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.
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.