With a record number of women taking part in this year’s SPAR Women’s Challenge in Johannesburg – 14 562 to be exact – the Wanderers Sporting Club in Johannesburg was filled with activity this past Sunday.
It was Irvette van Zyl, who ran to a lead early on and created a 40 second gap before the first kilometre mark. Van Zyl went on to win the 10km challenge in a time of 34:58, claiming the SPAR Women’s Grand Prix Title for a third time.
Van Zyl, who missed out on the 2016 Rio Olympics in August due to a fracture in her foot had previously won the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban races but was unable to run in Pretoria because of her injury.
“I knew what I had to do to win the Grand Prix. I got into the lead on the first uphill and decided that I was going to run my own race. If the others wanted to catch me, it was up to them”, said Van Zyl.
She was determined to win following her Olympic disappointments. “I really wanted to win to make up for my Olympic Games disappointment. I had planned to use these Olympic Games to compensate for my previous Olympic disappointment, so I really needed something good to happen”, said Van Zyl.
Mapaseka Makanya claimed the second spot with a time of 35:46, after over taking Rutendo Nyahora, who finished third. Nyahora and last year’s winner Lebogang Phalula, ran together for the first seven kilometres, changing leads frequently, before Makhanya surged ahead to claim second spot.
“I have been battling with injury for some time, and it was good to be running pain free”, said Makhanya. “The SPAR race is always very important to me and Lebogang and I were challenging each other, but I think what helped me was that I was stronger on the hills. I am grateful to her, because she helped me push myself because and I was determined I was going to beat her”.
Last year’s winner Phalula, who ran her first marathon three weeks ago, dropped off the pace about halfway through the race and finished sixth, behind Glenrose Xaba and Botswana’s athlete, Onneile Dintwe.