With her fourth consecutive win in the 2023 SPAR Grand Prix Series in Tshwane, two-time defending series champion Tadu Nare of Ethiopia wrapped up her third series win in a row. Meanwhile, the Tshwane leg of SPAR Women’s Challenge made a welcome return after its COVID-enforced hiatus, and thousands of women took to the roads for either a 10km or 5km outing.
With two more wins in the 2023 SPAR Grand Prix Series in Durban and Mbombela, two-time defending series champion Tadu Nare is well on course to make it three series wins in a row.
- 70 000 runners are expected as the SPAR Women’s Challenge returns to capacity after the Covid restrictions
- Exciting changes to the prize money structure add new incentives for local athletes
The SPAR Women’s Challenge series is back with a bang and changes to the rules and prizes in the associated SPAR Grand Prix offer local runners massive new financial incentives.
For the first time since 2019, the SPAR Women’s Challenge races will be open to thousands of women in each of the six cities nationwide.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no races were run in 2020. In 2021, SPAR came to the rescue of the elite runners by hosting six races in a limited format. This was done in accordance with Covid-19 protocols giving the top runners an opportunity to compete and to earn money.
Social runners were able to take part in a SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge, running on their own and sharing their experiences online.
In 2022, the six races were spread out over six months, but numbers remained limited, with social runners once again taking part in a Virtual Challenge.
The 2023 SPAR Women’s Challenge will return to its original format and will again be open to thousands of women runners and walkers of all ages and abilities. The popular 5km Fun Run is back and will be staged alongside the classic SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge, which incorporates the prestigious SPAR Grand Prix.
Former SPAR Grand Prix winner, Kesa Molotsane, is thrilled that the races are once again open to all. “The SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge was a brilliant idea, but there is nothing quite like a real SPAR Women’s Challenge event,’ she said. ‘It’s so exciting to encounter the different cultures and personalities at these races. We were very grateful to SPAR that we were able to compete during the pandemic, but I think we all missed the festive atmosphere that always surrounds the SPAR Women’s Challenges.”
Kesa added, “I am looking forward to seeing new, exciting talent that always emerges every year. There may have been runners who couldn’t run in the restricted races but now have the chance to show what they can do.”
SPAR Group’s National Sponsorship and Events Manager, Charlene Subbarayan, is also delighted that the SPAR Women’s Challenges will once again involve thousands of women. “SPAR is all about promoting healthy living and good health means a healthy lifestyle so what better way, than to get everyone out in the open air, training for the SPAR Women’s Challenge series. The SPAR Women’s Challenge offers us a way of thanking our customers by providing them with a day of fun and entertainment, with plenty of spot prizes at all the races,” she said.
“We are so happy that we can once again welcome thousands of women of all ages to our 10km races and 5km Fun Runs. Our target national entry is 70 000 women in 2023,” added Subbarayan.
The President of Athletics South Africa (ASA), James Moloi, said the SPAR Women’s Challenge series is an important part of the South African athletics calendar. “Many women get a taste for running after training to take part in these unique women-only races. The SPAR Grand Prix races also offer the elite runners an opportunity to test themselves and the presence of international athletes, who are drawn to the race by the lucrative prize money. This has spurred our domestic runners to improve their times,” he said.
In the SPAR Grand Prix, there are several exciting developments. In recent years, the dominance of athletes from Ethiopia and Namibia has made it difficult for the South Africans to earn the top prizes. This year, local athletes will win prizes in addition to the overall prize pool. In the 6 races, the first 2 South Africans across the finish line will win R10 000 and R5 000 respectively. They are eligible to collect the overall prizes as well, starting at R30 000 for a win, R25 000 for second place and R21 000 for third.
The prize pool for the overall SPAR Grand Prix has been similarly structured. The winner will receive R200 000, second place R100 000 and the prizes go down to tenth place. This year there will also be a separate ‘competition within a competition’ for South African athletes, with the 5 top local runners taking home a total of R185 000 in addition to the money they win in the overall SPAR Grand Prix. First place will score a handsome R75 000.
The total prize purse across the SPAR Grand Prix is now R1.9 million, 14% up on 2022.
Another important change comes in the number of races to count for the final points table. In previous years, the total points scored by an athlete over the 6 races counted. This, however, placed runners who had to miss 1 or 2 races because of international commitments or injury at a disadvantage. This year, a runner’s four best performances in the SPAR Grand Prix races will count for points. This means that a runner can miss two races and still be competitive.
