Queen of the Oceans

SA’s Blonde Blitz Victorious


The gods of running were smiling on the organisers and participants of the Johannesburg leg of the Women’s SPAR Grand Prix Series as the 2010 series came to a conclusion at the Old Parktonians Sports Club. More than 10 000 runners and their families converged on the club’s ground for a day filled with fun, sun and some excellent running as Irvette van Blerk took the title of ‘Queen’ of the series. – BY CATHARINA ROBBERTZE


With a record field of 10 370 athletes, the fifth and final SPAR ladies race of 2010 was proudly pink as thousands of women, big and small, young and old, fit and unfit, female and not so female ran through the suburbs around Old Parks, sporting their pink race t-shirts. Some were trying for a PB, some were motivating friends on a first run, but most of the participants were just out there to have fun and celebrate the joys of being a woman!

Of course, there were those who didn’t just run for fun and as much as the day was about the average Janes, it was definitely also about South Africa’s elite ladies competing for top honours in this very competitive race. After all, prize money of R60 000 was up for grabs for the winner of the series.

Nedbank athlete Irvette van Blerk walked away with top honours on the day, continuing her brilliant running season up to now. Starting at a fast pace, Irvette was soon ahead of the pack and by the 7km mark she had the race in the bag. Although she admitted after the race that she struggled at stages, she managed to hold on and finished strongly to clock a time of 34:23, a personal best on this course. “It was a hard race, because there were a lot of hills. I started off quite fast, but at the 6km mark I hit a hill and I really thought my legs were going to collapse. I was thinking: ‘Can I walk now?’ But then there was a downhill, and I was able to recover. For the first 4km there was always someone close to me, but after that I was able to pull away.”

Despite pocketing the R60 000, Irvette seemed more excited about the fact that she was going to treat herself to a post-race ice cream and about her current running form. “I was especially thrilled because my time was a personal best for me on this course. I’ve been having a great season after last year was a bad one with some injury problems.”

The race was dominated by runners from the Nedbank Running Club with the first five runners across the line and a further two in the top ten all wearing the club’s familiar green gear, but with a tinge of pink on the day in support of breast cancer awareness. Rutendo Nyahora and Ren? Kalmer had a tussle for second place, but Rutendo managed to come out on top. After the race, Ren? said she is still not fully recovered from a type of tick fever she picked up while competing overseas.

Modern Athlete was at the finish line to ask some runners what they thought about the race

“It was fabulous, we enjoyed every minute!” – Edith Venter and Johnny Schwartz

“This was our first race and we had so much fun! We’re very proud of ourselves, we finished the 5km in about 45 minutes and we are just beginners! We will definitely do more races now.” – Hillary Matsheka, Gugulethu Ndlovu, Tresia Mphephu, Mbali Zondi and Precious Vunandlala

“We entered as part of our school’s team. It was our first race and we loved it.” – Ashleigh Donaldson, Megan-Leigh Magnussen, Hannah Bolus and Courtney Pulford

“We ran for the Johannesburg City Parks organisation. We enjoyed it and will definitely come back for more.” – Lameez Abdullah, Ntombifuthi Mpofu, Olga Mavundhla and Nonkululeko Khamanga.

“The three of us enter races like these regularly and really enjoy our mother-daughter bonding sessions. We just do it to stay fit.” – Shani Mar? with daughters Gia and Hestia

“We ran for the ‘Handbag Carriers’ today and just had a ball of a time, doll!” – Larry Bekker, Greg Yan and Francois Erasmus.

1. Irvette van Blerk  (Nedbank CG)  34:23
2. Rutendo Nyahora (Zim/Nedbank GN)  35:12
3. Ren? Kalmer  (Nedbank CG)  35:41
4. Zintle Xiniwe  (Nedbank WP)  36:11
5. Annerien van Schalkwyk  (Nedbank GN)  36:14
6. Diana-Lebo Phalula  (Gauteng Striders)  36:51
7. Tabitha Tsatsa,  (Mr Price GN)  36:54
8. Christine Kalmer  (Nedbank CG)  36:55
9. Louisa Leballo  (Gauteng Striders)  37:22
10. Marelize Retief  (Nedbank GN)  37:34