)
Christiaan Worst (GN)
Thando Longwe-Smit (WP)

Girls 14 and Under
Lara van Der Merwe (NW)
Makayla Loubser (WP)
Delien Kleinhans (FS)
Rochelle Pienaar (Bol)

Girls 16 and Under
Corin De Waal (Bol)
Kaylin Bouwer (EP)
Maja Gledic (GC)
Angela Georgieva (GC)


A FAMILY AFFAIR AS PHALULA WINS SPAR GRAND PRIX

Buitengeluk, Johannesburg- The Phalula sisters, Lebogang and Diana-Lebo, took top honours in the 2015 SPAR Grand Prix, with Lebogang the runaway winner of the award, and her twin the runner-up.

2015 SPAR Grand Prix winner Lebogang Phalula, receives her whopping cheque of R150 000.00 from SPAR Marketing Executive Mike Prentice during the SPAR GRAND PRIX AWARDS at Buitengeluk on Tuesday November 10, 2015 in Johannesburg.

Picture credits: Reg Caldecott


Lebogang has had a spectacular year on the road, notching up victory after victory. She was the star performer in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Series, winning in Durban and Johannesburg, and finishing in the top three in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. She accumulated an impressive total of 95 points to make sure that she walked away with the prize of R150 000.
Her twin, who won the title in 2014, finished in second position, with 75 points, for prize money of R50 000. Diana-Lebo won the Grand Prix in 2014, and her sister made it clear then that she intended to win the title this year.
Another previous Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya, and Nolene Conrad finished joint third, with 67 points each, and they will take home R27 500 each. They were closely followed by Cornelia Joubert, with 65 points. Three times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer was sixth, with 58 points, and her sister, Christine, was seventh, with 53.
Lebogang was overjoyed at winning the prestigious Grand Prix title.
“I have had to work hard to get back to the top after being suspended for using a banned substance,” she said.
“I wanted to prove that I could do it, and that I wasn’t a cheat. Winning the Grand Prix means so much to me. My sister won it last year and I decided this year was going to be my year.”
Diana-Lebo, who missed the Cape Town race because she was doing national duty at the world cross-country championships in China, said she and her sister would share their winnings.
“We have shared the car that I won last year, and we will also share our prize money. We are each other’s biggest fans, and we share everything. I am very happy for Lebogang, but I’ve told her to watch out – it’s my turn next year.”
The twins said they would focus on trying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year. Lebogang will be aiming for the 1500 and 5000m events, while Diana-Lebo is still trying to decide whether she wants to stay on the track or aim for the marathon.
Another former Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl, showed she is still a force to be reckoned with, after she finished ninth, with 39 points. Van Zyl ran three races while pregnant, and she came 11th in the Johannesburg race, only five weeks after giving birth to her son Louis.
“Next year I will be back with a vengeance,” she said.
“I want to start winning SPAR races again, and I am also going to try to qualify for the 10 000m at the Olympic Games.”
SPAR Marketing Executive Mike Prentice said the Grand Prix awards had become one of the supermarket giant’s most important sponsorships.
“The Grand Prix will be 10 years old next year, and it has gone from strength to strength.
“We are thrilled at the way the runners have responded to the series, and we are delighted that so many of the top runners and clubs try to compete in as many of the SPAR races as possible. Our Challenge races are all about the thousands of women who take to the streets every year, but the elite runners give the races credibility as major events on the road-running calendar,” said Prentice.


LEBOGANG PHALULA WINS JOHANNESBURG RACE TO CLINCH GRAND PRIX TITLE

Johannesburg, South Africa- A year ago, Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) announced her intention to win the 2015 SPAR Grand Prix title.
On Sunday, she accomplished this when she won the Johannesburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club in 35.08 minutes, to add to her victory in Durban, and her podium finishes in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.

The top 3 finishers of the SPAR Women’s 10km Joburg challenge pictured from left Rutendo Nyahora (2nd: 35:49), Lebogang Phalula (1st 35:08) and Diana-Lebo Phalula (3rd 36:22) the race run at the Wanderers Sporting Club on Sunday was the final of five SPAR Challenge races making up the 2015 SPAR Grand Prix.

Picture Credit: Reg Caldecott


Phalula and Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) broke away from the pack almost immediately, and continued to draw away from the rest of the field as the race went on. At four kilometres, Phalula passed Nyahora and went into the lead. Nyahora finished second in 35.49 minutes.

Phalula’s twin sister and defending Grand Prix titleholder, Diana-Lebo, (Boxer) was third, in 36.22 minutes, five seconds ahead of Keneilwe Sesing (Randmark).
“I was very focused for this race,” said Lebogang Phalula.

“I knew the others would push me but I just wanted to go for it. I was running with Rutendo at the beginning, but decided to push ahead from four kilometres.
“They have changed the route and I really liked the route today, so I was comfortable throughout the race.”

Lebogang said she was very grateful to the sponsors for the Challenge races, which provided a great motivation for road runners.
“I also want to thank my sister, because she pushed me to get up and train, when I just wanted to stay in bed.”
Zimbabwean Nyahora said she was very happy with her performance.

“I have had a very good year, and I am very proud that I finished in the top three in all the SPAR races this year.”
Diana-Lebo, who was the first South African home in the Cape Town marathon three weeks ago, said her main ambition today had been to achieve a podium finish.
The Phalula sisters said their focus for the next year would be doing well in the 2016 Challenge series, but they have also set their sights on qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Lebogang is aiming to qualify for the 1500m, while Diana-Lebo said she still had to sit down with her coaching team and decide whether to focus on track running or try to qualify for the marathon.

Former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank), who gave birth by caesarean section five weeks ago, surprised everyone, including herself, by finishing in 11th place.
“I only started running again this week, so I am very proud of myself,” she said.

“But next year, I am going to be going all out to start winning the Challenge races again, and I also want to qualify for the Olympic Games in the 1000m,” she said.
There was a record entry of 13,358 runners for the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.


THE WAITING IS OVER

SPAR Women’s Joburg Challenge promises to be fun-filled winner
Johannesburg, South Africa- The waiting is over, and it’s all systems go for the 2015 SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run at the Wanderers Club on Sunday.

Lyle Anthony

Picture credits: Quartier Entertainment


We want you to really enjoy your day, so our advice is to get there early.
With 15 000 people taking part, parking will be at a premium. Secure paid parking will be available at Fairways Primary School in Irene Road, the Wanderers Rugby Club field adjacent to the Wanderers Stadium, the Wanderers Golf Course in Rudd Road, St Vincent’s School for the Deaf in Jellicoe Avenue and at 35 Kernick Road. Please note that NO parking is allowed at the James and Ethel Gray Park in Atholl Oaklands or at the RH Henderson Park in Birdhaven.
There will be road closures around the Wanderers with Corlett Drive from Rudd Road to Atholl Oaklands closed between 6am and 8.30. Various sections of Oxford Road, Riviera Road, River Street, Fifth Avenue, North Street and Venus Street will be closed from 5am to 11am.
Arnold Geerdts will once again be the MC at the start of the race. Arnie has done it for a number of years and knows exactly how to get people going as they wait for the start.
Very hot weather has been forecast for Sunday, so make sure your clothes are cool and comfortable, that you use plenty of sunblock and keep well hydrated by visiting the water points along the way.
There is plenty going on around the race to keep you entertained and happy throughout the morning. There is a free kiddies area, with jumping castles, colouring-in, an obstacle course, and SPAR characters. Although there are child minders, SPAR does not take responsibility for your children.
Entertainment will be provided by Coca Cola Popstar winner Lyle Anthony. The talented 25-year-old is always a popular draw, with his soft tones and massive range, and he is likely to be a hit with the thousands of women waiting for the prize giving at 10 o’clock.
There will be lucky draws for massive prizes, including a Nissan Micra and generous SPAR Vouchers, but remember, you have to be there to win one of these prizes. You won’t need to go hungry while you wait – food and drink vendors around the cricket field will see to that.
The designated charity for the race is Reach for Recovery, a support group for women with breast cancer. Reach for Recovery will have a stall at the venue, so show them your support by buying something there.
For the first time, participants will be able to recognise a friend or family member who has been affected by cancer by placing a message on one of the two Trees of Hope at the finish. The messages will later be posted on the race’s Facebook page.
So if you want to enjoy your day on Sunday, get there early, dress comfortably, drink lots of water and use lots of sunblock, but most of all – have fun!
You can still enter the race on Sunday by going to enter at the Wanderers Sporting Club on Saturday 10 October from 10h00 to 16h00 or at the crack of dawn on race day before 07h00.


NOT TOO LATE TO ENTER THE SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE ON SUNDAY

Johannesburg, South Africa- Did you forget to enter the SPAR Women’s 10km race at the Wanderers Club on Sunday?
Have no fear – while pre-entries closed last week, you can still enter the 10km Challenge or the 5km Fun Run. Entries will be accepted at registration at the Wanderers on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and before the race on Sunday morning.

The is still time to enter Joburg’s most beautiful road race the SPAR Women’s Challenge. The challenge to be held on Sunday morning 11 October at The Wanderers Sporting Club will comprise of a 10km race and 5km fun run to enter. Collect your entry forms from your local SPAR Store and drop it off at the Wanderers Stadium between 10h00am and 16h00pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 to 10 October 2015. Entry forms will also be available at the Wanderers. Pictured from left to right Featherbrooke KWIKSPAR are cashiers Lesego Moliki, Ofentse Mogale With Gerhard Naude (Store Manager).

Picture credits: BLD Communications.


The registration facilities will be open from 10am to 4pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 6 to 7.30am on Sunday morning.
The 10km Challenge is open to all females over the age of 15. Men wanting to take part must dress in drag, as the SPAR races are all about women.
The 5km Fun Run is open to females over the age of nine, and is an ideal opportunity for some mother and daughter special time together.
It has been very hot for the past few days, and Sunday is expected to be no different, with the temperature predicted to be in the high 20s, so it is important that you wear cool, comfortable clothing, a protective hat and are well armed with sunblock. There are water stations along the route and runners and walkers are advised to keep themselves well hydrated.


BE PART OF THE SPAR WOMEN”S JOBURG CHALLENGE AND SUPPORT THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCER

South Africa, Johannesburg- The Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg, will be a hive of activity on Sunday October 11, when thousands of women gather for the annual SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run.

On Sunday morning 11 October at the Wanderers Sporting Club in Illovo, Joburg the SPAR Women’s Challenge will take place. Proceeds from the Challenge will go to Reach For Recovery, a support group for women with breast cancer, providing them with practical and emotional support. Pictured from left to right are Reach For Recovery survivors (Left) Fernando Lang, (Middle) Dorothy Lewis and Vicki Garbutt. Although online and pre entries have closed, you can still be part of the 10km or 5km Challenge by entering the race on 8, 9,10 October at The Wanderers Sporting Club between 09h00 and 16h00.

Picture Credit: BLD Communications


The women are flocking there for a morning of sunshine and fun, but there is a more serious side to the race as well. Proceeds from the Challenge will go to Reach For Recovery, a support group for women with breast cancer, providing them with practical and emotional support.
It is a sobering thought that about one in nine women in South Africa are likely to suffer breast cancer at some stage in their lives.
It is no respecter of boundaries, and affects women of all races and classes.
But the good news is that breast cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, and definitely no longer a death sentence. Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, in involves either the removal the lump or a complete mastectomy.
It can be a traumatic experience, especially if the treatment involves a mastectomy, but that is where Reach for Recovery comes in.
All the counsellors are trained breast cancer survivors, who are able to understand the feelings of the newly-diagnosed patient.
The Reach for Recovery counsellors visit patients either at home or in hospital to talk to them and to provide them with support.
“We explain what is going to happen, and what they can expect,” said Beulah Jankelowitz, Chairperson of the Johannesburg branch.
“We also provide pretty floral bags for them to carry their drains, and very soft cushions to put under their arms so they can be more comfortable.
“While we can’t provide medical advice, we are also available to answer questions both during and after their treatment,” she said.
“We have all been there ourselves, so we know what they are going through.”
Many of the Reach for Recovery counsellors will be taking part on October 11. They can be recognised by their pink t-shirts and the sound of laughter that accompanies them.
For the first time, the organisers have introduced a Tree of Hope.
“So many people have been affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly,” said SPAR sponsorship manager Belinda Nel.
“We will make cards available for them to place on the tree, with a message for someone they know who has been touched by cancer of any kind. It is a way in which they can acknowledge those who have gone, or who are currently battling cancer.”
Although online and pre entries have closed, you can still be part of the 10km or 5km Challenge by entering the race on 8, 9,10 October at The Wanderers Sporting Club between 09h00 and 16h00.


HAVE A BALL AND HELP YOUR SCHOOL

Johannesburg, South Africa- Do you want to win some brownie points at school and have fun at the same time? It is all so easy – all you have to do is take part in the SPAR Women’s Challenge at The Wanderers Sporting Club in Illovo, Joburg on Sunday October 11 and you can help your school stand a chance of winning Mecer laptops and all in one printers.

There are two parts to the Challenge – you can either take part in the 10km Challenge or else you can opt for the 5km Fun Run and the great news is that walkers are welcome in both races. The school with the most finishers on race day will win the grand prize of a Mecer laptop with software and an all in one colour printer, copier, scanner and fax. Schools with the second and third highest number of finishers will each win a Mecer laptop with software; and the second place school taking away an all in one mono printer, copier, scanner and fax. Schools must have at least 20 entries to qualify for the prize.

That’s not all, there are some really great prizes on offer – the best is groceries for a year in the form of SPAR vouchers worth R15 000 – can you imagine your mother’s face if you come home with a prize like that.

Just think of the fun you can have while helping your school. You could organise a competition within a competition – why not try to see which class can get the most number of girls to take part, or you could have an inter-house competition – perhaps the winning class or house could be the ones to get first use of the computer?

The race itself is great fun – thousands of women out to enjoy themselves. You and your friends can catch up on some important talk time, with no-one telling you to keep quiet or walk in line! There is always great entertainment at the finish, and there’s a real party atmosphere.
The first 15 000 people to enter the race will receive a free race t-shirt at registration, and the first 15 000 to finish will receive a medal and a goodie bag. This year’s t-shirt are coloured a lovely pink that will look good on anyone, so it is well worth entering the race just for the t-shirt.

It is very important to get your school’s entries in before the closing date of September 26 – that’s next week! Only pre-entries will be considered for the laptop and printer prize and just as important, only pre-entries will receive the free t-shirt.


TIME TO PREPARE FOR THE SPAR JOBURG CHALLENGE

Buittengeluk, Johannesburg- Spring is here, which means it is time for the women of Joburg to take to the roads to prepare for the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Sporting Club on Sunday October 11.

Top athletes, Lebo Phalula, Rutendo Nyahora, Caroline Wostman, Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebogang Phalula during the Joburg SPAR Women’s Challenge race launch at Buittengeluk on September 08, 2015 in Johannesburg.

Picture Credit: Reg Caldecott


The 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run have become an important part of the Joburg social calendar, with thousands of women of all ages, and from all walks of life, taking part.
While Joburg cannot boast sparkling sea views, the Sonja Laxton-designed course winds its way through some of the City of Gold’s most beautiful suburbs.
The 10km route takes the runners along Corlett Drive and Oxford Road as far as Riviera Road in Killarney, before zig-zagging back through some of Joburg’s leafiest suburbs.
The 5km route meanders through the plush suburbs of Illovo, Melrose, Birdhaven and Atholl-Oaklands, giving runners and walkers a chance to peek at some of the most beautiful gardens in Johannesburg.
As always, there are some wonderful prizes on offer, in addition to the substantial cash prizes for the top 10 runners. There is a lucky draw for a SPAR voucher worth R15 000, the very popular Bring-a-Buddy competition, generous offers of computers and equipment for schools with the most entries, but the most exciting of all is that one lucky runner will win a brand new Suzuki Celerio motor car.
But everyone is a winner on the day, with medals and goodie bags for the first 15 000 to cross the finish line. The first 15 000 to pre-register for the race will receive a free race t-shirt.
“Our Women’s Challenge race is very important to us,” said SPAR South Rand Marketing Director Martin Webber.
“We love our elite runners who are vying for Grand Prix points, and making sure that our races are truly competitive, but we believe the most important part of the races are the thousands of women of Joburg who take part just for fun.
“Women do the bulk of shopping at our stores, and we are very happy to be able to say thank you to them by providing them with a really enjoyable day out.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and proceeds from the Joburg Challenge will go to support awareness of cancers affecting women. Many women who have conquered breast cancer take part in the race every year, proudly sporting their pink ribbons.
The Joburg Challenge will be the final leg of the national five race SPAR Grand Prix series. Already this year races have been run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Pretoria and the fight is on for the top season ending spot which will be finalized after the race in October. Leading the Grand Prix is Lebogang Phalula who with a solid Joburg finish should walk away with the R150 000.00 top prize. However with a bunch of athletes challenging for second place on the Grand Prix leaderboard, nothing is guaranteed until after the Joburg race making the Joburg SPAR Women’s Challenge a race to watch.
There are just a few weeks before the race, but there’s still plenty of time to prepare for it. So jump out of bed, put on your training shoes, and get ready to take part in Joburg’s celebration of Spring.


LEBOGANG PHALULA APPEARS SET TO WIN GRAND PRIX TITLE

Johannesburg, South Africa- With only one race left in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series, Lebogang Phalula appears to have all but wrapped up the Grand Prix title.
Phalula has finished in the top three in all four races so far, coming third in Cape Town and Pretoria, second in Port Elizabeth and first in Durban, and her consistency has earned her a total of 75 points – 14 more than her nearest rival. Although Phalula could still be beaten, particularly if one of her rivals wins the Johannesburg race on October 11 in record time, she appears the likeliest candidate to take home a substantial cheque for R150 000.
Cornelia Joubert is in second position, with 61 points from four top ten finishes. Rene Kalmer, who was lying in second position after the first three races, has dropped down to seventh place after failing to finish the Pretoria race because of a hip injury that has plagued her since the Vienna Marathon in April.
2013 Grand Prix winner Mapaseka Makhanya, who topped the log for the first two races, after winning in record time in Cape Town, has bounced back from fifth place to third, with 57 points, while Phalula’s twin sister, the 2014 winner Diana-Lebo, has moved from seventh to fourth place, with 54 points, as a result of finishing second in Pretoria last Saturday.
Christine Kalmer and Nolene Conrad are still neck and neck, although they have dropped from joint third to joint fifth place, with 53 points.
Irvette van Zyl is in ninth position on the log, with 30 points, but she did not run the Pretoria race on Saturday – she is expecting a baby in three weeks, and opted to jog the 5km Fun Run instead.
Nedbank, who were ousted from the top spot on the club ladder by Boxer last year, are comfortably in the lead with 302 points. Boxer are in second place, with 282, followed by Transnet, with 96.


NYAHORA TIME SEARCH FOR PERFECTION TO WIN IN PRETORIA

Centurion, South Africa– Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Nyahora waited for the perfect time for her late surge and notched an impressive victory in the Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge 10km race in Centurion on Saturday.

Rutendo Nyahora crosses the line to win during the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge at SuperSport Park on August 29, 2015 in Centurion, South Africa.

Picture Credit: Reg Caldecott


The 26-year-old Nyahora overtook the strong-starting Phalula twins, Lebo and Lebogang, at the 7.5km mark and was not challenged again as she cruised to the finish line in a time of 34 minutes, 54 seconds.

“It all went according to plan and I’m so happy. I’ve been training at midday every day from the beginning of the month, so the heat did not affect me that much. I was struggling for the first two kilometres, but after that I enjoyed the race,” Nyahora said after her victory.

Lebo Phalula finished second in a time of 35:10, while Lebogang was third, a further 28 seconds back, but it wasn’t all bad news for the twins as Lebogang has earned enough points now to be virtually assured of the SPAR Grand Prix Series title.

The race started at 2pm with the temperature a warm 29 degrees and Lebo Phalula said the heat was not to her liking.
“It was too hot, I don’t run my best when it’s hot so I’m happy with my second position. It was a very challenging race for me, the hardest of the series, and I messed up the first kilometre,” she said.

Nolene Conrad (36:25), who only decided to run on Friday night after struggling with a calf injury, and Cherelee Schoeman (37:08) rounded out the top five.

The series now moves to Johannesburg on October 11 and Lebogang Phalula said she was determined to round off an excellent series for her with the overall title.

“I’m over the moon, I was aiming for a top three finish here, so I’m very happy. I congratulate Lebo and Rutendo, but they must watch out because I love running in Johannesburg and I’m very keen to defend my title there. This is my year,” Lebogang said while engaging in good-natured banter with the two runners who beat her on Saturday.


SPAR GRAND PRIX WIDE OPEN AFTER THREE RACES

Durban, South Africa- With different winners in the three races in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series that have been run so far, the annual SPAR Grand Prix is wide open.

Lebogang Phalula

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


Lebogang Phalula’s victory in the Durban leg on Sunday pushed her to the top of the Grand Prix ladder.
Her podium finishes in all three races earned her a total of 57 points. She is 10 points ahead of her nearest rival, three times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer. Although Kalmer had not finished in the top three in any of the races, her consistent performances have earned her 47 points. Her sister Christine and Cornelia Joubert are breathing down her neck, however, with 46 points each.

2013 Grand Prix winner Mapaseka Makhanya, who topped the ladder after the first two races, has dropped back to fifth position on the ladder, with 45 points, after finishing 18th in Durban. Makhanya, who won in Cape Town in record time, and finished eighth in Port Elizabeth, said she had an Achilles injury, and had only run the race in Durban to earn vital Grand Prix points.

Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Diana-Lebo Phalula, twin sister of Lebogang, is in seventh position. She and Nolene Conrad missed the Cape Town race because they were representing South Africa in the world cross country championships in China, but Diana-Lebo won the Port Elizabeth race and finished sixth in Durban, to earn 35 points. She is one point behind Conrad, who was second in Durban and fourth in Cape Town.

Irvette van Zyl, who is expecting a baby in September, is in eighth position on the log, with 30 points. Van Zyl, who is a two times winner of the Grand Prix, finished 15th in Cape Town and ninth in Port Elizabeth and Durban. She says she intends to run in the Pretoria race at the end of August, although it will be only a couple of weeks before her baby is due.
As far as the clubs are concerned, there is a close battle between Nedbank and Boxer. After three races, Nedbank were on top with 196 points, while Boxer had 195. Transnet were in third place, with 96 points.


LEBOGANG PHALULA SPRINTS TO VICTORY

Defending champion Lebogang Phalula sprinted the last kilometre to win the Durban leg of the Spar Women’s Challenge in 33.36 minutes on Sunday morning.

Lebogang Phalula at the finish line.

Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Phalula ran much of the race alongside Nolene Conrad, who finished second in 33.39 minutes. Rutendo Nyahora was third in 33.53.
There was a lengthy delay at the start of the race because of a safety issue, and a number of athletes complained that they were concerned about running hard, because they were not properly warmed up. They said this was why times were not as fast as had been expected.
“It was a tough race,” said a beaming Phalula.
“I ran with Nolene for much of the way. She pulled away from me at about eight kilometres, but I knew that I had the speed to overtake her if she was still in sight. My body was feeling good, and so I sprinted the last bit to win. I was pleased it was Nolene and not Rutendo, because I don’t think I could have passed her. ”
Phalula, who won the race last year as well, said she was very happy with her win.
“I love the Durban race, and I also love the Johannesburg one, because that’s where I have won,” she said.
Conrad was delighted with her podium finish, which was only her second.
“It’s the first time I’ve been in contention to win,” she said.
“We didn’t start too fast, and Lebogang and I pulled away from the pack at about 4.5kms, and then I ran away from her. But she sprinted past me, and there was nothing I could do. But I’m very happy to have finished second.”
Nyahora was also very pleased with her run.
“Everything went according to plan. I love the course – it’s pretty flat, and really suits me.”
Phalula’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo, who won the Port Elizabeth leg of the Challenge series last month, finished in sixth position. Sisters Christine and Rene Kalmer, finished fifth and seventh respectively, while Cornelia Joubert came fourth.
Former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl, who is expecting a baby in September, delighted everyone by coming ninth – her second top 10 finish this year.
There have been three different winners for each of the Spar races this year, with Mapaseka Makhanya winning in Cape Town. Makhanya finished 19th in Durban on Sunday. She said she had a left Achilles injury, and had only run the race because she wanted to earn Grand Prix points.
With different winners and podium finishers in the three races run so far, the battle for top spot on the Grand Prix ladder is still wide open. The next Challenge race is in Pretoria on August 29. The final race will be in Johannesburg in October.

Ends

RESULTS OF SPAR WOMEN’S 10KM CHALLENGE DURBAN RACE

Durban, South Africa - Results of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race run at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead Durban on Sunday

Overall Results: 1-Lebogang Phalula 33.36; 2-Nolene Conrad 33.39; 3-Rutendo Nyahora 33.53; 4-Cornelia Joubert 34.04; 5-Christine Kalmer 34.29; 6-Diana-Lebo Phalula 34.48; 7-Rene Kalmer 34.51; 8-Nicole Van Der Merwe 34.52; 9-Irvette 34.56; 10-Tanith Maxwell 35.29

Female Senior: 1-Lebogang Phalula 33.36; 2-Nolene Conrad 33.39; 3-Rutendo Nyahora 33.53.

Female Junior (15-19 Age Group): 8-Nicole Van Der Merwe 34.52; 25-Simonay Weitsz 37.49; 27- Nomcebo Mtshali 38.05;

Female (35-39 Age Group): 10-Tanith Maxwell 35.29; 14- Bulelwa Simae 36.09; 48-Nonsikelelo Mbambo 41:22

Female (40-49 Age Group): 31-Janene Carey 38:39; 38-Karen Sobrino 40:12; 49-Ronel Thomas 41.25

Female (50-59 Age Group): 35-Judy Bird 39:23; 73-Ansie Breytenbaci 44.21; 84-Janine Engels 45:33

Female (60+ Age Group): 60-Margie Saunders 43.07; 122-Sonja Laxton 48:46; 139- Sandy Fismer 50:01


GRAND PRIX POINTS UP FOR GRABS

There is plenty at stake for South Africa’s elite women road runners at the Durban leg of the SPAR women’s 10km Challenge this weekend.

Mapaseka Makhanya

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


With three races to go, the Grand Prix award is still wide open. Top runners earn Grand Prix points for finishing in the top 20 in each race, with bonus points for runner a faster time than the winning time the previous year.

After two races, the ebullient Mapaseka Makhanya of Nedbank is in the lead, with a total of 43 points. The 2013 Grand Prix winner won the Cape Town race in record time, earning 30 points, and then she took 13 points from the Port Elizabeth race, where she finished in eighth place.

Her nearest rival is Lebogang Phalula, who came third in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth, for a total of 37 points. Lebogang’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo, who was last year’s Grand Prix winner, is in third position, with 20 points. Diana-Lebo missed the first race because she was representing South Africa at the world cross-country championships in China.

The Durban race is the flagship Challenge race. The first Spar Challenge was run in Durban, and it has always been one of the most popular. The previous five races had four different winners, with Irvette van Blerk winning back-to-back races in 2010 and 2011. Since then it has been won by Rene Kalmer (2012), Mapaseka Makhanya (2013) and Lebogang Phalula (2014). The runners generally enjoy the race, which has a beautiful scenic route and is relatively flat.

The top Grand Prix contenders will be at the start at Kingsmead Cricket Stadium on Sunday. The Phalula twins are definite contenders for top honours, as is Makhanya. Rene Kalmer and her sister Christine are also expected to do well, and other top runners include Nolene Conrad, Tannith Maxwell and Jenna Challenor. Irvette van Zyl is expected to run, but she is several months pregnant, and although she had a top ten finish in Port Elizabeth, she is unlikely to trouble the top runners on Sunday.

Several of the top runners have been in Durban for some time, supporting runners who competed in the Comrades Marathon last Sunday, and they will have used their time to get used to the route and the conditions.


BAREFOOT RUNNER DEFENDS HER TITLE IN STYLE

Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Defending champion Diana-Lebo Phalula made sure of victory in the Port Elizabeth leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Pollok Beach on Saturday, winning the race in emphatic style in 32.57 minutes.

Diana-Lebo Phalula celebrates her win as she crosses the finish line first at the SPAR Women’s Challenge race in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, 09 May 2015.

The top three SPAR Women’s Challenge finishers at the Port Elizabeth leg. (L-R): Rutendo Nyahora (3rd); Diana-Lebo Phalula (1st); and Lebogang Phalula (2nd).
Picture credit: Mark West


Her twin sister, Lebogang, was second in 33.26, with Rutendo Nyahora third in 33.43. Mapaseka Makhanya, who won the opening leg in Cape Town in March, was in eighth position. Makhanya recently finished third in the Hanover Marathon in Germany and was still feeling the effects of the marathon.
Nyahora took the early lead, but Diana-Lebo Phalula, running barefoot, surged to the front after the first kilometre mark, and stayed there for the rest of the race.
“My body was feeling good, and so I decided to go for it. I wanted to help my sister, but she couldn’t keep up with me,” said Phalula.
“I am a bit disappointed in my time, because I wanted to break the record again, but I knew I had to defend my title. The Port Elizabeth race is always one of my favourites.”
Lebogang Phalula, who ran with Nyahora for much of the way, said she had enjoyed the race, although there had been quite a strong wind.
“But I’ve been doing weight training, so I told the wind I’m not going to let you blow me over – I’m strong now,” she said.
She said she had tried to keep up with her sister, but Diana-Lebo had gone too fast for her.
Zimbabwean Nyahora dedicated her third place to the victims of the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa.
“I was determined to finish in the top three so I could make a statement on behalf of the people who have been killed, injured or displaced by the violence,” she said.
“I was running for them today, and they were in my thoughts throughout the race.”
The Phalula twins and Nyahora will all be running in the First National Bank 12km race in Cape Town next week, against some top international runners, including former world champion Vivienne Cheruiyot of Kenya.
Former Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl, who is expecting a baby in September, was delighted to finish in ninth position.


HEADSTART FOR MAPASEKA MAKHANYA

Johannesburg, South Africa - The ebullient Mapaseka Makhanya (Nedbank) has given herself a head start in the chase for SPAR Women’s Challenge Grand Prix points.

Mapaseka Makhanya (Left), Rene Kalmer: Rene Kalmer (Middle), Rutendo Nyahora: Rutendo Nyahora (Right), Lebogang Phalula: Lebogang Phalula (Back)
Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


Makhanya, who won the Grand Prix title in 2013, amassed 30 points in the Cape Town Challenge last month, winning the race in record time to pick up 30 valuable Grand Prix points – 20 for winning and 10 for her record time.
The Cape Town Challenge race is the first in the five race Challenge series, in which South Africa’s elite roadrunners compete for the Grand Prix title. The runner with the most points after all five races this year will walk away with a whopping R150 000.

Her nearest rival is Lebogang Phalula of Transnet, who has 18 points after finishing third in the Cape Town race. Rutendo Nyahora, who came second in Cape Town, is not eligible for Grand Prix points, because she is not a South African citizen.

Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Phalula’s twin sister Diana-Lebo, did not compete in Cape Town because she was representing South Africa at the world cross-country championships in China.

Three-times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, finished fourth in Cape Town, and has 17 points, while her sister Christine, has 16 points after finishing in fifth place.

Although Makhanya has a head start, she will be aware that she will have to fight for every point. A week after her victory in Cape Town, Lebogang Phalula beat her to the finishing post in the Two Oceans Half Marathon, while Lebogang’s twin sister Diana-Lebo finished in third place.

Competition in the remaining four Challenge races is likely to be stiff, with the Phalula and Kalmer sisters all determined not to allow Makhanya to have things all her own way.

2015 is an important year for all the top runners, who are either trying to qualify for the world athletics championships in Beijing in August, or for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

“We’re all very grateful to SPAR for these wonderful races and for the Grand Prix,” said Makhanya.

“I think we all enjoy running against the best in the country in these women’s races. It is a wonderful feeling to cross the finishing line first, and know that it’s all about you, and not to be surrounded by men who want to run with you,” she said.

“I definitely want to reclaim my title in October, and I’ll be running as many Challenge races as I can.”
The second race takes place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday May 9.


DANCING MAKHANYA WINS CAPE TOWN 10KM CHALLENGE

Cape Town, South Africa - A beaming Mapaseka Makhanya danced across the finish line to win the SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge in of 32.54 minutes at Greenpoint in Cape Town on Sunday.

The top three SPAR Women’s Challenge winners at the Cape Town leg. (L-R): Lebogang Phalula (3rd); Mapaseka Makhanya (1st); and Rutendo Nyahora (2nd).

Mapaseka Makhanya celebrates her win as she crosses the finish line first at the SPAR Women’s Challenge race in Cape Town on Sunday, 29 March 2015.

Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


Her Nedbank teammate, Rutendo Nyahora was second, in 33.03, and Lebogang Phalula, (Transnet) finished third in 33.20. Makhanya and Nyahora both broke the course record of 33.06.
The Kalmer sisters, Rene and Christine, came in fourth and fifth.

It was Makhanya’s first win in Cape Town, and her first Challenge win since Pretoria in 2013, and the victory gives her a head start in the SPAR Grand Prix.

It was a fast, competitive race from the start. Nyahora took the early lead, with Phalula, Makhanya and Rene Kalmer running in a bunch close behind her.

The lead changed hands several times, as the elite runners surged and then fell back.
“Rutendo started in the front, and I decided to run with her,” said Makhanya.
“I knew it was going to be a hard race, but it was a good, flat course. I didn’t consciously decide to go for it, it just happened. I’m very happy to have won again – it has been too long since I won a Challenge race.”
Nyahora said she had decided to go hard from the start.
“However, I lost focus at four kilometres and fell back a bit, but then at six kilometres I decided I had to go hard again.”

Phalula said she found it difficult to run without her twin sister Diana-Lebo, who was doing national duty at the world cross-country championships in China.
“We usually run together and encourage each other. It was strange without her. But well done to the other girls – I’ll see you in Port Elizabeth.”

Makhanya said the run had been good preparation for the Two Oceans 21km in a week’s time.
“And after that I will be running my first international marathon, in Hanover. I was thinking about that marathon before the race, but Rutendo told me to put it out of my mind and concentrate on the 10km today. So I did that, and it’s thanks to her that I won.”
She said it always felt special to win a women’s race.
“When you cross the finish line, you’re the first, and you’re not surrounded by men. It is a great feeling to be running against the other elite athletes and knowing you’re running against the best in the country.”

Rene Kalmer, who has won more Challenge races than any other runner and has won the Grand Prix three times, said she was happy with her run and her time.
“I’m running the Vienna marathon in two weeks time, and this was excellent preparation for that.”
Irvette van Zyl, who has two Grand Prix titles to her credit, finished out of the top 10, but she was full of smiles.
“I was out of the top 10, but I won the Plus One category,” she laughed.
Van Zyl is expecting a baby in September. She said she intended to run as long as possible.
Twenty-three thousand 353 runners took part in the race, which kicked off the Spar Challenge series. The next race is in Port Elizabeth on May 9.


MASSIVE BOOST IN PRIZE MONEY FOR SPAR GRAND PRIX SERIES

Johannesburg, South Africa - South Africa’s top woman roadrunners have a lot to look forward to this year, with massive increases in the prize money for the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix series.

Winner of the 2014 SPAR Grand Prix, Daina-Lebo Phalula of Soweto with her trophy at the 2014 SPAR Grand Prix Awards at the Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg.
Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


The Grand Prix series was introduced in 2007, and has become South Africa’s biggest and most prestigious women’s road-running series. The top runners in the five Challenge races held around the country earn Grand Prix points from each race. The 2015 winner will pocket a cheque for a whopping R150 000. The second prize has been increased by R20 000 to R50 000, and the third prize is now worth R30 000. There are cash prizes for the top 15 runners on the points table, making it worthwhile for runners to compete in all five races.
The top runners in the different age categories will also receive increased prize money, with the first on the ladder in her category receiving R4000. The second prize is worth R3000 and the third prize is R1500.
Five runners have claimed the Grand Prix title over its eight-year history. Rene Kalmer, the first winner, is also the most successful, with three Grand Prix titles to her name. This is hardly surprising – Kalmer, who first competed in 1998, has won more Spar Challenge races than any other runner. Irvette van Zyl has won the Grand Prix twice, and Poppy Mlambo, Mapaseka Makhanya and last year’s winner, Diana-Lebo Phalula, have each won it once.
The financial incentive has done wonders for the Spar Challenge series, with more runners eager to earn points by competing in as many races as possible. But the races are also very popular with the elite runners because of their very nature.
“The thing about the Challenge races is that the women are the heroes,” said Sonja Laxton, who has run 81.
“In mixed races, the top woman is often surrounded by men as she crosses the finish line, whereas in the Spar races, she is the first to break the tape, and that is a really great feeling,” she said.
“There is always a wonderful vibe at the Challenge races, and they are a lot of fun”.
Laxton said the Challenge races had done a lot to encourage women to take up road running or walking.
“They enter the race, and then feel they have to do some training, and the next thing they know, they’ve been bitten by the bug,” she laughed.
“Women who might have been a bit wary of taking part in a mixed race feel more comfortable about competing in a women’s race.”
SPAR Group Marketing Executive, Mike Prentice said the Grand Prix series was one of the grocery giant’s most successful sponsorships.
“The Challenge races fit perfectly with our philosophy of getting involved in the community, and the Grand Prix is the cherry on the top. We are excited about increasing the prize money as we believe this will help the races to continue to attract South Africa’s top runners,” he said.
The first race in the 2015 Grand Prix series will be run in Cape Town on March 29. The Port Elizabeth race takes place on May 9 and the Durban event is on June 7. The Pretoria race, which is the only afternoon race, takes place on Saturday August 29, and the final race on the calendar is in Johannesburg on October 11.


MOOLMAN PASIO CROWNED SPAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio has been crowned SPAR gsport Athlete of the Year in Johannesburg.

2014 SPAR gsport winners unveiled at the 2014 SPAR gsport included Busisiwe Mokwena (Woman in Media), Andy Dubula (on behalf of Volunteer of the Year, Khweshy Dubula), Unathi Batyati Filis from ACSA (Sponsor of the Year), Portia Modise (gsport Special Recognition Award), Tracy-Lee Botha, Colleen Piketh and Susan Nel (representing Federation of the Year, Bowls SA), Justine Asher (Athlete of the Year with Disability), Ntando Stemmet (Social Media Star of the Year), Lenize Potgieter (Up and Coming Athlete of the Year), Zanele Mdodana (Style Star of the Year), Edward Khoza (representing Coach of the Year, Hilton Moreeng) and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SPAR gsport Athlete of the Year) at the Wanderers Club, in Illovo, Johannesburg, on Monday, 24 November, 2014. Not included in this photo were 2014 Hall of Fame inductee sports broadcasting pioneer, Tinky Pringle, and Women’s Football Development champion, Pearl Mosoane.
Picture by: Rebecca Hearfield / gsport


Moolman Pasio fought off stiff competition from World Canoe Sprint Champs bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, and inspirational national netball captain Maryka Holtzhausen, to win the coveted trophy at the 2014 SPAR gsport Awards on Monday.
Moolman Pasio has been South Africa’s top-ranked women’s road cyclist for the last three years, currently ranked in the top 30 in the world. Her ambition is to achieve a top-5 World Ranking by 2016, to win a World Cup race and to achieve a medal, preferably gold, at Rio 2016.
In an honour deserving of the moment, SASOL Banyana Banyana stalwart Portia Modise received the gsport Special Recognition Award for becoming the first South African footballer – male or female, to score 100 international goals. Modise is the most capped player for Banyana Banyana with 114 caps, having made her national debut at the age of 15.
In the further two key athlete categories, Tuks and SPAR Proteas shooter Lenize Potgieter was named gsport Up and Coming Athlete of the Year, while 2014 UCI World Champion in time trial and road race, Justine Asher was crowned gsport Athlete of the Year with Disability.
SPAR Proteas netball star Zanele Mdodana won the public vote when she earned the most votes at the gsport website, beating off former Style Star winner Shashi Naidoo and Bridgitte Hartley to win the gsport Style Star of the Year award. Mdodana becomes the first sports woman to win the Style award, a category previously dominated by celebrities.
Footballer-turned-administrator Pearl Mosoane was honoured for her promotion of women’s football development when she won the gsport Woman of the Year award, beating off strong competition from Discovery Sports Heroes Walk founder, Cynthia Tshaka, and Netball South Africa President, Mimi Mthethwa.
In the gsport Woman in Media category, Daily Sun sports reporter Busisiwe Mokwena was the judge’s choice in a category also including SABC Sport Radio and TV presenter Romy Titus and Phalaphala sports commentator Thina Ramantswana.
In the newly-launched Social Media Star of the Year category, women’s sports crusaders Ntando Stemmet overcame stiff competition from @BBallMagSA founder Lungi Mchunu and the SASOL Banyana Banyana team to win the Award’s inaugural honours.
Bowls South Africa was honoured for its role in raising the profile of women’s bowls, following the women’s team’s golden showing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Of the seven medals won by the Lawn Bowls team in Glasgow, the women’s team accounted for two gold medals and two bronze medals, with Tracy-Lee Botha finishing the event as the most successful SA women athlete in Glasgow, featuring in the double gold success in the Fours and the Pairs.
The gsport Sponsor of the Year award was presented to Airports Company South Africa for its loyal support of wheelchair tennis in South Africa since 2005. Over the years, ACSA has ensured strong support for development of the sport, especially among women, ensuring that stars likes Mariska Venter and KG Montjane get to perform at their best on the world stage.
One of the biggest cheers of the morning was reserved for sports broadcasting pioneer, and the first woman anchor on SuperSport, Tinky Pringle, who was inducted into the gsport Hall of Fame, for paving the way for young women in the industry. Having kicked off her career at the SABC, Pringle spent 10 years with SuperSport covering live sport including football, tennis, rugby, Summer Olympics, Winter Olympics, cricket and golf.

2014 SPAR gsport Awards Winners
Award Winner
gsport Volunteer of the Year Khweshy Dubula
gsport Sports Federation of the Year Bowls South Africa
gsport Sponsor of the Year Airports Company South Africa
gsport Special Recognition Award Portia Modise
gsport Style Star Zanele Mdodana
gsport Social Media Star Ntando Stemmet
gsport Woman in Media Busisiwe Mokwena
gsport Woman of the Year Pearl Mosoane
gsport Coach of the Year Hilton Moreeng
gsport Up and Coming Athlete of the Year Lenize Potgieter
gsport Athlete of the Year with Disability Justine Asher
SPAR gsport Athlete of the Year Ashleigh Moolman Pasio
2014 gsport Hall of Fame Inductee Tinky Pringle


DIANA-LEBO PHALULA COLLECTS SPAR GRAND PRIX CAR KEY

Johannesburg, South Africa - Barefoot runner Diana-Lebo Phalula had plenty to celebrate at the SPAR Grand Prix Awards at the Wanderers Club on Tuesday, when she was handed the handed the keys to a brand-new Nissan Micra.

Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr. Gert oosthuizen (Left) and Athletics South Africa, Aleck Skhosana (Right) hand the car keys to Diana-Lebo Phalula (Middle) during the SPAR Grand Prix Awards at the Wanderers Sporting Club in Ilovo, Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Congratulating the winner of the 2014 SPAR Grand Prix Diana-Lebo Phalula is; from L-R: Athletics South Africa President, Aleck Skhosana; Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Gert Oosthuizen; Lebo Phalula and; SPAR Group Marketing Executive, Mike Prentice.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Phalula became the fifth person to win the Grand Prix title, finishing the five-race SPAR Women’s Challenge series with a total of 110 points. Her achievement was particularly remarkable, as she had been troubled with a hamstring injury for much of the year. However, her record-breaking wins in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and her top five finishes in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg ensured that no-one was able to overtake her on the Grand Prix ladder.
Her twin sister, Lebogang, also claimed two titles, winning in Durban and Johannesburg, but a poor finish in Cape Town, where she came 17th, meant that two other runners, Rene Kalmer and Mapaseka Makhanya finished ahead of her on the Grand Prix table.
Kalmer and Makhanya were both proof that consistency of performance is valuable in the Grand Prix. It was the first time in many years that Kalmer, three times Grand Prix winner, finished in the top eight in all five races, earning her 81 points, three ahead of last year’s title holder, Makhanya, whose lowest finish was seventh. In fact, the difference between Makhanya and Kalmer came down to Kalmer having finished second in Port Elizabeth and third in Durban, while Makhanya’s best position was third in Port Elizabeth.
Lebogang Phalula finished with 77 points. Irvette van Zyl, twice Grand Prix winner and victor in Pretoria, finished in fifth position, with 74 points.
“I’m so excited about winning the car. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever won,” said Diana-Lebo Phalula.
“It will make getting to training so much easier. The thought of winning a car also makes it easier to get up in on a cold morning, when you don’t feel like training.”
Phalula said she would dedicate 2015 to trying to qualify for the five thousand and ten thousand-metre events at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“I also want to break the South African record next year,” she said.
“I will share the car with my sister – we’re twins, and what’s mine is hers,” added Phalula.
Lebogang Phalula said she was delighted that she would be sharing the car, and would use her prize money to pay for petrol and insurance for the vehicle.
“But next year, I’m going to win the car,” she laughed.
Lebogang said she was very happy to have proved herself, after the agony of a having to serve a doping ban.
“I’m running clean, and I am so happy to be back, and doing well,” she said.
Nicole van der Merwe won the junior title, with 31 points, and Ronel Thomas was the top veteran, with 29. Elmarie Coetzee was the winner of the masters’ category, with 28 points, and Margie Saunders finished at the top of the grandmaster table.
Boxer clinched the club competition, ending years of dominance by Nedbank. Boxer finished with 248 points, followed by Transnet, with 158. Maxed Elite came third, with 111, and Nedbank fourth, with 82.
Mike Prentice, SPAR Group Marketing Executive said that his company were delighted with the success of the series. “ SPAR take pride in our investment into women’s road running in South Africa and to encourage and reward the top performing athletes with our Grand Prix series is a token of appreciation for the hard work and dedication these athletes put into road running in the country.”
“My congratulations to all the category winner in particular Diana-Lebo who has impressed so much this year on the road and who together with her sister Lebogang add so much fun, energy and character to road running in the country.”
Prentice ended by announcing that SPAR would continue with the Grand Prix in 2015 and planned it to be a bigger and better series.


