The penultimate race in the 2015 Spar Women’s 10km Challenge series in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon promises to be a thriller, with the top runners vying for crucial Grand Prix points. Three different runners won the first three races in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, leaving the race for Grand Prix points wide open. Mapaseka Makhanya took the early lead, after winning the Cape Town race in record time.
She maintained her lead until after the third race, when she was overtaken by Lebogang Phalula, who won the race in Durban. With podium finishes in all three races, Phalula, with 57 points, has a 10 point lead over her nearest rival, Rene Kalmer. Three times Grand Prix winner Kalmer is proof that consistency is key in earning Grand Prix points.
She did not finish in the top three in any of the first three races, but her top 10 finishes in all three ensured she earned enough points to stay in contention. Kalmer said she was looking forward to the race on Saturday, although she had been battling with a hip injury since the Vienna Marathon: ‘I’ll be using the race to test my hip. I would be very happy with a podium finish, but the main thing is to see how my hip stands up. I have been able to train, but as soon as I hit 3.20 minutes a kilometre, it flares up. So what I am really looking for on Saturday is a pain-free race.’
Lebogang Phalula and her twin sister, Diana-Lebo are expected to vie for top spot in the race on Saturday. Diana-Lebo won the Challenge race in Port Elizabeth, but national duty in the world cross country championships meant that she missed the Cape Town race, where she could have earned valuable points. She was the Grand Prix winner last year, but is currently in seventh position, and will have to do exceptionally well in the last two races to make up lost ground.
Christine Kalmer and Cornelia Joubert are in joint third position on the Grand Prix log, one point behind Rene Kalmer, and Makhanya is one point behind them. Irvette Van Zyl, who won the 2014 Pretoria race in record time, is in eighth position on the log, but will not be challenging the top runners on Saturday – she is expecting a baby in September, and has said she will probably just take part in the 5km fun run. Others in contention for the podium finishes on Saturday include Rutendo Nyahora, Nolene Conrad, Zintle Xiniwe and Jenna Challenor.
The race takes place at Supersport Stadium in Centurion on Saturday afternoon, with over 25 000 women turning out for both the 10km race and the 5km Fun Run in what has become the biggest women’s road race in South Africa.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott