The ebullient Mapaseka Makhanya (Nedbank) has given herself a head start in the chase for Spar Women’s Challenge Grand Prix points. 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.
Makhanya says: ‘We’re all very grateful to Spar for these wonderful races and for the Grand Prix. 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. 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.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images