HARTLEY HEADLINES SPAR GSPORT AWARDS FINALISTS

2014 KZN Sportswoman of the Year, Bridgitte Hartley, is a double nominee for the 2014 SPAR gsport Awards.

Hartley, who won bronze in the World Canoe Sprint Championships, is up against Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and national netball captain Maryka Holtzhausen for the SPAR gsport Athlete of the Year.

gsport Founder Kass Naidoo said: “The SPAR gsport Athlete of the Year category attracted more than 60 nominations, and the battle for the top three was tough. It is now up to the judges to choose the winner from three noteworthy candidates.”

With SPAR Proteas netball player Zanele Mdodana, Hartley has the distinction of becoming the joint-first athlete selected as a gsport Awards Style Star finalist, 2011 gsport Style Star winner Shashi Naidoo completing the trio.

“The winner in the gsport Style Star of the Year category is now to be decided by public voting at the gsport website from Sunday, 9 November to Monday, 17 November, which will also decide winners in the Volunteer of the Year and Social Media Star categories.”

The Volunteer of the Year category is headlined by three champions in disabled sport, nominees including Tracy Dearden, a sports volunteer for the past 14 years, tireless Mthatha wheelchair tennis campaigner Kweshy Dubula, and Dea Slattery, international official and coach to talented swimmer Adri Visser for the past eight years.

Social Media Star of the Year will see crusader for women’s sport on social media, Ntando Stemmet battle it out with @BBallMagSA founder, Lungi Mchunu, and the national women’s football team, SASOL Banyana Banyana.

Public voting for the three Awards – Style Star, Volunteer of the Year and Social Media Star of the Year – is open at gsport.co.za/voting

In Athlete of the Year with Disability category, veteran Paralympic athlete Zanele Situ is nominated alongside champion paracyclist, Justine Asher and multiple medal-winning swimmer, Bongekile Sebaka.

In the Up and Coming Athlete of the Year category, world junior number one wheelchair tennis player, Mariska Venter, is nominated with Tuks and SPAR Proteas netball star Lenize Potgieter and swimming sensation Marlies Ross.

St. Stithians U12 netball coach Keneiloe Kgasi is up against Mangaung netball coach Burta de Kock and Momentum Proteas national women’s coach Hilton Moreeng, for gsport Coach of the Year.

In the Woman of the Year category, Founder of the Discovery Sports Heroes Walk, Cynthia Tshaka is nominated alongside President of Netball South Africa, Mimi Mthethwa and player turned football administrator, Pearl Mosoane.

While the three athlete categories counted together make up more than half of the total nominations received, the Woman in Media category was the next most popular – boasting more than 20 deserving journalists up for consideration.

In a highly-contested battle, SABC Sport Presenter Romy Titus, Daily Sun reporter Busisiwe Mokwena and Phalaphala FM sports commentator, Thinandavha Ramantswana came through as the top three nominees for this sought-after award.

The gsport judging panel is made up of veteran sports journalist, Jane Bramley, world leader in visual performance, Dr. Sherylle Calder and 2007 gsport Hall of Fame winner, Hazel Gumede. They have been tasked with choosing the overall winner in the categories, Athlete of the Year, Athlete of the Year with Disability, Up and Coming Athlete of the Year, Woman in Media, Coach of the Year and Woman of the Year.

SPAR Group Marketing Executive, Mike Prentice said: “It is exciting to see new names in women’s sport coming to the fore and being recognised at the SPAR gsport Awards. It is important that these Awards continue to unearth role models and icons that young girls can look up to.”

To find out more, visit gsport.co.za/voting to follow the action, and @gsport4girls on Facebook and Twitter for updates leading up to the Awards taking place on Monday, 24 November in Johannesburg.

Finalists in the 2014 SPAR gsport Awards:

Athlete of the Year (Judges Voting):
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio
Bridgitte Hartley
Maryka Holtzhausen

Athlete with Disability (Judges Voting):
Bongekile Sebaka
Justine Asher
Zanele Situ

Up and Coming Athlete (Judges Voting):
Lenize Potgieter
Mariska Venter
Marlies Ross

Coach of the Year (Judges Voting):
Burta de Kock
Hilton Moreeng
Keneiloe Kgasi

Woman of the Year (Judges Voting):
Cynthia Tshaka
Mimi Mthethwa
Pearl Mosoane

Women in Media (Judges Voting):
Busisiwe Mokwena
Romy Titus
Thinandavha Ramantswana

Volunteer of the Year (Public Voting):
Dea Slattery
Kweshy Dubula
Tracy Dearden

Style Star (Public Voting):
Bridgitte Hartley
Shashi Naidoo
Zanele Mdodana

Social Media Star (Public Voting):
Banyana Banyana
Lungi Mchunu
Ntando Stemmet


DIANA-LEBO PHALULA WINS SPAR GRAND PRIX, KALMER COMES SECOND

Johannesburg, South Africa - Barefoot runner Diana-Lebo Phalula is the new Spar Grand Prix champion, after finishing the five Women’s 10km Challenge races with a total of 110 points.

Diana-Lebo Phalula finished in fifth position in the Joburg race at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday, but her outstanding performances in the first two races of the year, in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, which she won in record time, gave her a head start in the race to win the keys to a Nissan Micra. Despite a hamstring injury, she finished in fourth place in Durban and Pretoria, and maintained her lead over the chasing pack.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Phalula finished in fifth position in the Joburg race at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday, but her outstanding performances in the first two races of the year, in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, which she won in record time, gave her a head start in the race to win the keys to a Nissan Micra. Despite a hamstring injury, she finished in fourth place in Durban and Pretoria, and maintained her lead over the chasing pack.
Phalula’s twin sister Lebogang made the 2014 series something of a family affair, winning the Durban and Joburg races. However, a poor start to the year, when she finished 17th in the opening race in Cape Town meant that she was unable to catch up with her sister. She finished in fourth position, with 77 points.
Diana-Lebo has said she will share the car with her sister.
“We are twins and we share everything,” she said.
Lebogang agreed that they would share, and said she would use her prize money from the Joburg race to pay for petrol and insurance for the new car.
“And next year, I’m going to win the car,” she said, smiling.
Rene Kalmer, three times winner of the Grand Prix finished second on the 2014 Grand Prix table, with 81 points, proving the value of consistency. Although it was the first time for a number of years that she failed to win a race, her top 10 finishes in all five races ensured she earned enough points to win a cheque for R30 000.
Third place went to last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya, who had a much quieter year than her stellar year in 2013, when she recorded triumph after triumph on road and track. Like Kalmer, she proved the value of consistency, with top 10 finishes in all five races. In fact, the difference between Makhanya and Kalmer came down to Kalmer having finished second in Port Elizabeth and third in Durban, while Makhanya’s best position was third in Port Elizabeth. She earned 78 Grand Prix points – three less than Kalmer, and just one more than Lebogang Phalula.
Boxer clinched the club competition, ending years of dominance by Nedbank. Boxer finished with 248 points, followed by Transnet, with 158. Maxed Elite came third, with 111, and Nedbank fourth, with 82.
spar_gp_2014_final_points_table.xlsx


PHALULA SISTERS TRIUMPHANT IN JOBURG SPAR RACE

Johannesburg, South Africa - The Phalula twins had much to celebrate after the Johannesburg leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club on Sunday.

Lebogang Phalula celebrates her win as she crosses the finish line first at the SPAR Women’s Challenge race in Johannesburg on Sunday, 12 October 2014.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott

The top three SPAR Women’s Challenge winners at the Joburg leg. (L-R): Rutendo Nyahora (2nd); Lebogang Phalula (1st); and Mamorallo Tjoka (3rd).


Lebogang Phalula romped home in first place and her sister, Diana-Lebo, clinched the Grand Prix, after finishing in fifth position.
The twins went into the lead right from the start of the race, which was run on a cool overcast morning. For the first two kilometres, they ran in a bunch which included Rutendo Nyahora and Lesotho runner Mamorallo Tjoka.
Lebogang then moved ahead, and was never seriously challenged after that.
“I knew that I had to get well ahead, because Rutendo finishes strongly, “ she said.
Lebogang Phalula finished the race in 33.34 minutes, seven seconds ahead of Nyahora, who was closing in on her in the last kilometre.
“I just hung in there,” said Phalula, smiling.
“The weather was good for me today. I really struggle when it’s hot, so it was good that it was cool and overcast.”
She said her victory was very important to her.
“I tested positive for drugs in a Challenge race in Pretoria and was banned for six months,” she said.
“It was hard to come back into running after that, especially as the banned substance was given to me by my coach. Now I’m running clean and I want to prove to everyone that I am not a drug cheat. I am so happy to be running well again.”
Nyahora said she had decided to push hard from the six kilometre mark, although her legs were very tired.
“My aim was to win, but I couldn’t catch her. But next year …” she said.
Third home was Tjoka, in 34.43 minutes.
“I’ve been running these races for a long time, without really getting anywhere. But I’m preparing for the Soweto marathon, and I decided to test my speed today,” she said.
“I’m very pleased with the way I ran today and will push myself harder the next time I run the SPAR race.”
Irvette van Zyl, who won the Pretoria race in August, was fourth in 34.58, followed by Diana-Lebo Phalula, 35.21. Three times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, finished in sixth place, in 36.02, and last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya was seventh in 36.27.
Diana-Lebo won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record time, but was then hampered by a hamstring injury. She said she was thrilled to have won the Grand Prix, for which she will receive a Nissan Micra.
“It’s the biggest prize I have ever won,” she said.
“It is a wonderful motivator. When you don’t feel like training, you think of that prize and it makes it easier to hit the road.”
The Phalula twins said they would both be using the Nissan Micra which Diana-Lebo will receive as winner of the Grand Prix.
“We’re twins, so we share whatever we have,” said Diana-Lebo. Her sister, however, said she had her sights set on winning her own car in 2015.
“Then we will each have a car,” she laughed.
Nearly 13 000 runners took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run, with proceeds from the race going to breast cancer support group Reach for Recovery. They received a cheque for R 50 000.


WOMEN TO TAKE TO THE STREETS IN SPAR CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Johannesburg’s northern suburbs will resonate to the sound of thousands of pairs of feet on Sunday morning as more than 11 000 women take to the streets in the SPAR women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run at the Wanderers Club.

South Africa’s top women runners will all be there, battling it out to cross the finish line first, but the Challenge is about far more than the winners. It brings together women of all ages, shapes and sizes, and most of those taking part on Sunday are doing it for fun. Many of them will walk rather than run, and the sounds of laughter and chatter will echo round the leafy suburbs of Melrose, Illovo, Atholl-Oaklands and Killarney.

Some famous faces will also be taking part, including well-known television sports presenter Vaylen Kirtley, Morning Live’s Andile Masuku, who will be taking a break from telling us about the weather, and fans of ‘7de Laan’ will be delighted to be able to catch up with Melanie du Bois, better known as Felicity.

Other faces not as well-known are those of the women from Reach for Recovery, the Challenge’s designated charity. Reach for Recovery is a support group for women with breast cancer. Its members are all women who have been through the ordeal of breast cancer and are well placed to talk to women who are undergoing treatment. The Reach for Recovery runners are easily recognized by their pink t-shirts and the laughter that accompanies them wherever they go.

Although the Challenge is a women’s race, men are allowed to take part on the condition that they dress in drag.

Social media has become part of the fun of the SPAR Challenge and Fun Run, and the organizers are encouraging participants to enter the spirit of the occasion by tweeting photos and comments. The hashtags are #SparRaceJHB #SPARJozi

As always, there are wonderful prizes on offer, including a lucky draw for a Nissan Micra, the Bring-a-Buddy competition, where an entrant and her friend can win New Balance shoes, and the schools competition, where the school with the most entrants can win prizes from electronics giant Mustek.

Pre-entries for both races have closed, but late entries will be accepted at registration on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and before the race on Sunday. Both races start at 8am, and finish at the Wanderers Club.


SPAR GRAND PRIX SETTLED BUT THE RACE IS ON FOR FIRST PLACE

Johannesburg, South Africa - The Wanderers Club in Illovo is the place to be on Sunday, when South Africa’s top roadrunners vie for first place in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge.

Diana-Lebo Phalula despite finishing fourth in the Durban and Pretoria SPAR Women’s challenge in August, still remains top on the SPAR Grand Prix leader board. There is one SPAR women’s challenge race left for 2014 which counts towards the SPAR Grand Prix standings. The last leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge race takes place this Sunday, 12 October in Illovo, Johannesburg.

Three-times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer, who is second on the Grind Prix log with 66 points, just two points ahead of last year’s Grand Prix winner Mapaseka Makhanya. Kalmer finished ninth in the Berlin Marathon last month, in a personal best time of 2 hours 29.59 minutes. She has not had a win in this year’s SPAR Challenge races, and will be determined to change that in the last Challenge of the year.
Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


The Johannesburg race is the last of the five-race Challenge series, and the winner of the annual Grand Prix is virtually cut and dried. There is only the smallest technical possibility that Diana-Lebo Phalula will not emerge as winner of the Nissan Micra awarded to the runner with the most points from the five races.
She has a total of 94 points, after winning the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record time, and finishing fourth in Durban and Pretoria.
Her nearest rival is three-times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer, who is 28 points behind, with 66 points, just two points ahead of last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya.
Diana-Lebo’s twin sister, Lebogang, and two-times winner of the Grand Prix, Irvette van Zyl, are in joint fourth place on the log, with 57 points. Lebogang won the Durban race and Van Zyl was first across the line in Pretoria.
Although the outcome of the Grand Prix may be known, the top runners have all let it be known that they will be satisfied with nothing less than victory on Sunday.
They have all been in good form recently. Van Zyl followed her record-breaking win in Pretoria with victory in the Nelson Mandela Marathon the following day. She was unable to finish the Cape Town race because of an injury, but she has been running outstanding times and could be hard to beat on Sunday.
Kalmer finished ninth in the Berlin Marathon last month, in a personal best time of 2 hours 29.59 minutes. She has not had a win in this year’s Challenge races, and will be determined to change that in the last Challenge of the year.
The Phalula sisters have been running better than ever this year, and either of them is capable of winning the Johannesburg race. Diana-Lebo had a hamstring niggle in Durban and Pretoria, but should be back at her best for the Johannesburg race.
Other runners to look out for include Rutendo Nyahora, Rene’s sister Christine, Marelize Retief, Jenna Challenor and Thozama April, who will all be pushing for a place on the podium.
The evergreen Sonja Laxton will also be running. Last year, she completed her 80th SPAR race when she won the Grandmasters category in Johannesburg. A few weeks later she was struck by a car while training, and suffered multiple fractures. While there were those who thought she might never run again, Laxton had other ideas, and less than six months later, she ran in the Port Elizabeth Challenge, finishing in 57.12 minutes – a time that would put most women of her age to shame.

Late entries will be accepted at registration at the Wanderers on Thursday October 9, Friday October 10 and Saturday October 11, but only pre-entries are eligible for the free race t-shirt.


STILL TIME TO ENTER THE SPAR CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South Africa - After a short cold snap, warm weather appears to have arrived in Johannesburg to stay, which means it is time to get out there and enjoy our glorious climate.
The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club on Sunday October 12 provides an ideal opportunity to enjoy Johannesburg’s leafy suburbs at their very best. There is also a 5km Fun Run on the same day, and walkers are welcome in both races. In fact, the vast majority of people who enter the Challenge and the Fun Run are walkers, who make most of the opportunity to get some exercise, catch up with old friends and make new friends.
Johannesburg is looking lovely after the first rains, and the Sonja Laxton-designed routes give you an opportunity to enjoy peeping at some of the beautiful gardens in the plush suburbs of Melrose, Illovo, Atholl-Oaklands and Killarney.
But be warned – with two weeks to go before the race, the closing date for pre-entries is just around the corner.
The cut-off date for online entries has been extended to Tuesday September 30 and the cut-off date for entries at SPAR stores is Wednesday October 1.
Late entries will be accepted at registration at the Wanderers on Thurdsya October 9, Friday October 10 and Saturday October 11, but only pre-entries are eligible for the free race t-shirt.
So there’s no time to lose – get those entries in as soon as possible. Time is running out … tick, tick, tick.
Entry forms are available at all SPAR, Superspar and Kwikspar stores or online at www.spar.co.za / www.sparwomensrace.co.za.


ELITE RUNNERS GEAR UP FOR FINAL SPAR RACE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Elite runners are gearing up in preparation for the final leg of the SPAR women’s 10km Challenge series at the Wanderers Club on Sunday October 12th.

From L-R: Irvette van Zyl, Lebogang Phalula and Mapaseka Makhanya leading the field during the third leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series, at Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead last month.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Barefoot runner Diana-Lebo Phalula, who is virtually assured of winning the SPAR Grand Prix, started training again earlier this week after a break to recover from a hamstring injury. She won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth legs of the race in record time, and top four finishes in Durban and Pretoria earned her an almost unbeatable lead of 28 points over her nearest rival, Rene Kalmer.
Phalula’s twin sister, Lebogang, who won the Durban race and finished third in Pretoria, said that she was aiming to finish second on the Grand Prix log.
“Lebo can win the car this year, but I also need a car, and I’ll be aiming to win the car next year,” said Lebogang.
“In the meantime, I want to finish second on the log and win the R30 000 prize.”
Lebogang Phalula won the Cape Town Marathon 10km race on Sunday in 33.22 minutes, and she travels to the Netherlands later this week to run in a 10km race in Amsterdam.
“I’m quite happy with my form. I’m doing well, but I’m not happy with my times. I wanted to run 32 minutes, and I haven’t achieved that yet, but that is my aim for next year. And next year, I will be going all out to win the car in the SPAR Grand Prix.”
She is not the only runner who will be heading for Europe this week. Rene Kalmer is running the Berlin Marathon on Sunday, on what has been described as the world’s fastest marathon course. Kalmer has won the SPAR Grand Prix three times, and was the first runner to win the prize of a Nissan Micra.
Irvette van Zyl, who won the Pretoria Challenge in record time, has been in the form of her life recently, after recovering from serious injury. On August 9, she smashed her personal best by half a minute to win the Totalsports Women’s race in Stellenbosch in 32.20 minutes, equaling Zola Budd’s personal best for the third fastest time by a South African woman. Van Zyl followed up her victory in the Pretoria race by winning the Nelson Mandela Marathon near Pietermaritzburg in glorious fashion the very next day, finishing 19 minutes ahead of her nearest rival.
However, Van Zyl, who had been expected to shine in the Cape Town marathon last Sunday, had to drop out of the race because of a knee injury. It is not clear at this stage if she will be fit to run in the final Challenge race, but if she is fully fit, she could well challenge for second place on the Grand Prix log.
Another contender is last year’s winner, Mapaseka Makhanya, who has not been able to match the heights she achieved in 2013. But she has a strong competitive streak and can never be ruled out.


CALLING ALL SCHOOLGIRLS TO TAKE THE SPAR CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Calling all schoolgirls – SPAR and Mustek are offering you a chance to have a great day out and to do something important for your school at the same time.

The schools that have the highest number of entrants in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run at the Wanderers Club on Sunday October 12 will win computers with Win7 Starter software and School Image.
The school with the most entrants will also win a Brother Flatbed Print, Scan, Fax and Copy printer, and the school with the second highest number of entrants will win a Brother Mono Laser Scan, Copy, Print and Fax printer.
Computers and printers are valuable assets for any school, so learners who help their school to win these will certainly earn brownie points from the teaching and administrative staff.
But there is so much more on offer for learners who take part in Johannesburg’s most beautiful race. The energetic can run either the 10km Challenge or the 5km Fun run, but walkers are welcome in both races. What could be better than spending the morning with your best friends, catching up on the latest gossip and enjoying the fresh air and a look at some beautiful gardens in leafy suburbs like Illovo and Melrose?
Who knows – you might enjoy the day so much that you take up running seriously. Many of the top runners, like Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl, started off running in races like the SPAR Women’s Challenge – they are now professionals who earn their living from the sport they love so much.
Once you have finished the race, there is action galore at the Wanderers, where popular singer-pianist Bongi Mthombeni will have you tapping your toes and clicking your fingers. There will be plenty of food stalls, and as usual, there are masses of fabulous prizes, including a lucky draw for a Nissan Micra and the Bring-a-Buddy prize of New Balance shoes for a lucky entrant and her friend. The first 15 000 pre-entries will receive a free race t-shirt on registration, and the first 15 000 finishers will receive a medal and a goodie bag.
To qualify for the prize, schools must submit all their entries at the same time, and only pre-entries will be eligible for the prizes. Pre-entries close on September 27, so it is time to get cracking and organize as many of your schoolmates as possible to enter the race. You have to be 15 to enter the 10km Challenge, but the Fun Run is open to girls over the age of nine, which means primary schools can also take part and stand the chance of winning one of these fabulous prizes.
Entry forms are available at all SPAR, SuperSpar and KwikSpar stores, or online at www.spar.co.za / www.sparwomensrace.co.za


VAN ZYL WINS PRETORIA RACE IN COURSE RECORD TIME

Pretoria, South Africa - Irvette van Zyl was all smiles as she crossed the finishing line at the Pretoria SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in a course record time of 33.32 minutes on Saturday. It was her first Challenge win since 2012.

Irvette Van Zyl celebrates her win as she crosses the finish line first at the SPAR Women’s Challenge race in Pretoria on Saturday, 30 August 2014.

Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Her Nedbank teammate, Rutendo Nyahora, was second, in 33.50, and the winner of last week’s Durban Challenge, Lebogang Phalula (Transnet) was third in 34.05.
Phalula’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo was fourth in 34.17 and Rene Kalmer (Modern Athlete) was fifth, in 34.40.
The top runners started in a bunch, with Van Zyl and Kalmer taking the early lead, but after two kilometres, the leading group started spreading out. The lead changed hands between Van Zyl and the Phalula sisters, until six kilometres, when Van Zyl surged to the front. Running easily, she was in complete command and never looked like losing.
“This means a lot to me,” said Van Zyl.
“I was determined to make top three, and I feel blessed to have won. I was more relaxed than I was in Durban last week, and I didn’t start as fast as I did there. I wasn’t under any pressure, and that helped.”
She said she had a couple of bad patches between three and five kilometres, but once she went into the lead after six, she just concentrated on her running style, and this paid off.
“I knew the last two kilometres were downhill, and that helped.”
She said the Pretoria race had always been her favourite Challenge race.
“My first win was in Pretoria, as a junior. It is always a tough race, because it is in the afternoon, but I like tough races. There were a lot of hills, which I don’t like as much as I did when I was younger, but it was a tough course, and that suits me.”
Van Zyl said she would try to win the Johannesburg race as well, but her first priority was the Cape Town marathon on September 21.
“Marathons are the real test of your ability as an athlete, but I will always enjoy the shorter distances,” said Van Zyl.
Nyahora said she had struggled to keep up with the lead bunch at the start, but found herself getting stronger as the race went on.
“I wanted a top three finish, and I could see the Phalulas were struggling a bit, so I was happy when I passed both of them.”
Lebogang Phalula, who won in Durban last week, said she had started too fast.
“I battled on the hills,” she said.
“But I had something to prove, because I tested positive for a banned substance in Pretoria a few years ago. I wanted to show that I was back.”
Diana-Lebo Phalula, who won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record times, still holds the lead on the SPAR Grand Prix ladder, and seems likely to win the Nissan Micra awarded to the top runner after the Johannesburg race in October.
More than 26 000 runners entered the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run, and Supersport Park was a sea of blue t-shirts as the runners streamed onto the cricket field.


