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.
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