DIANA-LEBO STILL HOLDS SPAR GRAND PRIX LEAD

Johannesburg, South Africa - With two races to go in the SPAR Grand Prix Series, Diana-Lebo Phalula still appears to have the title in her grasp, with a commanding 27 point lead over her nearest rival.

Diana-Lebo Phalula despite finishing fourth in the Durban SPAR Women’s challenge on Sunday, still remains top on the SPAR Grand Prix leader board. There are two SPAR women’s challenge races left for 2014 which counts towards the SPAR Grand Prix standings. The next race takes place this Saturday in Pretoria with last race taking place on Sunday, 12 October in Illovo.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Phalula finished fourth in the Durban SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge on Sunday, but her dominant performance in the first two races of the year, in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, where she achieved maximum Grand Prix points by winning both in record times, mean that she has collected a total of 77 points.
Phalula’s twin sister, Lebogang, won the Durban race after she and Diana-Lebo had led for most of the way. With about two kilometres to go, Diana-Lebo, who had a hamstring strain, told her sister to go without her and Lebogang raced away to win her first Challenge title since 2008. She broke down in tears as she crossed the line, sobbing that she had won the race for her sister.
While Diana-Lebo Phalula appears to have at least one hand on the key to the Nissan Micra that will be presented to the Grand Prix winner, the race for second place is hotting up. Three times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, who came third in Durban, is currently in second place, with 50 points, just one point ahead of last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya, who finished sixth in Durban.
Lebogang Phalula’s win on Sunday has moved her from sixth to fourth position on the log, with 39 points, nine ahead of Nolene Conrad and Christine Kalmer, who have 30 points each.
Saturday’s Challenge race in Pretoria appears likely to be as much of a thriller as the Durban race. The top runners will all be in action, and with just one race after that, they will be going all out to accumulate as many points as possible. Irvette van Zyl, two-times Grand Prix winner, had a disappointing run in Durban, finishing in fifth place after a scintillating run in Stellenbosch earlier in August, where she won the Totalsports women’s 10km in 32.20 minutes. She has won the Pretoria race on several occasions, and she has let it be known that she intends to win this one. The Phalula twins are also both determined to win, and Rene Kalmer can never be ruled out, while last year’s winner, Makhanya, has a point to prove.
In the club competition, Boxer are well in the lead with 165 points, followed by Maxed Elite, with 78. Nedbank and Transnet are in joint third position, with 77 points each.


LEBOGANG PHALULA WINS AMAZING RACE

Durban, South Africa - Transnet runner Lebogang Phalula registered her first SPAR Women’s 10km victory since 2008 when she beat a very strong field to win the 25th Durban Challenge in 33.06 minutes on Sunday.

Lebogang Phalula jumps with tears of joy as she crosses the finish line first at the SPAR Women’s Challenge race in Durban on Sunday, 24 August 2014.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) was second in 33.41, followed closely by Rene Kalmer (Modern Athlete) in 33.49.
The race started at a very fast pace, with Irvette van Zyl, who recently ran the third fastest time by a South African woman, taking the early lead. She was in a pack that included Phalula, her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, and the defending champion, Mapaseka Makhanya.
They ran in a group for the first three kilometres, when the Phalula sisters broke away. By five kilometres, they were well ahead of the pack, with Lebogang taking the lead over Diana-Lebo, who is the front-runner in the SPAR Grand Prix series.
“I could see my sister was struggling. She has a bit of a hamstring injury and eventually she told me to go and win the race for her,” said Lebogang, who broke down in tears after crossing the finish line.
“I needed to win this race to prove myself,” she said.
“I’ve had problems after I tested positive for a banned stimulant in Pretoria, but I’m now running clean and proud.”
Nyahora and Kalmer started slower than the leading pack, but gradually began to reel them in. Van Zyl dropped back, as did Makhanya.
“I had a good race,” said Nyahora.
“Rene (Kalmer) and I ran together from about three kilometres. She was pushing me, and I felt stronger as the race went on. The others started too fast for me, but Rene and I worked well together. We caught Irvette (Van Zyl) first, then Mapaseka (Makhanya) and then we passed Lebo.
“I passed Rene with about 800 metres to go.”
Kalmer said she was very happy with her podium finish.
“It was a very strong field, and I knew it was going to be a very fast start. I just stuck to my own game plan, and it worked.
“I knew there would be a lot of pressure on Irvette because of her very fast time two weeks ago, and the Phalula sisters were also under pressure. But there was no pressure on me.”
Diana-Lebo finished fourth, Van Zyl fifth and Makhanya sixth.
The top runners will all be in action again in a week’s time, when they run the Pretoria leg of the SPAR Challenge series, which will be run at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday afternoon.
More than 14 000 women took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.


WATCH OUT, PHALULAVAN ZYL IS BACK

Johannesburg, South Africa – After a break of nearly four months, the SPAR Women’s Grand Prix gets under way again over the next two weekends, with the Durban and Pretoria Challenge races in quick succession, and the race to the Grand Prix title is hotting up with the return to form of two times Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl.
The Durban race will be run from Kingsmead on Sunday August 24 and the Pretoria Challenge takes place on Saturday August 30 at Supersport Park in Centurion.
Maxed Elite runner Diana-Lebo Phalula has a headstart after winning the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races. With bonus points for beating the previous years’ time in both races, she now has a massive 60 points on the leaderboard – 26 ahead of her nearest rival, Mapaseka Makhanya.
Boxer’s Makhanya, who was last year’s Grand Prix winner, finished fifth in Cape Town and third in Port Elizabeth and has a total of 34 points. She is just two points ahead of three times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer of Modern Athlete. Kalmer finished eighth in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth. Two points behind her, with 30 points, is Nolene Conrad (Boxer), who finished third in Cape Town and ninth in Port Elizabeth.
While Phalula may feel she has one hand on the key to the Nissan Micra which will be presented to the overall Grand Prix winner, she may be casting a nervous eye over her shoulder at Van Zyl, who has come storming back into contention after struggling with injuries for nearly two years.
Nedbank’s Van Zyl gave notice on August 9 that she was once again a force to be reckoned with when she won the Totalsports Women’s race in 32.20 minutes – the third fastest 10km by a South African woman. Van Zyl’s time equaled that set up by 17-year old Zola Budd in Bloemfontein in 1983.
Van Zyl recently changed coaches and says the training programme devised by Lindsey Parry has brought her back to where she was before she was injured.
“For the first time in 15 months, I’m running pain free. Lindsey had me swimming and cycling during my rehab period, and this kept me fit. Now I’m faster than I was before my injury.
“I am feeling very good, and I am over the moon about my time in Stellenbosch. It came as a bit of a surprise – I’ve been preparing for the Cape Town Marathon in September and didn’t think I had the speed for a time like that.”
Phalula won the Port Elizabeth Challenge in 32.27, so there could be a great tussle for line honours in Durban between Phalula and Van Zyl, while Makhanya and Kalmer can be expected to give them a good run for their money in both races.
“I think it’s going to be a very fast race,” said Van Zyl.
“Lebo, Mapaseka, Rene and I will all be giving it our all.”


PHALULA CONSOLIDATES GRAND PRIX POSITION

Johannesburg, South Africa – Barefoot runner Diana-Lebo Phalula’s record-breaking victory at the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge at Pollock Beach in Port Elizabeth on Saturday has given her a massive headstart in this year’s Spar Grand Prix.

Diana-Lebo Phalula jumps for joy as she crosses the finish line first in her second successive victory at a SPAR Challenge race.
Pictures credit: Reg Caldecott


Maxed Elite’s Phalula, who became the fourth-fastest South African runner when she crossed the finishing line in 32.27 minutes, also won the Cape Town leg in record time. With bonus points for beating the previous year’s time in both races, she now has a massive 60 points on the leaderboard – 26 ahead of her nearest rival, Mapaseka Makhanya.
With Phalula holding a massive lead, the tussle is likely to be for second place, with several athletes closely bunched together. Boxer’s Makhanya, who was last year’s Grand Prix winner, finished fifth in Cape Town and third in Port Elizabeth and has a total of 34 points. She is just two points ahead of three times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer of Modern Athlete. Kalmer finished eighth in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth. Two points behind her, with 30 points, is Nolene Conrad (Boxer), who finished third in Cape Town and ninth in Port Elizabeth.
Kalmer’s sister Christine is in fifth position, with 24 points, and Phalula’s sister Lebogang is five points behind her, in sixth place.
The Grand Prix rewards the top runners competing in the five Challenge races, which are held around South Africa. The winner will receive a Nissan Micra, and the runner-up R30 000. There are also prizes on offer to the top runners in the various age categories.
Only South Africans are eligible for Grand Prix points, so foreign runners like Ethiopians Hunduma Gemeda and Chelity Asefe, and Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Nyahora are not eligible for Grand Prix points.
After years of Nedbank dominance on the club leaderboard, the Green Team is playing second fiddle to Boxer, who top the club leaderboard with 118 points. Nedbank is in second place, with 91 points and Maxed Elite are in third, with 61 points.
While Phalula has said she is determined to run all five Challenge races so that she can drive away in a brand new car, her immediate focus will be on qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July in the 5000m and 800m events. Makhanya, who won her debut marathon last year, will also be turning her attention to road races in Europe, while Rene Kalmer is heading for the United States for some road races there.
The next Spar Challenge race takes place in Durban on August 24.


LAXTON BACK ON THE ROAD

Johannesburg, South Africa – Sonja Laxton completed her 81st Spar Women’s Challenge in Port Elizabeth on Saturday in a time of 57.12 minutes.

Sonja2.jpg


It was not her best time, but for fans of the runner who has more than 70 national titles to her name, it was a time to celebrate. On November 17 last year, Sonja was hit by a car during a training run. She suffered multiple fractures, including shoulders, elbows, ribs, ankle and spine, and spent some time in intensive care at the Milpark Hospital. Many thought she would never be able to run again, but Sonja’s indomitable spirit saw her back on the road in less than six months.
“It came as a surprise to me when I heard she was running,” said her husband, Ian, who is the manager of the Spar Grand Prix.
“We’d been on holiday in the Eastern Cape, and Sonja must have hidden her RAC clothes at the bottom of her suitcase, because we arrived in Port Elizabeth and she told me she was going to run.”
Despite a swollen ankle and a still painful shoulder, Sonja was the third grandmaster to finish, well ahead of the 70 minutes Ian had predicted.
Her daughter Kim finished in 16th place, in 36.13 minutes, and immediately made her way back to find her mother and escort her to the finish line.
“I’m so proud of Sonja,” said Ian. “And the time she did is amazing, when you remember how badly she was injured.”


SPAR GRAND PRIX WIDE OPEN

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa - The Port Elizabeth leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series at Pollock Beach on Saturday is likely to be a cracker, with some of South Africa’s top road runners battling it out for top spot.

Runners to watch include the winner of the Cape Town leg, Diana-Lebo Phalula, who changed coaches recently and appears to have taken on a new lease of life. Phalula won the Two Oceans Half Marathon on April 19, 0.23 seconds ahead of defending champion Rene Kalmer. They are both running on Saturday and the struggle for dominance in the race could result in a fast time.

Kalmer came a disappointing seventh in Cape Town, just a week after competing in the world half marathon championships in Copenhagen, but she will be going all out to reclaim her title as queen of the road. She did not run last year, because of international commitments, but she has described Port Elizabeth as her favourite race.

But Phalula and Kalmer will have plenty of opposition. Nedbank have entered a strong team, which includes Ethiopian Hunduma Gumeda, Zimbabwean Rutenda Nyahora, and former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl.

Boxer also have a strong contingent with last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya, as well as Nolene Conrad, Christine Kalmer and Janene Carey.

While all the runners will be aiming for top spot and the generous prize money on offer, the South Africans will also be trying to earn valuable Grand Prix points. The Grand Prix rewards the top runners competing in the five Challenge races, which are held around South Africa. The winner will receive a car and the runner-up R30 000. There are also prizes on offer to the top runners in the various age categories.

Kalmer has won the Grand Prix on three occasions, and Van Zyl has won it twice. Phalula has made it known that she intends to maintain her lead at the top of the leaderboard and walk away with the keys to a brand new Nissan Micra, but all the top runners will be going all out to ensure that she doesn’t have it all her own way.

Phalula is currently at the top of the leaderboard with 30 points, followed by Conrad, with 18. Makhanya is in third position, with 16 points. However, with four races still to go, the Grand Prix is wide open.


PHALULA LEADS SPAR GRAND PRIX FOR THE FIRST TIME

South Africa - There’s a new name at the top of the 2014 SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix leaderboard.

Diana-Lebo Phalula in action during the first leg of the SPAR Grand Prix, run in Green Point in Cape Town on Sunday 6 April.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Diana-Lebo Phalula (Maxed-Elite) has taken the first step towards claiming the keys to the Nissan Micra on offer to the winner of the SPAR Grand Prix after all five Challenge races have been run.

Phalula dominated the Cape Town race on Sunday and romped to victory in 33.03 minutes. Because her time was faster than last year’s winning time, she claimed an extra 10 points, and tops the leaderboard with 30 points. “I’m certainly hoping to run in all five races,” said Phalula in a post-race press conference. “I would love to win a car – that would certainly be very useful. I’m very motivated and I feel I am running well.”

The Grand Prix rewards the top runners competing in the five Challenge races, which are held around South Africa. The winner will receive a car, and the runner-up R30 000. There are also prizes on offer to the top runners in the various age categories. Only South Africans are eligible for Grand Prix points.

Second on the leaderboard, with 18 points, is Nolene Conrad (Boxer), who finished the race in third place, behind Ethiopian Nedbank runner Hunduma Gemeda. 2013 Grand Prix champion Mapaseka Makhanya (Boxer), who came fifth, is in third position, with 16 points.

Modern Athlete’s Rene Kalmer, who has won the SPAR Grand Prix three times, is in fifth position, with 13 points, one behind her sister Christine (Boxer), who finished just ahead of her in the Cape Town race. The other multiple Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl, did not compete in Cape Town because of an injury.

With four runners in the top 10, Boxer has taken the early lead in the club competition, with 68 points. Nedbank is in second place, with 43, followed by Maxed Elite with 30.


PHALULA STORMS TO VICTORY IN SPAR WOMEN’S 10KM CHALLENGE

Green Point, Cape Town - Diana-Lebo Phalula (Maxed Elite) stormed to victory in the Cape Town SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Green Point on Sunday morning, ahead of Ethiopian Hunduma Gemeda (Nedbank) and Nolene Conrad (Boxer).

Top three runners; (l-r) Nolene Conrad, Diana-Lebo Phalula and Hunduma Gemeda, at the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Cape Town on Sunday.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


Phalula finished in 33.03 minutes, nine seconds ahead of Gemeda. Conrad’s time – a personal best – was 33.28. Last year’s winner, Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank), was fourth, in 33.30.

Mapaseka Makhanya, last year’s Grand Prix winner, came fifth and the other Ethiopian runner, Tadesse Shankule, was sixth. Rene Kalmer, who has won more Challenge titles than any other runner, was edged into eighth place by her sister Christine, who came seventh.

The top runners ran in a bunch for the first four kilometres of the race before Phalula started pulling away. “My legs were feeling light and I wanted to move,” said Phalula. “I knew I was going to win,” she smiled. “I came here to do my own thing, and I wasn’t worrying about anyone else.”

Phalula said she had recently changed coaches, and was now training with Michael Seme. “The change has worked for me. I have been getting a lot more mileage on the road, and I am now super-motivated. I will try to run all five races and I am planning on podium finishes in all of them.”

Gemeda, who flew into Cape Town from Addis Ababa on Saturday, said she was happy with her run, and she planned to take part in all five Challenge races.

Conrad said she had tried to stay with the leading runners from the start, but fell behind. However, she made her move at about six kilometres and settled happily into third place. “It was my best result in Cape Town,” she said. “I think it helps to train at altitude and then race at sea level.”

Rene Kalmer, who ran in the world half marathon championships in Copenhagen last weekend, said she was a bit disappointed with her run. “I think I still had the half marathon in my legs, and I found the going tough this morning. But I’ll be back,” she laughed.

More than 22 000 runners took part in the10km Challenge and the five km Fun Run on a hot sunny day, with very little wind.


THREE TIMES WINNER PRAISES GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - Three times winner of the SPAR Grand Prix and 2013 runner-up Rene Kalmer has praised the Grand Prix for what it has done for the development of road running by South African women.

Rene1.jpg
Rene Kalmer crossing the finish line at the Joburg leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge, on Sunday 13 October.

Mapaseka Makhanya in action during the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge series.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


Kalmer said the introduction of the Grand Prix had done much to promote road running and to incentivise runners. “Before the Grand Prix, you just did your best to try to win the race, and you weren’t too concerned about times,” she said. “But now that you get bonus points for beating your previous time, it means that finishing times have gone down significantly. You can’t afford to relax any more, in case someone overtakes you.”

She said it was also important that the Grand Prix was open only to South Africans. Three of this year’s races were won by foreigners – the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races by Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora, and the Johannesburg race by Ethiopian Gezashigh Hunduma Gemeda. “Reserving the Grand Prix for South Africans shows loyalty to the local runners,” she said. “Although it is always good to run against world class athletes, it is also important to support South African runners. And in turn, the local runners are loyal to the Challenge series, which has done so much for development,” said Kalmer.

Transnet’s Mapaseka Makhanya did enough in the Johannesburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race on Sunday to clinch top spot on the Grand Prix ladder, which means she will drive away with a brand new personalised Nissan Micra. “I’m so happy that I’ve won a car,” said Makhanya. “I have a car already, but it’s getting quite old and things keep going wrong, so I am thrilled to have a brand new car. I’ve loved taking part in the SPAR Challenge series, and I’ll definitely be back again next year.”

Makhanya finished the five race series with a total of 105 points. She won the Durban and Pretoria legs, and finished second in Cape Town, third in Port Elizabeth and 13th in Johannesburg. After a stunning season, during which she has won major races on the track and the road, as well as winning her maiden marathon, Makhanya was not too disappointed about finishing outside the top ten in the last Challenge race, saying she had simply run out of steam.

Rene Kalmer finished second, with 92 points, followed by her sister Christine, who came third, with 77 points. Rene will receive R30 000 and Christine R17 500.

Their Nedbank Gauteng Central teammate Irvette van Zyl, who was unable to run in Johannesburg because of a knee injury, came fourth, with 68 points. The two-times Grand Prix winner will receive R15 000.
Annie Bothma of Helderberg Harriers won the Junior Grand Prix, with 20 points. Boxer KZN’s Janene Carey won the Veterans category, with 26 points, teammate Grace de Oliviera the Grandmasters category with 48 points, and the evergreen Sonja Laxon the Grandmasters, with 30 points. They will each receive R3 500.

With five of the top 10 on the Grand Prix ladder wearing the Nedbank Central Gauteng colours, the club easily won the club competition, with 343 points – nearly double those of their nearest rivals, Boxer KZN, who had 177. Transnet were third, with 138 points.


ETHIOPIAN WINS SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE

Wanderers, Johannesburg - Ethiopian Gezashigh Hunduma Gemeda, running in the Nedbank colours, romped to victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg on Sunday in a time of 33.49 minutes.

Ethiopian Gezashigh Hunduma Gemeda on route during the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Joburg on Sunday 13 October.

The top three (l-r): Rutendo Nyahora (placed third), Gezashigh Hunduma Gemeda (winner) and Rene Kalmer (placed second).
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


South African half marathon champion Rene Kalmer (Nedbank) was second in 34.31, followed by Rutendo Nyahora, also Nedbank, in 35 minutes. Lebo-Diana Phalula (Maxed Elite) was fourth, in 35.37 minutes.

Running on the new route through some of Johannesburg’s leafy northern suburbs, Nyahora took the early lead, but the Ethiopian, who arrived in South Africa on Saturday, surged to the front after three kilometres, and retained her lead for the rest of the race.“It was a lovely race – I liked the route and I enjoyed the atmosphere,” said Gemeda.

Kalmer said she had an awesome race. “It feels good to be running injury free again, and I was feeling very good. I didn’t know what to expect from Gezashigh, because I haven’t run against her before, but I tried my very best and I am pleased with the way I ran,” she said. “I feel I am back in the swing of things, and I am looking forward to next year.” “It is slightly bittersweet to lose to a foreigner running in my own club colours, but it is always good to test yourself against world class runners,” said Kalmer.

Nyahora, who won the first two races in the 2013 Challenge Series, said she was happy to be back in the top three in the race. “I finished fourth in Pretoria, so it was nice to feel I was back again. Third place was a victory for me.”

The leader on the SPAR Grand Prix ladder, Mapaseka Makhanya, who won the Durban and Pretoria legs of the series, finished outside the top 10, but she had built up such a substantial lead that she will still receive the keys to the Nissan Micra presented to the overall Grand Prix winner. Irvette van Zyl, who was the only runner who could overtake her, was unable to run on Sunday because of a knee injury.

Nearly 11 thousand women took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run, which meant the designated charity, Reach for Recovery, which is a support group for breast cancer patients, received a substantial cheque. Race organisers received positive feedback on the new route “there was one section after Killarney where we ran through a grove of trees, it was so beautiful. A great route”


STRANGE CENTRAL GAUTENG ATHLETICS DECISION MARS SONJA’S 80TH SPAR RACE

Johannesburg, South Africa - There can be little doubt that Sonja Laxton is one of the best runners ever produced in South Africa. She was the first athlete to achieve Springbok colours in all three disciplines of athletics – track, road and cross-country – and has won 70 national titles during her
career. She has set 28 senior SA records and many age records.

She will reach another major milestone on Sunday when she competes in her 80th SPAR Grand Prix Series race in Johannesburg. Sonja said in an interview recently that she is excited about the new venue and course for the Johannesburg race. “I do most of my training in this area, and I think all the runners will enjoy the new 10 km route,” she said. “It is not as challenging as the previous route. There are a few longish uphill drags, but generally it is quite a gentle route, and I think the layman runner will appreciate it. You run past some beautiful gardens as well as the Killarney golf course and there are lots of trees. The jacarandas may be out by then, which makes it all even prettier.”

Sonja has run in 73% of all SPAR races and, as far as is known, has won her age category in all of them (she ran her first one in 1992, when she was already 44). She has scored one first place, two seconds and four thirds (in overall placings).

SPAR has proved a major and consistent sponsor of women’s road running for more than twenty years and has regularly introduced new innovations – first the Super Squad concept in 1998 and then the Grand Prix in 2008. SPAR pioneered the designer T-shirt concept (for the past decade every woman who has run in the SPAR races has received a T-shirt and there has been a new colour/design annually), huge goody bags, lucky draw prizes (each race offers one person free groceries for a year) and recently at least two of the races have offered a lucky draw car.

It is believed that over the years there have been more than a million entrants in total and that between 300 000 and 400 000 different women have run the races. Sonja also particularly enjoys the SPAR races. “Women’s races are a lot of fun. The winner has the satisfaction of being the first across the finishing line, instead of coming after a bunch of men, and there is always a very good vibe at the SPAR races,” she said.

“They really are something to look forward to. I plan my year’s training around the SPAR races. I think SPAR has done a lot to get women involved in running. Women who might have been a bit wary of running in a mixed race feel more comfortable about running in a women-only race.”

Over the years SPAR has contributed hundreds of thousands of Rands to the coffers of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) and it therefore seems inconceivable that the provincial body would not protect the SPAR race date. But that is exactly what happened this year!

Incredibly, CGA has allowed the Nike We Run Jozi 10 km to take place the night before the SPAR race – taking away, by some estimates, at least 4 000 entries from the SPAR event. The Nike race offers huge give-aways, among these (for Discovery Vitality members) 3000 Vitality points.

One can only marvel at the absurdity of this decision and shake your head at the thought of the damage this has done to one of the sport’s most valuable sponsors. One observer descibed it as “yet another huge failing of our national and provincial athletics bodies”.


TOP RUNNERS FOR FINAL CHALLENGE RACE

Johannesburg, South Africa - The final race in the 2013 SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series appears likely to be the most hotly contested this year.

Hot Contenders! – Irvette van Zyl, Mapaseka Makhanya and Rene Kalmer will all be competing in Sunday’s Joburg leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge.
Image taken at the Pretoria race in August.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Two Ethiopian runners, Yeshimebet Tadesse Bifa and Alemtsehay Hailu Kakissa, running for the Nedbank Green Dream Team, will add some excitement to the race. Bifa has a best time of 31 minutes for 10kms, and is going to be hard to beat. Another international competitor is Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora, who won the City2City 10km last month. Nyahora also won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth legs of the Challenge series.

Some of South Africa’s top local runners will also be battling it out for top honours. Rene Kalmer, who has won more Challenge races than any other athlete, appears to be back to top form, after winning the South African 21km title in East London two weeks ago. Irvette van Zyl is fresh from victory in the Petro SA half marathon in Mossel Bay at the end of September, and she appears to have got over the injury problems that have been troubling her.

While Nedbank runners are likely to dominate the top 10 places on Sunday, Transnet’s Mapaseka Makhanya has been in sublime form in recent weeks. She won the Durban and Pretoria Challenge races and has her eyes set firmly on victory on Sunday. With a lead of 29 points over her nearest rival, Van Zyl, Makhanya is virtually assured of winning the Challenge Grand Prix title and picking up the keys to a brand new Nissan Micra.

The bubbly single mother says she’s very excited about her achievements on the road, although her first love is running on the track. “I really started running on the road just to get some distance into my legs as I move into the longer races. But I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I love the SPAR races. There is a fantastic vibe and it is a completely different experience from running on the track.

“I’m also very excited about the thought of winning a motor car. That is an awesome thought. I know there is a remote chance that Irvette can overtake me, but I’m going to be going all out to win the Joburg race, just to make sure that car comes to me!”


DENIM IS BACK

Johannesburg, South Africa - There is great news for fans of the Afro-pop group Denim – the hugely popular group will once again be performing at the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club on Sunday October 13.

Denim
Picture by: Quartier Entertainment


Denim, who are widely regarded as one of South Africa’s top live acts, provided the entertainment at the 2011 Challenge, and were such a hit that the organisers decided to invite them back to wow the crowds with their songs, including their massive hit “Crazy Love”.

The Denim lads are constantly on the move, touring South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Dubai, and they draw the crowds wherever they go. They have received numerous accolades, and have performed for blue chip companies including Microsoft, Edcon, Standard Bank, Nedbank, Sun International and SA Breweries.

Their music encompasses a wide range from cutting edge pop/dance music, a bit of hip hop and R & B, and some old school remixes – and you will experience many of these numbers if you take part in the SPAR Challenge.

Denim is a group that offers something for everyone, and that is what race day will be like as well. There is a kiddies corner, where runners can leave their children safe in the knowledge that the youngsters are being cared for by qualified child minders. There is plenty of entertainment for the small fry, with clowns, jumping castles, face painting and games.

For those who think they might be a little peckish after their run/walk, there will be plenty of food stalls selling a variety of foods and drinks.

There are plenty of reasons to stay on at the ground after completing the race – there are some awesome prizes, including a Lucky Draw for a brand new Nissan Micra. But you have to be there to claim a prize, so don’t rush off as soon as you’ve crossed the finishing line – relax, chill and have fun.

Remember, walkers are welcome, and if you don’t want to do 10kms, you can always enter the 5km Fun Run. Entry forms are available from all SPAR, KwikSPAR and SuperSPAR stores, or online at www.SPAR.co.za Entries close on October 4.


TAKE THE CHALLENGE AND FIGHT CANCER

Johannesburg, South Africa - Cancer is a scourge that appears to be on the rise.
The most common form among women is breast cancer, with about one in nine South African women likely to suffer the disease, which is no respecter of boundaries. Women of all races and all classes are susceptible.

Reach for Recovery’s Beulah Jankelowitz, accepts the handover cheques at the 2012 SPAR Joburg Challenge. Olympic Bronze Medalist Bridgitte Hartley assisted SPAR South Rand’s Managing Director Brett Botten with the handover.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


But the good news is that caught early, breast cancer is one of the most treatable forms of the disease, and is far from a death sentence.
Among the warning signs are:
• A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea;
• A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast;
• A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle;
• A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple;
• A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed);
• Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple;
• An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast; and
• A marble-like hardened area under the skin.

Among the treatments for breast cancer are chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, which could involve either, removing only the lump or else a complete mastectomy. This is where the support group Reach for Recovery comes in. An international organisation, Reach for Recovery was started in South Africa in 1967, and there are 20 branches in South Africa.

Chairperson of the Johannesburg Branch, Beulah Jankelowitz, explains that Reach for Recovery is a support group for breast cancer patients, which provides emotional and physical support. All the counsellors are trained breast cancer survivors, who are able to understand the feelings of the newly-diagnosed patient.

“We are approached by doctors and often by the patients themselves, and when we hear someone is about to have surgery, we visit them either at home or in the hospital,” she says. “We explain what is going to happen, and what they can expect. We also provide pretty floral bags for them to carry their drains, and very soft cushions to put under their arms so they can be more comfortable. “While we can’t provide medical advice, we are also available to answer questions both during and after their treatment,” she said.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Reach for Recovery is once again the designated beneficiary for the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run at the Wanderers on Sunday October 13, with a portion of all entry fees going to the support group.

Many members of Reach for Recovery will be taking part in the Challenge and Fun Run, wearing their distinctive pink t-shirts. They also stand out because wherever they are, they are surrounded by laughter. They are an amazingly positive group of women who know all about the terror of being diagnosed with breast cancer, but they will also tell you how they came through it with the support of other women who had been there as well.

So do your bit to fight the scourge of cancer by taking part in the SPAR Joburg Challenge. The first 15 000 entrants will receive a free race t-shirt, and the first 15 000 to finish the race will receive a medal and a goodie bag … and perhaps you will be the one to win the lucky draw for a brand new Nissan Micra.


SCHOOLS CAN SCORE AT JOBURG SPAR CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South African - Schools are the nurseries for the development of sportsmen and women in various disciplines, and running is no exception.

Schools prize winners Atlholang Primary School at the 2012 edition of the Joburg SPAR Women’s Challenge, at Old Parktonians on 14 October.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Two of South Africa’s most prominent runners, Olympians Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl are among the many who started their running careers at school; “I started running when I was at primary school, and I’ve been running ever since,” says Kalmer. She and Van Zyl also started taking part in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge races in their early teens, and both were still at school when they won their first Challenge races.

The Johannesburg SPAR Challenge race at the Wanderers Club on October 13 offers schools the opportunity to test their young runners and stand a chance of winning computer equipment worth thousands of rands. The top three schools will each receive a Mecer laptop with Win7 Starter software and School image.

The school with the most entrants will also win a Brother Flatbed Print, Scan, Fax and Copy printer, and the school with the second highest number of entrants will win a Brother Mono Laser Scan, Copy, Print and Fax printer.

Girls participating in the 10km Challenge must be 15 or older, but there is also a 5km Fun Run, which means the schools competition is open to primary schools as well. Although some girls may want to emulate runners like Kalmer and Van Zyl, and try for the top spot, walkers are welcome in both events, and many girls may prefer to walk the routes, chatting to their friends and catching up on the latest news.

Many schools use the Challenge to promote school unity and some organise competitions within the schools – house against house, or grade against grade.

There is also a role for boys at the school, who can support their female counterparts along the route, or go to the Wanderers Club to cheer them across the line, and share the fun of a superb day’s entertainment.

Entries for the schools competition should be submitted together, by September 28. Only entries of 20 or more pupils are eligible for the prizes, and at least 20 girls must complete one or other race.

As an added incentive, the first 15 000 pre-entries will receive a free T-shirt, and the first 15 000 to finish will be given a medal and a goodie-bag.


MAKHYANA DREAMING OF HER NEW CAR

Johannesburg, South Africa - Transnet’s Mapaseka “Speedsta” Makhanya is celebrating.
The 28-year-old runner won the Pretoria leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge series at Supersport Park on Saturday to ensure that, with one race to go, it is almost impossible for any other runner to overtake her and win the Nissan Micra that will be handed over to the winner of the 2013 SPAR Grand Prix.

A record breaking finish by Mapaseka Makhanya on Saturday 31 August, at Supersport Park.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Makhanya won the Pretoria race in a record time of 33:37 minutes to earn 30 Grand Prix points. She now has a total of 97 points – 29 ahead of her nearest rival, former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl, who has 68 points. The only way for Van Zyl to overtake Makhanya would be if the Transnet runner missed the final race in Johannesburg on October 13, and Van Zyl won the maximum 30 points by winning the race at the Wanderers in a record time.

“I’m really excited about the thought of winning a car,” said a beaming Makhanya. “It really is something different and special. I can’t wait to collect the keys and drive away in my brand new motor car.”

The Kalmer sisters – Rene and Christine – are in joint third position, with 63 points. Last year’s Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer has had a year plagued by injury and illness. She was unable to run the Port Elizabeth race because of an injury she sustained in the Boston Marathon on April 15. However, she appears to be on her way back to her best, finishing second to Makhanya on Saturday, also inside the record she set in 2011. “It’s been a hard year,” said Kalmer. “But I’m feeling good again and happy with my running. I’m back in the groove. I want to finish in the top three in the Grand Prix,” said Kalmer.

Van Zyl, who has also battled with injury since the London Marathon in April, was delighted to be back among the top Grand Prix contenders. “I’ve had a knee injury and a numb foot, but the knee is all right now, and I’m getting treatment for the foot. I was so happy to be able to complete the race on Saturday without stopping. My third place felt like a win, and it was such a bonus that I finished inside Rene’s record,” she said.

The Grand Prix runner-up will receive R30 000, and the third-placed runner will receive R17 500.


SPAR WOMEN’S 10 KM CHALLENGE HAS A NEW HOME

Johannesburg, South Africa – Joburg’s most beautiful road race; the SPAR Women’s Challenge, has moved to an exciting new venue.

(L-R) James Moloi President Central Gauteng Athletics, Mapaseka Makhanya SPAR Grand Prix leader, Martin Webber Marketing Director SPAR South Rand, Irvette Van Zyl Defending Champion of the SPAR Joburg Race, and Leon Swanepoel Race Director, all toast to the new improved SPAR Joburg Race. The launch took place at the Wanderers; the new race venue.

Top runners Mapaseka Makhanya and Irvette Van Zyl with their race numbers for the Joburg leg of the SPAR Womens Challenge, taking place on the 13th October 2013 at the Wanderers.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


After many years at Old Parktonians in Randburg, the race, which takes place on Sunday October 13, has moved to the elegant Wanderers Club in Illovo.

Created by long-time SPAR Challenge runner, Sonja Laxton; the 10km signature race route takes the runners along Corlett Drive and Oxford Road as far as Riviera Road in Killarney, before zigzagging back through some of Johannesburg’s leafiest suburbs.
The 5km route meanders through the plush suburbs of Illovo, Melrose, Birdhaven and Atholl-Oaklands, giving runners a chance of peeking at some of the most beautiful gardens in Johannesburg.

“They are lovely routes,” said the evergreen Sonja Laxton, who will be running her 80th SPAR Challenge race in October. “I do most of my training in this area, and I think all the runners will enjoy the new 10km route. It is not as challenging as the previous route. There are a few longish uphill drags, but generally it is quite a gentle route, and I think the layman runner will appreciate it. “You run past some beautiful gardens as well as the Killarney golf course and there are lots of trees. The jacarandas may be out by then, which makes it all even prettier.”

She said she was excited about running her 80th Challenge race. “I’ve always enjoyed the SPAR races,” she said. “Women’s races are a lot of fun. The winner has the satisfaction of being the first across the finishing line, instead of coming after a bunch of men, and there is always a very good vibe at the SPAR races. They really are something to look forward to. I plan my year’s training around the SPAR races,” she said.

“I think they have done a lot to get women involved in running. Women who might have been a bit wary of running in a mixed race feel more comfortable about running in a women only race.” She said the standard of running was also very high. “You get the cream of the crop running in the SPAR races. In fact, it is almost like five national championships spread across the country.”

The Johannesburg Challenge is the last of the five Challenge races that make up the SPAR Grand Prix, with the runner earning the most points from the five races winning a Nissan Micra. Mapaseka Makhanya has all about claimed the title, as she has been consistently climbing the leaderboard, and placed first in the Pretoria leg this past Saturday in a record-breaking time.
Apart from the new route, there have been some other exciting changes. For instance, you have a chance to win a Nissan Micra car, simply by taking part in the race. As runners complete the race, the lucky draw slip on their number will be torn off and automatically entered for the draw. Also, there are prizes worth about R200 000 to be won.

Schools with the most entries will win Mecer laptops and accessories donated by Mustek Electronics, and the very popular Bring-a-Friend competition offers runners the chance to win New Balance running shoes worth R1000. As always is the most important beneficiary of the race, Reach for Recovery, who will receive a portion of proceeds from the SPAR Joburg Challenge entries.

In addition, the first 15 000 entrants will each receive a New Balance SPAR Challenge t-shirt on registration, and the first 15 000 finishers will be given a medal and a goody bag.

Online entries opened on August 1 and close on September 27, but late entries will be accepted between October 10 and 13. Online entries are available at www.sparwomensrace.co.za


RECORDS TUMBLE AT 10KM CHALLENGE

Pretoria South Africa - Mapaseka “Speedsta” Makhanya romped home in a record 33.37 minutes to win the Pretoria leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at SuperSport Park on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
Her emphatic victory means the Transnet runner is virtually assured of winning the SPAR Grand Prix prize of a Nissan Micra car after the Johannesburg leg of the Challenge series in October.

A jubilant Mapaseka Makhanya of Transnet crosses the finish line first in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge on Saturday at SuperSport Park in a record winning time of 33:37. Picture by Reg Caldecott


Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, finished second in 33.56 and her Nedbank teammate, Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk) was third, in 34.21. Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) was hot on her heels, in 34.32.
The first four all broke the record (34.50) set by Kalmer in 2011.
“I had a great run,” said Makhanya.
“Rene and I ran together for a while, but I pulled away from her at about five and a half kilometres. It was quite a tough course – hilly and windy – but I was quite comfortable until the last two kilometres, which were downhill and really hard on my legs.
“But when you win, you forget about all the discomfort,” she beamed.
Kalmer, who was coming back from an injury that she sustained during the Boston Marathon, said she was happy with her run.
“I wanted to make the top three, and I did,” she said.
“My time was a minute faster than last year, and I really feel I’m back in the groove, after a year of injury and illness.”
Van Zyl, also a former Grand Prix winner, has also been plagued with injury, and had to withdraw from the World Championships marathon in Moscow earlier this month because of knee problems, and she was delighted with her third place.
“I had a great day today,” she said.
“I’ve had so many problems with injuries – my knee, and a foot that goes numb – but today I was able to run the whole race without stopping. Third today was like a win for me. My knee is fine and I’m having treatment for the numb foot, so I can control it now.”
Van Zyl said she had been in about 20th position at the start of the race.
“I slowly caught them up, one by one. At about seven kilometres, I caught up with Rutendo Myahora, and she didn’t want me to pass her, but then I was able to pull away from her at about seven kilometres.”
Makhanya is best known as a track runner, and is aiming to move up from 800 metres to 1500 and 5000 metres. She is also planning preparing to run a marathon early next year.
“My heart is still on the track, but I love these races, and I have worked very hard to win the Grand Prix. I really feel I’ve earned it,” she said.


MAKHANYA HAS HER EYES ON THE PRIZE

Pretoria, South Africa - With two SPAR Women’s 10km races to go, Mapaseka Makhanya appears to have one hand on the keys to a new Nissan Micra. The car will be handed over to the runner with the most points in the SPAR Grand Prix at the end of the five race series.

Mapaseka Makhanya after finishing the Cape Town leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge, at Greenpoint Stadium in March this year.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


However, Makhanya will be aware that she still has some work to do to make absolutely sure that the car is hers to drive away.

Among those breathing down her neck are last year’s winner, Rene Kalmer, and her sister, Christine. Rene Kalmer was plagued by injury and illness earlier this year, and was not the dominant force she normally is. She had to withdraw from the Port Elizabeth race because of a calf injury she sustained in the Boston Marathon. But she says she is back to her best and intends trying to wrestle the keys away from Makhanya.

“My training is going well, and I’m feeling very good,” she said. “I lost a bit of ground in the Grand Prix because I couldn’t run in Port Elizabeth, but I am aiming for a top three Grand Prix finish – and if things go well in Pretoria on Saturday and in Johannesburg in October, who knows what could happen.”

Makhanya currently tops the Grand Prix ladder, with 67 points, and her nearest rival is Christine Kalmer, with 48. “Christine is running very well at the moment,” said Rene Kalmer.
“She gives me a good go at training, and she really could challenge for the top spot. Mapaseka is running very well, so she’s going to be hard to beat, but Christine has gained so much confidence and she’s a very different athlete this year from what she was a year ago. She really has a good chance of overturning Mapaseka’s Grand Prix lead on Saturday.”

Former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl and Myrette Filmater are in joint third place, with 40 points, and Rene Kalmer and Nolene Conrad are in fifth place, with 34. They are followed closely by Jenna Challenor and Diana-Lebo Phalula, with 33 each.

So while Makhanya can be reasonably confident of emerging as the ultimate Grand Prix winner, the battle for valuable Grand Prix points will ensure an exciting race at the Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge at Supersport Park on Saturday afternoon. The Grand Prix runner-up receives R30 000 and the athlete with the third most points takes home R17 500.


Online Entries for the Joburg SPAR Women’s Challenge are Live!

Online Entries for the SPAR Women’s Challenge are Open!
Visit: http://www.sparwomensrace.co.za/jhb-home.html today!!


MAKHANYA LEADS GRAND PRIX, BUT TITLE STILL UP FOR GRABS

Johannesburg, South Africa - The SPAR Grand Prix title appears to be heading for a new winner, after Mapaseka Makhanya’s decisive victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Durban on Sunday, although the battle for the title appears to be the closest in the Grand Prix’s history.

Rutendo Nyahora and Mapaseka Makhanya ahead of the pack (Diana-Lebo Phalula, Christine Kalmer and Rene Kalmer) during Sunday’s race.

Christine Kalmer in action during the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge, run on 23 June 2013.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


After running neck and neck with Rutendo Nyahora, who won the first two Challenges this year, Makhanya made her break at 5km on Sunday and showed the rest of the field a clean pair of heels. Her victory, in a personal best time of 32.49 minutes, earned her 30 Grand Prix points (20 from the win, and 10 earned for beating last years’ time), and boosted her to 67 points.

The Grand Prix has become a major element on South Africa’s road-running calendar, with South Africa’s best runners battling it out for top honours in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The winner this year will receive a personalised Nissan Micra car and the runner-up will take home R30 000.
Runners earn Grand Prix points according to their positions in the five Challenge races. The top 20 runners in each race earn Grand Prix points, with the winner receiving 20 and the 20th-placed runner one point.

Nyahora, who won the first two Challenges this year, in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, does not qualify for Grand Prix points, because she is a Zimbabwean. The Grand Prix is open only to South Africans.

Since its introduction in 2007, the Grand Prix title has been shared between teammates, Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl, with Poppy Mlambo named the winner in 2008. But this time it is Kalmer’s younger sister, Christine, who is challenging Makhanya. Christine Kalmer, who works as a civil engineer, finished third on Sunday and has accumulated 48 points, after finishing seventh in Cape Town and fifth in Port Elizabeth.

There is close competition for the next few places. Van Zyl and Myrette Filmalter are lying joint third, with 40 points, followed by Rene Kalmer and Nolene Conrad, who have 34. Diana-Lebo Phalula and Jenna Challenor are in joint seventh position, with 33 points. Zintle Xiniwe is in ninth position, with 27 points, and Mlambo is in 10th, with 24. With two races to go, the tussle for the Grand Prix is still wide open.

Three-times winner Rene Kalmer, who missed the Port Elizabeth race because of an Achilles tendon injury she sustained in the Boston Marathon, still has an outside chance of making up lost ground, if she wins the last two Challenge races, in Pretoria and Johannesburg. But Kalmer has struggled with injury this year, and said after the Durban race that she was not putting any pressure on herself. “I had a brilliant year last year, with the Olympics and everything else, but my body is telling me to take it a bit easier this year. Some people take a year off to have babies – I’m having a year off for injuries,” she laughed.

But Rene would be thrilled if Christine could win the title. “I’m so proud of her,” she said. “She has a fulltime job, whereas most of us are professional athletes, so she is doing fantastically. I would love her to win the car.”

Makhanya, the South African 1500m and 5000 champion, took up road running as part of her preparation for moving to longer distances on the track. Track running is still her first love, but she is also determined to win the Grand Prix and take home the car.

Grand Prix standings after three races:
Senior: 1 Mapaseka Makhanya (Transnet) 67; 2 Christine Kalmer (Nedbank CG) 48; 3 Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank CG) and Myrette Filmalter (Nedbank GN) 40; 5 Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CG) and Nolene Conrad (Nedbank CG) 34: 7 Diana-Lebo Phalula (Maxed Elite CG) and Jenna Challenor (Boxer KZN) 33: 9 Zintle Xiniwe (Maxed Elite WP) 27; 10 Poppy Mlambo (Boxer CG) 24
Junior: 1 Annie Botha 20; 2 Ileana Dreyer, Jamie-Lee Schlemmer, and Nicole van der Merwe 4
Veterans: 1 Janene Carey 19; 2 Ronel Thomas 6; 3 Linley Holmes 4
Masters: 1 Grace de Oliviera 28; 2 Annatjie Botes 13; 3 Mariette Strauss 10
Grandmasters: 1 Sonja Laxton 10; 2 Lien Botha 5; 3 Helen du Plessis, Liz Grundlingh and Sandra Fismer 4


TRACK RUNNER BECOMES QUEEN OF THE ROAD

Durban, South Africa - Transnet’s Mapaseka Makhanya, better known as a track runner, cruised to victory in the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Durban on Sunday in a time of 32.49 minutes.

The top 3 finishers (L-R) Rutendo Nyahora (2nd), Mapaseka Makhanya (Winner) and the 3rd placed Christine Kalmer in the SPAR Women’s Challenge run in Durban on Sunday, 23 June 2013.

Mapaseka Makhanya danced across the finish line, after winning with a PB of 32.49 in the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge.
Pics by: Reg Caldecott


Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank CGA), who won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races, finished second, in 33.55, followed by Christine Kalmer (Nedbank CGA), who crossed the line in 34.13. Kalmer’s sister, Rene, finished fourth, 24 seconds after her younger sister.

Sixteen-thousand 309 runners entered the 24th edition of the oldest Challenge race and the 5km Fun Run. A young, unidentified runner stormed into the lead at the start, but she was soon overtaken by the established runners, who ran in a bunch for the first five kilometres.

Makhanya broke away at that stage, and gradually extended her lead. “I was feeling good, so I decided to go for it,” she said. “I didn’t come here with any definite plan in mind, I just decided to run my own race. I don’t put any pressure of expectations on myself, I just want to run the best race I can.

“I am very happy to have won, but my heart is still very much with track running. I like road running, but I still have big ambitions on the track.” Makhanya, the South African 1500 and 5000m champion, said her next big outing was a 5000m race in Europe.

Nyahora praised Makhanya, saying she had run a very good race. “I think her track running gives her a lot of speed. I am pleased with my performance today, because I ran the best race I could.”

Kalmer, who led the race for a brief period, said her third place was her best finish in a Challenge race. “I am absolutely delighted to have come third. “I was a bit surprised when I found myself in the lead – I usually let the others go ahead and then see where I can fit in, so this was a bit unusual for me. But then Mapaseka and Rutendo overtook me, and that was that.”

Rene Kalmer said this was her first race since the Boston Marathon, where she picked up an Achilles’ tendon injury. “I had a fantastic year last year, with the Olympic Games and a lot of other good results, and I think my body is telling me to have a bit of a break. I was pleased with my fourth position, but I am so proud of Christine coming third. She works fulltime, so coming third is a huge achievement for her.”
Makhyana’s victory puts her in pole position on the SPAR Grand Prix table. The winner of the Grand Prix will receive a Nissan Micra car, and the runner-up will take home R30 000.


SPAR GRAND PRIX WIDE OPEN

Johannesburg, South Africa - The race for the 2013 SPAR Grand Prix title is wide open ahead of the Durban SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge on Sunday.

Rene Kalmer in action during the 2012 Durban SPAR Women’s Challenge.
Pic by: Reg Caldecott


Last year’s winner, Rene Kalmer, who has won the title three times, is fighting fit again, and is likely to be hard to beat in Sunday’s race. Kalmer was recovering from injury at the Cape Town Challenge, where she finished fourth, and could not compete in Port Elizabeth, after sustaining an Achilles’ tendon injury in the Boston Marathon.

However, Kalmer is confident that she can make up the deficit and retain her title. “Three races give me the opportunity to make up lost points,” she said. “I just have to run my best and win the last three races.”

But Challenge newcomer Mapaseka Makhanya, who currently heads the Grand Prix ladder, with 37 points, after finishing second in Cape Town and third in Port Elizabeth, has staked her claim to the Nissan Micra the winner will receive. “I want that car,” she laughed. “I believe this is my year, and I can win it.”

Makhanya is better known as a track runner, and is in the process of moving from 800 and 1500 metres to 5000 and 10 000 metres events, and is using the SPAR Women’s Challenge Series as part of her training programme. “I need to get the mileage in my legs for the longer races,” she explained. “But I am more used to running on the track – I find road running a bit harder. I have to convert the kilometres to metres – I can accept 10 000metres, but I find the thought of 10kms quite daunting.”

Grand Prix points are awarded to the top runners in the five Challenge races, which are run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The winner will receive a personalised Nissan Micra, and the runner-up will receive R30 000.

Rutendo Nyahora won the first two races this year, but as a Zimbabwean, is not eligible for Grand Prix points, which are awarded only to South Africans. “I’m just enjoying the races and am determined to win all five this year,” she said after her victory in Port Elizabeth. However, with Kalmer back at her best, Nyahora may have to look to her laurels on Sunday.


MAKHANYA IN DRIVING SEAT

Johannesburg, South Africa - Mapaseka Makhanya has her eyes on the prize – after two races in the five race SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series, she has a seven-point lead on the Grand Prix ladder.

Diana-Lebo Phalula, Mapaseka Makhanya and Rutendo Nyahora on route during the PE leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge, run on Saturday 4th May.
Picture by: Mark West


The Grand Prix has become a major element on South Africa’s road-running calendar, with South Africa’s best runners battling it out for top honours in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The winner this year will receive a Nissan Micra car and the runner-up will take home R30 000.

Runners earn Grand Prix points according to their positions in the five Challenge races. The top 20 runners in each race earn Grand Prix points, with the winner receiving 20 and the 20th-placed runner one point.

Since its inception, Olympians Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk) have dominated the Grand Prix, with Poppy Mlambo the only other runner to win the ultimate prize.
But things are looking very different this year, with road-running newcomer Makhanya determined to maintain top position.

“I’m very excited to be on top of the ladder. I really want that Nissan Micra,” she laughed, after finishing third in the Port Elizabeth race on Saturday. The race was won by Rutendo Nyahora, who also won the Cape Town leg in March. However, as a Zimbabwean, Nyahora does not qualify for the Grand Prix, which is open only to South African citizens. “I’m just enjoying doing well in the race, and I am aiming to win all five,” said Nyahora.

Kalmer’s sister, Christine, who finished fifth in Port Elizabeth, and Irvette van Zyl, who came seventh, are in joint second position on the ladder, with 30 points. Zintle Xiniwe is in fourth place, with 27 points. Diana-Lebo Phalula, who came second in Port Elizabeth, but did not compete in Cape Town, is in eighth place, with 19 points.

Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, had to withdraw from the Port Elizabeth race because of a calf injury sustained during the Boston Marathon in April. She is currently in joint 10th position, with Nedbank CGA teammate, Cornelia Joubert, with 17 points. Kalmer has not given up on the Grand Prix, though. “There are still three races left and I will be back and I am determined to defend my title,” she said.

Annie Bothma is in the lead in the junior category, and Janene Carey leads the veterans group. Multiple Comrades marathon gold medalist Grace de Oliveira is the leading master, and the evergreen Sonja Laxton, who has run 77 Challenge races, tops the grandmasters category.

Neddbank CGA, with 120 points, have a massive lead in the club competition. They are followed by Boxer with 87 points, and Transnet with 72.

The third race in the SPAR Women’s Challenge series takes place in Durban on June 23.


NYAHORA MAKES IT TWO INROW

Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank CGA) notched up her second consecutive SPAR Women’s Challenge victory when she stormed home in 33.09 minutes in the Port Elizabeth race on Sunday.Nyahora also won the race in Cape Town in March.

The top three runners of the Port Elizabeth leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge at Pollok Beach on Saturday.
(l-r) Rutendo Nyahora, Mapaseka Makhanya, Diana-Lebo Phalula.

Rutendo Nyahora crosses the finish line at the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Port Elizabeth.
Pictures by Mark West


Diana-Lebo Phalula (Maxed Elite) finished second in 33.39 and Mapaseka Makhanya (Transnet) finished third in 34.06.

The top three runners went into the lead from the start, in cold, blustery conditions, running in a close pack. Nyahora moved ahead at the five km mark, and Makhanya dropped back. “At the start, I was happy to stick with the others, but I decided at five kms that I must make my move and go ahead,” said Nyahora. “I was aiming for 32 minutes, but the wind was strong so that made running quite hard,” she said. “Lebo set a good pace and really helped me to win.”

Nyahora said she would take a short break, and then start training for the Durban SPAR Challenge race. “I want to win all the SPAR races this year,” she said. “I know that as a Zimbabwean I can’t qualify for the Grand Prix, but I am still determined to make this my year.”

Phalula, who won the Port Elizabeth Challenge in 2011, said she had just gone out to do her best. “I’m not in 100 per cent condition at the moment, but I’m happy with my race. I just decided to go out there and do my best. Now it’s back to the drawing board, and I will be ready for the Durban Challenge in June. But before that, I’ll be running in the South African 10km Championships in Durban on May 19.”

Makhanya, whose third place put her on top of the Grand Prix ladder, after her second place in Cape Town, said she had battled in the race because of the conditions. “I got very cold, and just couldn’t get warm,” she said. Makhanya, who has done most of her running on the track, said she was new to road running, but was enjoying the experience. “I’ve got the speed from the track, but I need to put in the mileage on the road,” she said. “I’m moving upwards from 800 metres to 1500 and 5000 metres, and the road running will be very helpful. Eventually, I plan to move over to marathons – I plan to run my first marathon in 2016.”

Irvette van Zyl, twice winner of the SPAR Grand Prix, said she had had a bad race, finishing in seventh place. “I think I still had the London Marathon in my legs, and I have been struggling for some time with numbness in my left leg. I had to stop at four kms to stretch it, and you can’t afford to do that in a 10km race,” she said.
Evergreen Sonja Laxton, who was running her 77th Challenge race, won the Grandmaster category, and Grace de Oliveira, multiple Comrades Marathon gold medalist, was the first Master home.

Thirteen thousand 149 runners took part in the running of the 20th Port Elizabeth SPAR Women’s Challenge.


FAST TIME EXPECTED IN SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South Africa - With most of South Africa’s top runners competing in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, the race for Grand Prix points is wide open.

Mapaseka Makhanya crosses the finish line at the Cape Town leg of the SPAR Grand Prix.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


The Grand Prix leader after the first race in Cape Town in March is Transnet’s Mapaseka Makhanya, who came second to Rutendo Nyahora of Nedbank AGN. However, Nyahora is from Zimbabwe, and does not qualify for the Grand Prix, in which the top runners collect points from the five Challenge races held around the country. After one race, Makhanya has 19 points, and third placed Zintle Xiniwe (Maxed Elite WP) has 13.

However, Makhanya and Xiniwe will be aware that they have strong competition for Grand Prix points from Nedbank CG teammates Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl, who have 17 and 16 points respectively.

Kalmer, who has won the Grand Prix three times, recently returned to competitive running after a long lay-off because of an Achilles tendon injury sustained during the Olympic Marathon in London last year. Although she finished fourth in the Cape Town race, she showed signs that she was well on her way to her dominant best. She issued a warning to her rivals after the Cape Town race, saying she expected to be back at her best for the Port Elizabeth race, and that she was determined to win the Grand Prix again.

Van Zyl, who has won the Grand Prix twice, is also in good form. She was 10th woman home in the London Marathon and can be expected to give a good account of herself in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. “I was very pleased with my performance in the London Marathon, although I found the last eight kilometres very tough,” said Van Zyl. “I’ve had some trouble with numbness in my leg, and in the last few kilometres I was struggling with a sore knee and a blister. But I had a personal best and I enjoyed the Marathon much more than I did last year.”

Van Zyl said she expected a fierce struggle for top place, and a fast time in Port Elizabeth. “The other girls are going to give us a hard time. Patterns have changed in the SPAR races – it’s no longer a case of just going into the lead and staying there. There is very strong competition and Mapaseka, for example, is in very good shape. “I think people are even more excited about the SPAR races, after seeing Rene win a car last year. Now everyone wants to get their hands on those car keys.”

At the end of the five-race series, the runner with most points will win a Nissan Micra. The second-placed athlete receives R30 000.


RESULTS OF SPAR WOMEN’S 10 KM CHALLENGE

Results of the SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge run at the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point on Sunday

Open:
1 Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank AGN) 33.10; 2 Mapaseka Makhanya (Transnet Engineering) 33.22; 3. Zintle Xiniwe (Maxed Elite) 33.40; 4 Rene Kalmer(Nedbank CGA) 33.50; 5. Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank CGA) 33.59; 6 Nolene Conrad (Nedbank CGA) 34.03; 7. Christine Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) 34.35; 8 Khana Mateyisi (Khayelitsha) 35.48; 9 Myrette Filmater (Nedbank CGA) 35.48; 10 Poppy Mlambo (Boxer AC) 36.11
Junior:
1. Annie Bothma 37.17; Ileana Dreyer 40.11; 3 Amy Abrahams 41.26
Veteran:
1 Janene Carey 37.59; 2 Linley Holmes 38.38; 3 Sheryl de Lange 40.07
Master:
1 Mariette Esterhuyse 41.36; 2 Annatjie Botes 41.43; 3 Grace de Oliveira 41.47
Grandmaster:
1 Sonja Laxton 44.57; 2 Helen du Plessis 48.47; 3 Marietha erbert 50.06


RUNAWAY VICTORY FOR NYAHORA

Cape Town, South Africa - Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) stormed to victory in the SPAR Women’s 10 Km Challenge at the Cape Town Stadium in Greenpoint on Sunday.

Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank AGN) wins the SPAR Women’s Challenge run in Cape Town on Sunday 17 March 2013.

The top 3 finishers in the SPAR Women’s Challenge run in Cape Town on Sunday 17 March 2013. From left to right: Mapaseka Makhanya (2nd), the winner Rutendo Nyahora and Zintle Xiniwe (3rd).
Pictures by Reg Caldecott


Mapaseka Makhanya of Transnet was second followed by Zintle Xiniwe (Maxed Elite).
It was a first time Challenge victory for Nyahora, who went into the lead at the start and stayed a good distance ahead of her rivals throughout the race.
“This is one of my best wins,” said Nyahora.
“It’s a great start to the year, and I think this is going to be my year.”
Nyahora, who finished second in Cape Town last year, said she had felt comfortable throughout the race.
“I thought it was going to be harder than it was,” she said.
“Normally, I look around and see where people like Rene (Kalmer) and Irvette (Van Zyl) are, but this time I decided to run my own race and not to worry about them. I told myself to just go, and I had a strong mind today.
“Mapaseka (Makhanya) was my target – she beat me about two weeks ago, and I was worried about her. So I just went ahead and didn’t look back.”
Makhanya, who was running the Cape Town leg of the Challenge for the first time, said she had not known what to expect, but she had found the route very easy. She moved into second position after five kilometres.
“I ran with Irvette for the first five kilometres, but then she fell back and I just went ahead. I liked the route – I didn’t even feel the hills,” she said.
Makhanya is scheduled to run in the World Cross Country championships in Poland next weekend.
Xiniwe said she was very pleased with her time.
“I don’t have much competition down here, so I am very pleased with the way I ran today,” she said.
Defending champion Rene Kalmer, running her first competitive race after a five-month lay-off because of an Achilles tendon injury, was fourth.
“I’m not disappointed. I’m very satisfied with my performance today,” she said. “I had a good run and it was great to be back on the road competing again. But Rutendo and the others must watch out – I’ll be back at my best in the next Challenge in Port Elizabeth in May.”
More than 21 000 runners took part in the 10k Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.


KALMER BACK AFTER INJURY LAY-OFF

• 2013 SPAR Challenge Series kicks off in Cape Town
• Defending SPAR Grand Prix Champions to hit Cape Town by storm
• Record entry expected at SPAR race in Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa - Defending champion Rene Kalmer will be returning to competition on Sunday when she takes part in the annual SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Green Point Common.
Kalmer, who has been out of action for several months with an Achilles tendon injury which kept her out of the Johannesburg leg of the Challenge Series in October last year, says she will not be putting herself under any pressure in her first race back.

Last year’s race champion and reigning SPAR Grand Prix title holder Rene Kalmer crosses the finish line of last year’s SPAR Challenge in Cape Town. Kalmer will be in Cape Town Sunday to defend her title.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


“The injury was more serious than I originally thought, and I am just very happy to be fit and back on the road again,” said the Olympic marathon runner.
“I’ll be running my heart out on Sunday, and I hope to be able to win, but I’m not going to put myself under pressure, just because I’m the defending champion.
“I just want to get back into the shape I was in last year, before I was injured.”
Last year, Kalmer cruised to victory over Rutendo Nyahora and Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk), who will both be running again this weekend. Kalmer, who first ran in the SPAR Challenger series in 1998, has been a regular ever competitor ever since, and has won more Challenge races than any other runner.
“Irvette is probably the one to look out for,” said Kalmer.
“She’s run a number of races this year and has been running very well, whereas I haven’t competed for several months.”
Kalmer, who represented South Africa in the Marathon at the Olympic Games in London last year, said her next big international challenge would be the Boston Marathon on April 15, where she will be competing as an elite runner.
“I’m very excited about that,” she said.
“It will be my first time in the Boston Marathon, which is one of the major marathons. I am enjoying running marathons – I prefer road running to running on the track, where you are under pressure from the clock all the time. Also, because I am not doing so much track running, I don’t have to be away from home for three months every year. It sounds very glamorous, but it can be very hard, competing week after week. With marathon running, you train for a race and then you can relax a bit,” said Kalmer.
Other top runners competing on Sunday include Kalmer’s sister, Christine, who is beginning to show signs of becoming a major force in road running, Zintle Xiniwe, Nolene Conrad and Cary-Ann Smith. Multiple Comrades Marathon gold medallist Grace de Oliveira and Sonja Laxton, who is South Africa’s most successful runner on the track as well as the road, will also be taking part. Great grandmaster Laxton will be running her 77th Challenge race. She is virtually unchallenged in her age category, having been beaten only once.
The Cape Town Challenge is the first in a series of five Challenge races, which are run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth (May), Durban (June), Pretoria (August) and Johannesburg (October). The top runners compete for points on the SPAR Grand Prix ladder. The runner with the most points after the five races will win a Nissan Micra, while the runner-up will take home R30 000 and the third placed runner will receive R17 500.
Since its inception in 2007, Kalmer and Van Zyl have dominated the Grand Prix. Kalmer won it in 2007, 2009 and 2012, while Van Zyl won in 2010 and 2011. Poppy Mlambo won the Grand Prix in 2008.
“I’m definitely going to be trying hard to win another car,” laughed Kalmer.
“Luckily there are five races, so even if I don’t win on Sunday, there is plenty of time to come back.”

As of Wednesday, race organisers had confirmed they had over 16 430 entries for the race on Sunday and were on track to reaching a race entry record.


SPAR GRAND PRIX GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

Johannesburg, South Africa - There is great news for the top runners in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series – the prize money for this year’s Grand Prix has been increased to a whopping R139 000 and the winner will once again take home a car.

Rene Kalmer won her dream prize in 2012 after clinching the SPAR Grand Prix title.
Picture by Reg Caldecott


The SPAR Grand Prix has become a major element on South Africa’s road-running calendar, with South Africa’s best runners battling it out for top honours in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Since its inception, Olympians Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk) have dominated the Grand Prix, with Poppy Mlambo the only other runner to win the ultimate prize.
Runners earn Grand Prix points according to their positions in the five Challenge races. The top 20 runners in each race earn Grand Prix points, with the winner receiving 20 and the 20th-placed runner one point. An age category runner also earns points by finishing in top five in her age group, with the overall age group winners taking home R3500.

Runners can also earn bonus points by finishing the race in a faster time than the winning time in the particular race in the previous year. All runners who beat the 2012 overall winning time in the relevant age category of the corresponding race in 2013 will score five time incentive points.

More prizes will be presented in the open category this year, with the top 15 on the final points table receiving cash prizes – up from the first 10 last year. The winner will receive a Nissan Micra car, and the runner-up R30 000. The third-placed athlete receives R17 500 – up from the previous R15 000, and the age category winners will receive an additional R500 taking their prize money to R3 500.

SPAR Group Marketing Executive Mike Prentice says the group is thrilled with the growing interest in the Grand Prix. “SPAR sees the Challenge races, and the Grand Prix in particular, as one of our most important sponsorships,” he said. “We take pride in rewarding our country’s top athletes for their efforts on the road through our Grand Prix Series. And while the SPAR Challenge races are about the everyday woman, without the participation of our country’s elite athletes, the series would not have the prestige and credibility it has achieved.”

The runners are just as enthusiastic. “The Grand Prix is a great incentive on those mornings when you don’t want to get up,” said Van Zyl. “The thought of the prize money – or better still, the car – helps you get out on the road.” For Kalmer, who clinched her third Grand Prix title in 2013, winning the car last year was a dream come true. “I’ve always wanted to win a car,” she said. “That is such a special prize. And yes, I’ll be going all out to win a new one this year as well.”


KALMER WINS HER DREAM PRIZE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Road-running queen Rene Kalmer has won the SPAR Grand Prix for the third time, winning herself her dream prize.

Rene Kalmer, winner of the SPAR Grand Prix, at the awards ceremony that took place on Wednesday at Buitengeluk, Broadacres.

Rene Kalmer with her new Nissan Micra; first prize of the SPAR Grand Prix.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


Kalmer’s victories in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Pretoria gave her 110 points and put her in a position where she could not be overtaken on the Grand Prix ladder. Her Grand Prix prize is a new Nissan Micra.

She had hoped to become the first person to make a clean sweep of all five SPAR Women’s Challenge races, but had to withdraw from the Johannesburg race because of an Achilles tendon injury, which put her out of action for at least two weeks. “I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t run, but at least I had made sure of my position on the Grand Prix ladder,” said Kalmer. “It has always been my dream to win a car. When I heard that this year’s prize was a car, I made up my mind that I was going to be the one to take that car home.”

Her Grand Prix win is the culmination of a year in which Kalmer has dominated women’s road running in South Africa. “I’ve had an awesome 2012,” she said. “Now I’m looking forward to another good year in 2013. I’m especially looking forward to the world championships in Moscow in August – I’ve never been there, and so that will be a great adventure.”

2010 and 2011 Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk), won the Joburg Challenge race in 34.34 minutes to clinch second place on the Grand Prix ladder, with 74 points. She receives prize money of R30 000. “I was in fourth position on the ladder, so I’m very excited that I was able to move up into second place,” said Van Zyl after the Joburg race.

Kalmer’s younger sister, Christine, finished third, with 71 points, Zintle Xiniwe fourth with 68, and Nolene Conrad fifth with 60.

Annie Bothma won the junior category with 13 points, Janene Carey pipped Boxer teammate Ronel Thomas at the post with 28 points to 24 in the veterans’ category, and Grace de Oliviera won the masters’ category with 20 points. The evergreen Sonja Laxton, who has run 76 SPAR Women’s Challenges, won the grandmasters’ prize with 30 points.

With its runners taking the first three places, Nedbank CGA easily won the club competition, with a total of 292 points. Bidvest CGA were second with 108 and Boxer finished third with 107 points.


SEMENYA WINS 2012 SPAR gsport ATHLETE AWARD

The biggest women’s sport winners of 2012 were announced at a star-studded
gathering at the prestigious Wanderers Club in Johannesburg, where Olympic silver medallist
Caster Semenya was named SPAR Athlete of the Year.

Keep reading →


CELEBRATE OUR SPORTS STARS BY POUNDING THE PAVEMENTS

Johannesburg, South Africa - The past few weeks have been full of excitement for South African sports fans.

Marketing Director of SPAR South Rand Mark Hedderwick with top runners (from left) Rene Kalmer, Ronel Thomas, Poppy Mlambo and Irvette van Blerk at the launch of the Joburg SPAR Women’s Challenge, on Tuesday 4 September at Buitengeluk, Broadacres.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


It all started when the SPAR South African netball team beat Jamaica for the first time in 45 years, before whitewashing Northern Ireland 3-0 in the Challenge series in Cape Town and beating Malawi to win the first Diamond Challenge in Pretoria.

Golfer Ernie Els had a brilliant victory in the British Open, and the same weekend, Hashim Amla became the first South African to score a triple Test century, as the Proteas annihilated the world number one side, England, by an innings and 12 runs in the first Test at the Oval in London. The Proteas went on to win the series two-nil, and take over the mantle of the world’s top Test team.

At the Olympic Games, South Africans rejoiced over the exploits of Team South Africa. There were seven medals, including three gold medals, a world record, and personal bests for many of the athletes and the world celebrated when double amputee Oscar Pistorius made history by qualifying for the semi-final of the men’s 400 metres. And after all that came the wonderful performances by the South African Paralympic team.

So, forced indoors by unexpected snow and bitterly cold weather, many South Africans spent the last part of winter glued to their television sets, watching their compatriots succeeding on the international stage. But it is warmer now, the days are longer and Spring is here, and we all need to leave our television sets and get back into action. What could be better than preparing for the annual SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Old Parktonians in Randburg on Sunday October 14.

For a number of years, the Joburg leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge has marked the start of Spring in Johannesburg, as thousands of women of all shapes and sizes take to the streets to prepare for the race. The doyenne of road-running in South Africa, Sonja Laxton, will provide training tips, and sportswear giants, New Balance, will provide advice on how to choose the best shoe for you and your style of running.

As always, there are awesome prizes to be won. This year, for the first time, a lucky runner stands the chance of winning a Nissan Micra simply by taking part in the race. The schools with the most entries will win Mecer laptops and accessories and there is the ever-popular Bring-a-Friend competition, where you and a friend who is competing for the first time can each win New Balance shoes worth R1000.
The first 12 000 women to enter will be given a free race t-shirt on registration, and the first 12 000 to finish will receive a medal and a goodie-bag.

The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge coincides with Breast Cancer month, and proceeds from the race go to Reach for Recovery, a support group for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The Reach for Recovery volunteers have all had their own encounters with the disease, and so they are in a perfect position to talk to and counsel women who have just heard those ominous words “you have breast cancer.” A few of Joburg’s local celebrities will also be taking part in the Torch of Hope Relay to raise funds and awareness of cancer.

Olympic marathon runner Rene Kalmer has secured the SPAR Grand Prix title by winning the first four Challenge races, but she has vowed to become the first person to win all five races, and other top runners like fellow Olympian Irvette van Blerk, Zintle Xiniwe, Christine Kalmer and Portia Ngwenya will be vying for important Grand Prix points to secure the lucrative cash prizes for the top runners on the Grand Prix ladder.

But while there is fierce competition among the top runners, the race is really about the thousands of women who take part for the fun of it, and to meet new people and make new friends. For those who are daunted by the thought of 10kms, there is a 5km Fun Run, and walkers are welcome in both races.

Entry forms are available at all SPAR, KWIKSPAR and SUPERSPAR stores, or online at www.spar.co.za or www.sparwomensrace.co.za


KALMER FULFILS HER DREAM OF WINNINGCAR

Johannesburg South Africa - Victory in the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Pretoria has ensured that Rene Kalmer has clinched her third Grand Prix title, but the Olympian insists that she has more to do.

Rene Kalmer crosses the finish line of the Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge run at Supersport Park, Centurion on Saturday 25 August.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott

Rene Kalmer in action during the Pretoria leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge
Picture by: Craig Nieuwenhuizen/Beeld


Kalmer won the Pretoria race in a record time, and now has 110 points – almost double those of her nearest rival, Portia Ngwenya, who has 56. Olympic Games marathon runner Kalmer has won every Challenge race this year, three of them in record time, and although she has the Grand Prix title in the bag, says she is determined to win the final race, in Johannesburg on October 14, as well.

The prize for the Grand Prix this year is a brand new Nissan Micra, and Kalmer is over the moon at having won a car. “Years ago, I was in a race where the first prize was a car, and ever since then, it’s been my ambition to win a car,” she said. “Now I have achieved that dream and I’m so excited. I’m thrilled to have won the Grand Prix again, but I am determined to win the last race, in Johannesburg on October 14, because no-one has ever won all five races. So I still have a lot to do in Johannesburg.”

While Kalmer has the title sewn up, the race for second and third place is wide open. Kalmer’s sister, Christine, is hot on Ngwenya’s heels, with 55 points, and defending champion Irvette van Blerk is in fourth place, with 54. Van Blerk, who won the Grand Prix title in 2010 and 2011, had to withdraw from the Pretoria race because of injury.

Sonja Laxton, with 25 points from three races, cannot be beaten in the Grandmasters (over 60) category, and Grace de Oliveira appears to have a lock on the Masters (50-59) category.
There is a fierce tussle for points in the Veterans (40-49) category between Janene Carey and Ronel Thomas. Thomas has 24 points and Carey 23, so the Johannesburg race could determine the outcome of the title.

In the Junior category, Annie Bothma, with 13 points, has a slight lead over Tabisa Sirayi and Olivia Labuschagne, who have 10 points each. Kalmer and Van Blerk’s club, Nedbank CGA, with 228 points, has an overwhelming lead over Bidvest CGA (98) and Boxer (97) in the club competition.

SPAR Grand Prix Standings after four races:
Open: 1 Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) 110; 2 Portia Ngwenya (Transnet) 56; 3 Christine Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) 55; 4 Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) 54; 5 Zintle Xiniwe (Mr Price WP) 51
Veteran: 1 Ronel Thomas (Boxer 24); 2 Janene Carey (Boxer) 23; 3 Belinda Hickman-Mosdell (HQH) 5
Master: 1 Grace de Oliveira (Boxer) 25; 2 Olga Howard (Celtics) 10; 3 Annetjie Botes (Nedbank SWD) 8
Grandmaster: Sonja Laxton (RAC) 25; 2 Lien Botha (RFL) 10; 3 Veronica van Niekerk (Elgin/Grabouw) 9
Junior: Annie Bothma (Helderberg) 13; 2 Tabisa Sirayi (LAC) Olivia Labuschagne (New Balance) 10


KALMER AIMING FOR NEW CAR

Johannesburg, South Africa - Fresh from competing in the women’s marathon at the Olympic Games in London earlier this month, Rene Kalmer turns her attention to a shorter distance on Saturday.

Rene Kalmer crossing the finish line at the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge on 24 June 2012.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Kalmer will be trying to cement her claim to a brand new Nissan Micra by winning the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Supersport Park on Saturday afternoon. She won the first three races, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, and has an almost unassailable lead in the SPAR Grand Prix rankings.

After three races, Kalmer has 80 points – 24 ahead of her nearest rival, defending Grand Prix champion Irvette van Blerk. Kalmer and Van Blerk, both of Nedbank CGA, have dominated the Grand Prix since its inception, with two GP victories each. The only other GP winner was Poppy Mlambo in 2008.

Van Blerk, who came third in all three Challenge races so far this year, is only three points ahead of Cape Town runner Zintle Xiniwe, who has 51 points, after coming fourth in Cape Town, second in Port Elizabeth and sixth in Durban. Portia Ngwenya has 47 points, and Kalmer’s sister, Christine, has 43.

Kalmer and Van Blerk had differing experiences in the London Marathon. Kalmer ran a very good race and finished in 35th position out of 105 finishers, in a time of two hours 30.51 minutes, while Van Blerk was unable to finish because of an Achilles tendon injury. Kalmer’s confidence will be high on Saturday, and she is expected to have little difficulty in winning the Challenge.

Annie Bothma, with a win in Port Elizabeth and second place in Cape Town and Durban, leads the Grand Prix ladder in the junior category, with 13 points, with Thabisa Sirayi, who earned bonus points for winning the Durban race in record time, in second place on 10 points.

There is a close tussle in the veteran category, where just one point separates Boxer runners Ronel Thomas and Janene Carey, who have 24 and 23 points respectively.

Multiple Comrades Marathon Gold Medallist Grace de Oliveira leads the master category, with 20 points after record-breaking victories in Port Elizabeth and Durban. Olga Howard, who won the Cape Town race, but did not compete in the other two, is in second place with 10 points.
Although she did not run in Durban, evergreen RAC runner Sonja Laxton, who has 20 points, is well ahead of her nearest rival, who won the Durban race.

Nedbank CGA (131 points), whose runners took the first four places in Durban on Sunday, have a massive lead of 34 points over Boxer (97), with Bidvest CGA a distance third with 66 points.


CAR ALMOST WITHIN KALMER’S GRASP

Johannesburg, South Africa - Two-times SPAR Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) took another giant stride at the weekend towards claiming this year’s Grand Prix prize of a Nissan Micra with a comfortable victory in the Durban SPAR Women’s 10-km Challenge on Sunday.

It was Kalmer’s third successive Challenge win this year, after her victories in the Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay legs.

Although she failed to improve on last year’s winning time, Kalmer now has 80 points – 26 ahead of her nearest rival, defending Grand Prix champion Irvette van Blerk, who has also won the Grand Prix twice. Van Blerk finished third in all three races to accumulate a total of 54 points. Zintle Xiniwe (Mr Price) is in third position, with 51 points, after coming fourth in Cape Town, second in Port Elizabeth, and sixth in Durban. Portia Ngwenya (Transnet) has 47 points and Christine Kalmer, (Nedbank CGA) has 43. Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora, who finished second in Cape Town and in Durban, does not qualify for the Grand Prix because she is not a South African citizen.

Despite her massive lead, Kalmer is not taking anything for granted. “Anything can happen between now and the end of the year,” she said. “But I aim to run the last two Challenge races, in Pretoria in August and in Johannesburg in October,” she said.

Before that, Kalmer and Van Blerk, as well as Tanith Maxwell, who came ninth in Durban, have a lot of their minds – the three will represent South Africa in the Women’s Marathon at the Olympic Games in London on August 5.

Kalmer and Van Blerk had differing views on the effect training for the Olympic Marathon had on their performance in the Challenge races. “I switched to marathons last year, and battled a bit in the shorter races, but now I have settled down,” said Kalmer. “I love the Challenge races, because they help me to focus. There always seems to be a SPAR race to prepare for, and they have been invaluable as part of my training.”

Van Blerk said she was still trying to get used to training for the Marathon, and felt this had affected her performance in shorter races. “I quite like the Marathon, but wouldn’t like to do too many,” she said. “Next year, I’ll be able to focus on 10km races again, and will do my best to win the Grand Prix again.”
Annie Bothma, with a win in Port Elizabeth and second place in Cape Town and Durban, leads the Grand Prix ladder in the junior category, with 13 points, with Thabisa Sirayi, who earned bonus points for winning the Durban race in record time, in second place on 10 points.

There is a close tussle in the veteran category, where just one point separates Boxer runners Ronel Thomas and Janene Carey, who have 24 and 23 points respectively. Multiple Comrades Marathon Gold Medallist Grace de Oliveira leads the master category, with 20 points after record-breaking victories in Port Elizabeth and Durban. Olga Howard, who won the Cape Town race, but did not compete in the other two, is in second place with 10 points.
Although she did not run in Durban, evergreen RAC runner Sonja Laxton, who has 20 points, is well ahead of her nearest rival Lien Botha, who won the Durban race.

Nedbank CGA (131 points), whose runners took the first four places in Durban on Sunday, have a massive lead of 34 points over Boxer (97), with Bidvest CGA a distance third with 66 points.

SPAR Grand Prix Standings after three races:
Open: 1. Rene Kalmer 80, 2. Irvette van Blerk 54, 3. Zintle Xiniwe 51, 4. Portia Ngwenya 47, 5. Christine Kalmer 43
Junior: 1. Annie Bothma 13, 2. Thabisa Sirayi 10; 3. Pamela Mtshemla 5
Veteran: 1. Ronel Thomas 24; 2. Janene Carey 23; 3. Sheryl de Lange, Grizelda Pietersen, Shani Silver 3
Master: 1. Grace de Oliveira 20; 2. Olga Howard 10; 3. Annetjie Botes 8
Grandmaster: 1. Sonja Laxton 20; 2. Lien Botha 10; 3. Veronica van Niekerk 9


KALMER AND VAN BLERK FAVOURITES FOR DURBAN CHALLENGE

Johannesburg, South Africa - Although race favourites Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Blerk have their sights set firmly on the Olympic Marathon in London on August 5, both have much to gain from the SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge in Durban on Sunday.

Rene Kalmer crosses the finish line to win the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge run at Kings Beach on Saturday 05 May 2012.
Picture: Reg Caldecott

Irvette Van Blerk during the Cape Town leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge run on 15 April 2012 at Greenpoint Stadium.
Picture: Reg Caldecott


With two victories under her belt, Kalmer has her fingertips on the Grand Prix. She completed the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record times, and has a total of 60 points – well ahead of Van Blerk and Zintle Xiniwe, who have 36 points each. But with three races still to come, Kalmer will be aware that she needs to keep winning to make sure of claiming the Grand Prix prize of a new Nissan Micra.

Van Blerk came from behind last year, and won the last three races to secure her second Grand Prix in two years. With both runners in peak pre-Olympic condition, the race should be a neck-and-neck tussle between the two two-times Grand Prix winners. Xiniwe gave notice in Port Elizabeth of her determination to challenge for the top place, and Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora (who does not qualify for GP points) is also likely to give the top runners some stiff competition.

Other contenders for top honours include Annerien van Schalkwyk, Kalmer’s sister and training mate, Christine Kalmer and the Phalula twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang.

The Durban Challenge is the oldest of the five Challenge races, and more than 17 000 runners are expected to take part on Sunday. The top 20 runners all earn GP points, and there are also points available in the various age categories. Annie Bothma of Helderberg is in the lead in the junior section, Ronel Thomas has a two point lead in the veteran’s category, Olga Howard and Comrades gold medalist Grace de Oliveira are in joint first position in the Masters category, and the evergreen Sonja Laxton is the top Grandmaster.

While the GP winner will receive a new car at the end of the series, the runner-up will pocket a cheque of R30 000, and the runner finishing third will receive R15 000.


KALMER CONSOLIDATES GRAND PRIX LEAD

Johannesburg, South Africa - With an emphatic victory in the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series on Saturday, Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) extended her lead on the Grand Prix ladder and appears to be heading for her third Grand Prix title.

Rene Kalmer leading the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge run at Kings Beach on Saturday 05 May 2012.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


After two races, Kalmer has amassed a maximum of 60 points – 40 for winning the first two races, with time bonus points from each race. She is 24 points ahead of her nearest rivals, teammate Irvette van Blerk and Mr Price’s Zintle Xiniwe, who have 36 points each.

Van Blerk, who won the Grand Prix in 2010 and 2011, finished third in both Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, while Xiniwe was fourth in Cape Town and second in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Grandmaster Sonja Laxton (RAC) and veteran Ronel Thomas are the only other runners to earn maximum points in their category, registering two wins with time bonus points. In the Masters category, Olga Howard and Grace de Oliveira each have won with time points.

Runners earn Grand Prix points from finishing in the top 20 in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, with 10 bonus points for registering a faster time than the winning time the previous year. The runner with the most points after the five races will win a Nissan Micra, with the runner-up pocketing R30 000 and the third-placed runner taking home R15 000. There are also cash prizes for the winners of the various age group categories, with points awarded for the first five in the category.

Kalmer and Van Blerk have both expressed their determination to run in all five races, although both are currently preparing to run in the Marathon at the Olympic Games in London in July. “I really would love to win the car,” smiled Kalmer. “Also, I enjoy running the SPAR races, and I can use the Durban race as part of my preparation for the Olympic Marathon. The 10km races help me build up my speed.”

Grand Prix standing after two races:
Open: 1 Rene Kalmer 60, 2 Irvette van Blerk 36, Zintle Xiniwe 36, 4 Portia Ngwenya 31, 5 Maxine Heine-Wacker 30
Junior: 1 Annie Bothma 9, 2 Pamela Mtshemla 5, 3 Jamie-Lee Schlemmer 4
Veteran: 1 Ronel Thomas 20, 2 Janene Carey 19, 3 Sheryl de Lange, Grizelda Pietersen 3
Master: 1 Olga Howard 10, Grace de Oliveira 10, 3 Annatjie Botes 8
Grandmaster: 1 Sonja Laxton 10, 2 Veronica van Niekerk 9, 3 Marietha Herbert


RUNAWAY VICTORY FOR KALMER

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa - Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA), who appears to be in the form of her life, had an emphatic victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Kings Beach on Saturday morning.

The beachfront turned into a sea of orange t-shirts, as a record number of 12 200 runners took part in the race, which was run in cool, sunny conditions, with very little wind for the front runners.

Kalmer crossed the finishing line in 33.30 minutes, well ahead of Zintle Xiniwe (Mr Price) in 34.01, with Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) third in 34.15. Showing no ill-effects after helping two British athletes achieve Olympic Games qualifying times in the London Marathon two weeks ago, Kalmer took charge of the race after the first two kilometres. Xiniwe stuck to her for the first six kilometres, but began to lag behind on the final four kilometres run along the beachfront.

Kalmer appeared relaxed, but said she had thought of pulling out of the race after picking up a hamstring niggle while training. “When I started the race, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish,” she said. “But now I’m really pleased that I ran. I just wanted to do a good time, and use this as part of my training for the Olympic Games.”

Xiniwe said she was happy that she had performed better than in Cape Town, where she finished fourth. “I decided I was just going to run my own race,” she said. “I tried to stick to Rene, but then during those last four kilometres, she put on some speed and I couldn’t keep up.”

Van Blerk, who qualified for the Olympic Games in the London Marathon last month, said she was still feeling the after-effects. “The Marathon is still in my legs and they felt very heavy,” she said. “I didn’t have a great run. Those last four kilometres were hard, but I managed to speed up because I didn’t want Maxine (Heine-Wacker, who finished fourth) to beat me.” Heine-Wacker finished 14 seconds behind Van Blerk, with Christine Kalmer five seconds behind her.

Ronel Thomas won the veteran’s race in 37.51 minutes, while Comrades gold medallist Grace de Oliviera won the masters category in 42.23. Sonja Laxton, running in her 74th SPAR Challenge race, was the first grandmaster home, finishing in 43.19. Annie Bothma of Helderberg Harriers showed she might be a star of the future, winning the junior category in 39.05.


KALMER IN POLE POSITION FOR SPAR GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - Two-times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer has a handy 12 point lead going into the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach on Saturday morning.

Kalmer, who won the Grand Prix in the first and third years of its existence, earned 30 points from the Cape Town race last month, after winning in record time, which meant she earned bonus points.

Elite South African runners in the five SPAR Challenge races, held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg earn Grand Prix points by finishing in the top 20, with bonus points for clocking a faster time than the previous year. This year, the winner will receive a brand new Nissan Micra, with the runner-up receiving R30 000.

Kalmer’s closest rival is defending Grand Prix champion and Nedbank CGA teammate, Irvette van Blerk, who won the overall title in 2010 and 2011. Van Blerk finished third in Cape Town, and has 18 points, one ahead of Zintle Xiniwe, who came fourth.

“The Nelson Mandela Bay race is one of my favourites,” said Kalmer. “I think I have won there more than at any of the other SPAR Challenge venues, and I have run some of my best times in Nelson Mandela Bay. “I really like the course, although if the weather is bad, those last four kilometres along the beach front can be very tough.”

Kalmer, who has qualified to represent South Africa in the marathon at the Olympic Games in London in July, recently ran the London Marathon, where she acted as a pace-maker to help two British runners qualify to represent their country. “I’m in pretty good shape at the moment,” she said. “I felt I ran very well in the London Marathon, and after the training I’ve been doing for the Olympics, a 10km race feels like a speed trial. I am looking forward to the race on Saturday, and I want to extend my lead on the Grand Prix ladder, because I really have my eyes on that prize.”

Van Blerk, who also took part in the London Marathon, where she qualified for the Olympic Games, was less enthusiastic about the Nelson Mandela Bay race. “I never seem to win in NMB,” she said. “I don’t really like the course either – it is a bit flat for me, and those last four kilometres are very hard, if the wind is blowing.”

However, she was also enthusiastic about running a 10km race after the marathon. “It will feel so much easier,” she said. “Maybe this year I can break my duck in NMB and win.”
Others to look out for on Saturday include Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora - although she cannot qualify for the Grand Prix because she is not a South African-, Zintle Xiniwe, Annerien van Schalkwyk, the Phalula twins Lebogang and Diana-Lebo, and Kalmer’s sister Christine.

There are also Grand Prix points up for grabs for the top runners in the various age group categories. After the first leg, Pamela Mtshemla is the top junior, with five points; Ronel Thomas leads the veterans, Olga Howard is the leading master, while evergreen Sonja Laxton is the grandmaster to beat. They all have 10 points, after winning their categories in record times.




KALMER CRUISES TO VICTORY

Cape Town, South Africa - Defending champion Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) cruised to victory in the SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge at the Greenpoint Stadium on Sunday morning.

Running in cool, overcast weather, Kalmer finished in 32.50, five seconds ahead of Nedbank AGN’s Rutendo Nyahora. Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) was third in 33.32.
Kalmer went into the lead from the start, and was in command throughout the race, although Nyahora was always close behind her. “Rutendo pushed me hard,” she acknowledged. “That was good, because I wanted to get the speed.“I was feeling good and I had a good run, although about seven kilometres was on cobblestones, and that was very uncomfortable underfoot.”

Kalmer said she did not feel any ill-effects from her victory in the 5000 metres at the South African championships in Port Elizabeth on Friday. “That was two days ago,” she laughed. “I’ve recovered from that. “I’m very happy with my win today – it is a good start to the SPAR Grand Prix series. I had to make a lot of sacrifices last year in my efforts to qualify for the Olympic Games this year, but now that I have qualified, I can focus more on the Grand Prix. I’m planning to run all five races – the prize of a motor car is a great motivator.” She said her victory on Sunday was a good confidence booster ahead of the London Marathon next Sunday, where she will be running as a pace maker for British athletes trying to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Nyahora said she was pleased with her effort, but was determined to beat Kalmer next time round. “I’ve been training hard for this race, and I ran a faster time than last year,” she said. “I liked the route, which was quite flat, although it was a bit windy at times. I was pleased to be so close to Rene, and I am going to try to beat her in Port Elizabeth.”

Van Blerk, who is the defending Grand Prix Champion, was not happy with her run. “I’ve got a lot of mileage in my legs and I could feel them all,” she said. “I just couldn’t get going and my legs felt very heavy. “The race was quite flat, and there was a lot of running on and off sidewalks. The cobbles didn’t help either.” Van Blerk will also be running the London Marathon next Sunday in an attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“I hope this run will help me next week,’ she said. “It’s always good to get some speed under your belt ahead of a long race.”


DEFENDING CHAMPION IN HIGH SPIRITS

Johannesburg, South Africa – Defending SPAR Grand Prix Champion Irvette Van Blerk was in high spirits today as she received her trophy for winning the 2011 SPAR Grand Prix. Being a two-time winner of the SPAR Grand Prix has made Van Blerk R120 000.00 richer and has stood her in good stead for all of her races.

Defending SPAR Grand Prix Champion Irvette Van Blerk was in high spirits today as she received her trophy for winning the 2011 SPAR Grand Prix.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott

“I love competing in the SPAR Women’s Challenges” said Van Blerk during a panel discussion at today’s launch of the 2012 Grand Prix, “they are great fun and a very good platform to try and improve my times in the 10km.” “The SPAR races have definitely been good preparation in my endeavor to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.” Irvette will be competing in the London Marathon later this month in her attempt to qualify.


SPAR GRAND PRIX GETS EVEN BETTER

Johannesburg, South Africa - There is an exciting new incentive for runners taking part in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge races this year – the winner of the annual SPAR Grand Prix will receive the keys to a brand new, just released car.

SA’s top athletes show their excitement at the new first prize for the SPAR Grand Prix.
From left: Ronel Thomas, Irvette Van Blerk, Marelise Retief, Mike Prentice Marketing Executive SPAR Group Ltd, and Rene Kalmer.
Picture Credit: Reg Caldecott

For the past five years, the top runners have competed for Grand Prix points, with the overall winner pocketing a hefty cash prize, but this year, she will receive a Nissan Micra Visia 1.2 to help her get to and from her training sessions.

The runner-up will receive R30 000 and the third-placed athlete R15 000. There are cash prizes for the top ten runners in the open category, and for the top three in the four age categories.

Runners earn Grand Prix points according to their positions in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The top 20 runners in each race earn Grand Prix points, with the winner receiving 20 and the 20th placed runner one point.

An age category runner earns points by finishing in top five in her age group, with the overall age group winners taking home R3000. Runners can also earn bonus points by finishing the race in a faster time than the winning time in the particular race in the previous year. All runners who beat the 2011 overall winning time in the relevant age category of the corresponding race in 2012 will score five time incentive points.

“We are so excited about the way interest in the Grand Prix has grown every year,” said SPAR Group Marketing Executive Mike Prentice. “We believe the runners will be enthusiastic about the chance to win a new car to help them get around when they are not running.
SPAR sees the Women’s Challenge races, and the Grand Prix in particular, as one of our most important sponsorships. “We take pride in rewarding our country’s top athletes for their efforts on the road through our Grand Prix Series. And while the SPAR Women’s Challenge races are about the everyday woman, without the participation of our country’s elite athletes, the series would not have the prestige and credibility it has achieved,” he said.

The runners are also very enthusiastic about the Grand Prix, which is an added incentive for them to compete in as many races as their international commitments allow. Two-time winner Irvette van Blerk said the concept added an extra dimension to the competition.
“The thought of the prize certainly puts a smile on your face,” she laughed.
Rene Kalmer, who has also won the Grand Prix twice, said the thought of the ultimate prize was a great motivator on cold winter mornings.

“Irvette Van Blerk was the SPAR Grand Prix winner in 2011, finishing with a total of 126 points. Zintle Xiniwe was second with 89 with Charne Bosman third with 63 points. Comrades Marathon gold medalist Grace de Oliveira, Olga Howard, evergreen Sonja Laxton and Happiness Mkhize won the veteran, master, grandmaster and junior categories respectively.’’


VAN BLERK RUNS AWAY WITH SPAR GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - For the second year in succession, Nedbank CGA athlete Irvette van Blerk has been the runaway winner of the R60 000 SPAR Grand Prix.

Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) crosses the line to win the SPAR Women’s Challenge which took place at Old Parks in Johannesburg on Sunday 09 October 2011, confirming her win of the SPAR Grand Prix.
Picture: Reg Caldecott

Van Blerk had a comfortable victory in the final SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race in Johannesburg on Sunday to add to her victories in Durban and Pretoria. She finished second in Port Elizabeth and fourth in Cape Town.

Van Blerk collected a massive total of 126 points from the five races, 37 points clear of her nearest rival, Zintle Xiniwe of Nedbank WP, who finished with 89 points. Xiniwe receives prize money of R30 000.

Mr Price AGN’s Charne Bosman had plenty to smile about. Her third position on the final GP ladder is evidence that the Grand Prix is all about consistency and taking part in as many Challenge races as possible. Bosman’s best position in any of the races was fifth in Pretoria, but she finished in the top 10 in four of the races and 14th in Durban, and this was enough to accumulate 63 points – one more than Diana-Lebo Phalula of Gauteng Striders, who won in Port Elizabeth and finished third in Johannesburg on Sunday. That one point was worth R5 000, with Bosman pocketing R15 000 and Phalula R10 000.

Because one of South Africa’s leading veteran runners,Grace de Oliviera (Boxer) moved from veterans to masters in August, the veteran and master prizes were split into two sections: the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban races in section one, and the Pretoria and Johannesburg races in section two. The winner of section one received R1800 and section two R1200.

The great Zola Budd topped the log in the section two veterans category, while De Oliviera finished on top of the masters category. Evergreen Sonja Laxton (RAC), who has won more titles than she can remember, was top grandmaster and Happiness Mkhize of Tuks was the top junior. They will both receive R3 000.

Even though she has not yet spent her winnings from last year, Van Blerk was overjoyed to have won the Grand Prix again. “It’s a great motivator,” she enthused. “It certainly makes you want to run as many of the races as possible so that you are in line for a nice cash pay out to put a smile on your face. Because there’s a lot at stake, the girls really give their all, and the SPAR races have become very important on the running calendar.”


VAN BLERK IN POLE POSITION FOR SPAR GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Old Parktonians in Randburg on Sunday morning is expected to feature a battle royal among some of South Africa’s top road runners.

Nedbank CGA teammates, Irvette van Blerk and Rene Kalmer, have dominated the SPAR Challenge in recent years, although Kalmer is focussing on qualifying for the Marathon at the Olympic Games in London next year. This year, Kalmer won the first Challenge race, in Cape Town, but missed the Port Elizabeth and Pretoria races because of international commitments. Stomach cramps forced her out of the Durban race.

Van Blerk, who finished fourth in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth, won both the Durban and Pretoria races, and will be defending her title in Johannesburg on Sunday. She is the favourite to win the race and to collect her second Grand Prix cheque.

Diana-Lebo Phalula, who won the Port Elizabeth Challenger, and her twin sister Lebogang, are also strong contenders. Poppy Mlambo, who has been out of action with an ITB injury, is running again and is always competitive. Other top runners are Christine Kalmer, Annerien van Schalkwyk, Zintle Xiniwe of Cape Town, and the Zimbabwean runner Rutendo Nyahora.

“The course is quite hilly, and that might suit Rene,” said Van Blerk. “She is good on the hills and she is running well at the moment, so I will have to do well to beat her. The Phalula twins are hard to beat, and Rutendo is very good.”

If she finishes in the top three, Van Blerk is assured of a handsome cheque for R60 000 for winning the SPAR Grand Prix. She has 96 points after four races, and has a lead of 23 points over her nearest rival Xiniwe. Xiniwe has a remote mathematical chance of overtaking Van Blerk on the Grand Prix leaderboard, but the likelihood is that Van Blerk will win the Grand Prix for the second year in a row.

Van Schalkwyk is in third position, with 55 points, followed by Charne Bosman and Catherine Skosana on 49 points each.

Kalmer, who has twice won the Grand Prix, is out of contention for the top prize, after missing three of this year’s races, but she will win some money if she finishes in the top 20 on the leaderboard. The Grand Prix is worth a massive R170 000, with the runner with the most points after all five races receiving R60 000. The runner-up receives R30 000, and the third place athlete R15 000. There are cash prizes for the top 20 runners on the leaderboard and certificates for all athletes who earn Grand Prix points.

“The Grand Prix is a great idea – it really adds something,” said Van Blerk. “The girls certainly bring their A-game when they know how much money is at stake. And most of the top runners now try to run all five of the SPAR races. “Thinking about the money certainly puts a smile on your face,” she laughed.

Nedbank runner Irvette van Blerk can expect an injection of cash on Sunday, if she finishes in the top three in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Old Parktonians in Randburg. Van Blerk, with 96 points, has a comfortable lead on the SPAR Grand Prix leaderboard, well ahead of her nearest rival, Zintle Xiniwe of Cape Town, who has 73 points. There is a remote mathematical possibility that Xiniwe could overtake Van Blerk on the leaderboard, but to do so, Van Blerk would have to finish outside the top 20, and Xiniwe would need to win in a time faster than that set last year.


IRVETTE VAN BLERK HEADS FOR ANOTHER VICTORY IN SPAR WOMEN’S GRAND PRIX SERIES

Irvette Van Blerk is heading for another victory in the SPAR Women’s 10Km Grand Prix five race series, with one race remaining.

Defending champion, Van Blerk won the Pretoria race in fine style and this has put her in front of the leader board with 96 points. All she has to do is win the final race in Johannesburg on October 9 and she will receive the massive R60 000 first prize. Her closed rival is Captonian runner, Zintle Xinewe, with 73 points. Even though this seems like a foregone conclusion for Van Blerk, it is not over until the fat lady sings and she is clearing her throat, but, has not sung yet.

“I had a bad start to the series when I finished fourth in Cape Town and that made me think I would not do well in the series,” said Van Blerk. “Then I came second in Port Elizabeth and that is when I gained confidence to win in both Durban and Pretoria,” said the tall athlete.

Rene Kalmer was the winner in Cape Town, but did not run in PE and pulled out of the Durban race due to stomach cramps, which left the door open for her team mate and training partner, Van Blerk to take the lead in the series. Kalmer also missed the Pretoria race due to doing duty in Korea for her country at the World Athletics Championships.

It is not likely that Van Blerk will finish outside the top twenty in Johannesburg, but, the combination is that she must finish outside the top twenty and Xiniwe must win the race and set a better time from last year’s 34:23, which Van Blerk won. This may seem an easy task for a runner like Xiniwe as her best time is 33:39, but that was at sea level and for her to run at altitude at that speed is a complete different task.

Third placed, Annerien van Schalkwyk is not in a competitive position in the series.

The only change in the points system is the veterans and the masters. Grace de Oliveira turned 50 in July and this changed the whole set up for the two age groups. She has moved from the veterans section to make way for the leading over 40 athlete, Zola Budd Pieterse. However, the top master runner is Francis van Blerk, Irvette’s aunt, who now has to drop a position as De Oliveira is the top ranking master. This division will be decided in the last two races of the year, the Pretoria and Johannesburg ones.

Even though Dinah-Lebo Phalula won the PE race, with her twin sister Lebogang taking third place in the same race, they are not in the running for the top prize of R60 000 for the winner of the series.

The entire series with age groups, times and positions cleverly worked out, it is possible for anyone to win the series, but, it is the faster senior runners who have the edge over the older and sometimes slower competitors. Perhaps De Oliveira will make a difference in her older age group next year as she is still a strong runner for a master. All she has to do is improve on this year’s times, next year and she can stand a good chance of challenging the younger runners in this format of the series.


IRVETTE TAKING THINGS IN HER STRIDE

Irvette van Blerk will be hoping to extend her substantial lead in the SPAR Grand Prix when she takes part in the SPAR Women’s Challenge at Supersport Park in Centurion on August 27.

Van Blerk (Nedbank CGA), who won the Durban leg of the Challenge, after finishing second in Port Elizabeth and fourth in Cape Town, appears to have a very firm grip on the winner’s cheque. She has 76 points – 14 ahead of her nearest rival, Nedbank WP’s Zintle Xiniwe, who has 62. Xiniwe finished third in Cape Town and Durban, and fifth in Port Elizabeth. Annerien van Schalkwyk of Irene is in third position, with 55 points, after finishing fifth in Cape Town, ninth in Port Elizabeth and fourth in Durban. With only two races left, the top three on the leaderboard are unlikely to be overtaken, with the next athletes well below them.

Two-times winner Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) is right out of contention, although she got the year off to an excellent start with victory in Cape Town. She missed the Port Elizabeth Challenge because she was making her international marathon debut in Prague. In Durban, she dropped out of the race after three kilometres because of injury, and she will miss the Pretoria Challenge as she represents South Africa at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, that weekend. She is currently joint seventh on the leaderboard with Diana-Lebo of Gauteng Striders, who won the Port Elizabeth Challenge. They each have 30 points.

After the five Challenge races have been completed, the runner with the most Grand Prix points will receive a cheque for R60 000. The runner-up receives R30 000 and the third-placed runner R15 000. There are cash prizes for the top 20 runners, while the top three in the various age categories also receive prize money.

The Grand Prix, which was introduced five years ago, has proved extremely popular with the athletes, who regard the prize money as an excellent motivator on a cold winter’s day.


VAN BLERK EXTENDS HER SPAR GRAND PRIX LEAD

South Africa - With more than half of the five SPAR Women’s Challenge races completed, Nedbank CGA’s Irvette van Blerk appears to have a firm grip on the R60 000 Grand Prix.

Van Blerk won the Durban race on Sunday in a personal best time of 32.50 minutes, and now has 76 points – 14 ahead of her nearest rival, Zintle Xiniwe of Nedbank WP, who has 62. Van Blerk finished second in the Port Elizabeth race and fourth in Cape Town, while Xiniwe finished third in Cape Town and Durban and fifth in Port Elizabeth.

Picture by: Reg Caldecott

Irvette van Blerk winning the Durban SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at personal best time of 32.50 minutes

Defending champion Van Blerk, who returned from New York last week, said only the thought of the Grand Prix points persuaded her to run on Sunday, as she was battling a cold and a bad cough. “I just said to myself – get some Grand Prix points and stay in contention for the prize,” she said after the race. “Once I started running, I decided I really wanted to win.” She said the Grand Prix was a great motivator. “The money comes in very handy, and it’s an achievement to win it,” she said. “I won it last year, and would like to come out on top again this year.”

Annerien van Schalkwyk of Irene is in third position, with 55 points. She finished fifth in Cape Town, ninth in Port Elizabeth and fourth in Durban, proving that runners who perform consistently can do well in the Grand Prix. Ntombesintu Mfunzi is in fourth place with 40 points and Catherine Skosana is in sixth with 34.

Two-times winner of the Grand Prix, Rene Kalmer, appears to be out of contention for the first prize, after dropping out of the Durban race at the three kilometre mark because of injury. She won the Cape Town race, but international commitments kept her out of the Port Elizabeth race. She and Diana-Lebo Phalula, who won the Port Elizabeth race, are joint seventh with 30 points.

Because veteran front-runner Grace de Oliveira moves up into the master category when she turns 50 next month, the Grand Prix competitions in the veterans and masters categories were closed after the Durban race. The top three athletes will receive two-thirds of the prize money. Points from the last two races, in Pretoria and Johannesburg in August and October, will count for the remaining third of the prize money.

De Oliveira won the veterans category, and will receive R1800. Maya Lawrie was second and Catherine Naane third. Olga Howard won the Masters category, with Annetjie Botes in second position. Bev Charters and Sandy Fismer were in joint third place and will share the prize money of R600.

Lien Botha is in the lead in the Grandmaster category, with Hester Kotze and Sonja Laxton in joint second position, while Dominique Scott, with two wins and a second place, leads the junior category. Happiness Mkhize is in second position and Asiphe Snyman and Jamie-Lee Schlemmer are in joint third place.

Nedbank CGA, with 149 points, dominate the club leaderboard. They are 76 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Nedbank WP and Boxer, who have 73 points each.


THE BATTLE IS ON FOR GRAND PRIX POINTS

South Africa - The eventual winner of the SPAR Grand Prix could well be decided this weekend, when the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge takes place.

The Durban race is midway through the five-race series. The runner with the most points after all five Challenge races have been run will pocket R60 000. The runner-up takes home R30 000 and the third placed athlete receives R15 000. There are cash prizes for the top 20 on the leaderboard, while the top three in the various age categories also receive prize money.

At this stage, last year’s Grand Prix winner Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) is well in the lead with 47 points, after finishing second in the Port Elizabeth race last month and fourth in Cape Town in April. She has a 13-point lead over Zintle Xiniwe (Nedbank WP), who came third in Cape Town and fifth in Port Elizabeth.

But, Van Blerk will be aware that teammate and long-time rival, two-times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer will be back in action on Sunday and could make up lost ground. Kalmer was out of the country, preparing for her maiden international marathon in Prague, at the time of the Port Elizabeth leg.

Kalmer, who won the Cape Town leg, is currently in joint third position with Diana-Lebo Phalula of Gauteng Striders, who snatched a narrow four-second victory over Van Blerk in Port Elizabeth. Phalula did not run the Cape Town leg. Kalmer and Phalula have 30 points, one ahead of Catherine Skosana, who finished sixth in Cape Town and seventh in Port Elizabeth.

However, Van Blerk and Kalmer will not have everything their own way, with most of South Africa’s top runners competing in Durban on Sunday. The Phalula twins are not running, but among those who have confirmed their entries are Annerien van Schalkwyk, Charne Bosman, Mpho Mabusa, Christine Kalmer and Jenna Challenor, all of whom will be aiming to earn valuable Grand Prix points.

More than 10 000 runners have entered the race, which starts and ends at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium.


RECORD RACE ENTRY FOR SPAR CHALLENGE

• 10 000 entries likely for premier Nelson Mandela Bay road race

A new race entry record has been set for Saturday’s SPAR Women’s Challenge to take place in Nelson Mandela Bay.

At 16h00 on Thursday, race organizers confirmed that they had 9750 entries and have broken last year’s record entry figure of 9520.

It’s very exciting to see how the race has grown over the years” said Andre Pienaar of Walmer Athletics Committee. “We planned for 10 000 entries, but, the way the entries are pouring in we could well surpass our expected figure which will be most encouraging for the development and growth of road running and the race in the City, Region and Province.

Those that have not entered the race can still enter at the Registration Area at Kings Beach on Friday from 09h00 to 19h00. The race takes place on Saturday with the 5km starting at 07h15 and the 10km at 08h00.

The first 10 000 entries will receive an official race T-Shirt and Goodie
Bag.


VAN BLERK FAVOURITE TO WIN NELSON MANDELA BAY CHALLENGE

Nelson Mandela Bay - With defending champion Rene Kalmer preparing to make her international marathon debut in Prague on Sunday, the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach on Saturday is wide open.

Hot favourite to win the 10km race is the 2010 Grand Prix champion, Irvette van Blerk, who won the last three Challenge matches in 2010. Van Blerk finished fourth in the Cape Town Challenge last month, but ascribed her disappointing performance to a bout of flu. However, she showed she was well on the road to recovery by battling her way into the lead group after a slowish start.

Van Blerk will keep a wary eye on Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora and Zintle Xiniwe who finished second and third respectively in Cape Town and could give her a good run for her money. Another runner who could go head to head with Van Blerk is Annerien van Schalkwyk, who came fifth in Cape Town.

The evergreen Sonja Laxton – one of South Africa’s most successful runners of all time – will be setting another record on Saturday to add to her 70 national titles when she takes part in her 70th SPAR Challenge. Laxton, who now runs in the Grandmaster category, was out of action for several months because of a burst appendix followed by back surgery, but said she was excited to be hitting the road again.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Challenge is regarded by many of the runners as the friendliest and the most beautiful of the five Challenge races. There will be extra enjoyment this year, as the race, which is a week later than usual, is taking place on the eve of Mother’s Day. The 5km Fun Run is open to all females over the age of nine, giving mothers and daughters a chance to spend quality time together on the day before Mom’s special day.

Still with mothers in mind, the race’s designated charity is the Yokhuselo Haven, which provides shelter and support for abused women and their children.

Registration for the race will be open from Thursday 5 May 2011 at King’s Beach, and will be open for late entries.


NELSON MANDELA BAY TOURISM BACKS SPAR CHALLENGE

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa - Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism (NMBT) have thrown their weight behind the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach on May 7.


From left: Wendy Westraadt, Promotions and Advertising Manager SPAR Eastern Cape, Titus Chuene, Marketing Manager NMBT, Phrosne Phillips, Events Coordinator NMBT, Martin Webber, Marketing Manager SPAR Eastern Cape.
Picture by: Amy Shelver

“We hope that women from all over South Africa – and particularly from areas around Nelson Mandela Bay – will come to enjoy the most beautiful race in South Africa’s friendliest city,” said NMBT Marketing Manager Titus Chuene. “We see the Challenge and the 5km Fun Run as an ideal opportunity to promote Port Elizabeth as a world class sporting destination,” he said.

NMBT supports athletics and road running, and we particularly welcome the SPAR Women’s Challenge, which has become a highlight of the sporting and social calendar in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. We are proud to be associated with an event that attracts thousands of women and girls from all walks of life. The Challenge promotes a healthy lifestyle, with many first-time participants going on to become regular road-runners. Furthermore, the event provides an opportunity for tourism and sporting stakeholders to meet and network in a friendly environment, which may help us to grow NMB as a destination.”

Chuene said it was very pleasing that top athletes like Irvette van Blerk, Rene Kalmer, Zintle Xiniwe and Nandipha Dywili will take part in the race. “Many of them have said they particularly enjoy the Port Elizabeth Challenge because of the beautiful route and the friendly people,” he said. “We are hoping that women will also come from places like Grahamstown, Port Alfred, Cape St Francis and other places up and down the coast to enjoy the day. “We also hope that people who come from further afield will take some time to explore our beautiful city, which has so much to offer.”

Local boy band Escape will be providing the entertainment at the race, and Chuene said the Challenge would showcase their talent to thousands who might not have seen them before. “We are very proud of Escape and we know their fan base will increase after people have seen them at the SPAR Women’s Challenge.”

Entry forms for the Challenge and Fun Run are available from all SPAR, KWIKSPAR and SUPERSPAR stores, or online at www.spar.co.za

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