The SPAR Women’s Challenge series incorporating the SPAR Grand Prix 10km races will be held in Cape Town, Gqeberha, Durban, Mbombela, Tshwane and Johannesburg.
Cape Town – Sunday, 23 April 2023 – Green Point Common
Gqeberha – Saturday, 27 May 2023 – Pollok Beach, Summerstrand
Durban – Sunday, 25 June 2023 – Kings Park Stadium
Mbombela – Saturday, 15 July 2023 – Mbombela Stadium
Tshwane – Saturday, 5 August 2023 – SuperSport Park
Joburg – Sunday, 1 October 2023 – Marks Park Sporting Club
The SPAR Grand Prix has injected life into the women’s elite racing scene in South Africa, with scintillating times being run throughout the series, and one of the South Africans to catch the eye was Glenrose Xaba, who eventually finished third in the 2021 Grand Prix standings. – By Sean Falconer
Tuck into good reads about Glenrose Xaba’s great SPAR results, Stef & Sabrina’s Oyster Catcher father-daughter adventure, the comeback story about Comrades Green Debbie Fass after her hip replacement, a welcome back for sprinter Carina Horn, Mindlo Mdhluli’s journey from learning to swim to ultra triathlete, and Sue Ullyett describes the hard times she went through in coming back from being seriously ill with COVID, PLUS all you need to know about the record-breaking adidas adizero shoe range.
The opening race in this year’s Grand Prix series – the Durban SPAR Grand Prix – had to be postponed at the eleventh hour because of a spike in Covid-19 cases and subsequent lockdown restrictions. The Durban race will now take place at North Beach in Durban on September 11.
The series will kick off on Sunday August 22, with the Pietermaritzburg SPAR Grand Prix at Alexandra Park. SPAR decided to keep the original date in a bid to create some positive energy in the one of the cities worst hit by the recent looting and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The Cape Town SPAR Grand Prix will take place at the Greenpoint Stadium on Saturday September 4, followed by the Durban race a week later. The Tshwane Grand Prix, which normally takes place at Supersport Park in August, has been moved to the Agricultural Research Council farm in Irene and will be run on Friday September 24, National Heritage Day.
The SPAR Grand Prix series normally ends in Johannesburg, but things are slightly different this year. The Joburg race will take place at Marks Park on Sunday October 3 and the series will end at the Nelson Mandela University campus in Gqeberha on Saturday October 9.
Each race will be by invitation only, and will be limited to 250 runners. Because there were no races in 2020, this year there will be no time incentive bonus points. However, Grand Prix points will be awarded to the first 25 runners home in the open category, and not the first 20, as in previous years. There will also be an additional age group category, namely for runners over 70.
There is substantial prize money on offer, amounting to a total of two million Rand. The winner of the SPAR Grand Prix after the six races will take home a cheque for R185 000.
One of the benefits of the revised calendar is that the SPAR Grand Prix Series starts two weeks after the end of the 2020 Olympics. This means that runners who competed in Tokyo can return in time to compete in Pietermaritzburg and the remaining of the SPAR Grand Prix races.
Strict Covid-19 protocols will be followed at all the races, and no spectators will be allowed. However, the races will be live-streamed and runners can be tracked live using the SPORTSPLITS App.
2021 SPAR GRAND PRIX CALENDAR
Sunday, 22 August – Pietermaritzburg
Saturday, 4 September – Cape Town
Saturday, 11 September – Durban
Friday, 24 September – Tshwane
Sunday, 3 October – Johannesburg
Saturday, 9 October – Gqeberha
Closest Series Yet!
The 2020 SPAR Grand Prix appears likely to be one of the closest in its 14-year history. The SPAR Grand Prix, which is one of the most important contests in South African road running, recognises the most successful athlete in the six SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge races, which take place around the country from March until October.
Prize money this year amounts to just under R550 000, not counting the prize money for individual races.
Runners accumulate points according to their position in each race, with the winner earning 20 points and the 20th placed runner earning one point. They can also earn points by beating the winning time in the corresponding race in 2019. All runners who beat this time receive 10-time incentive points.
Will Helalia Dominate Again?
Namibian runner Helalia Johannes dominated the 2019 SPAR Grand Prix winning all six races in record time. She finished the competition with a full house of 180 points – the maximum possible. She was the first person to achieve this. In several races, the fast pace set by Johannes saw several other runners earning bonus points as well.
SPAR Grand Prix coordinator, Ian Laxton, says this is what will make the 2020 SPAR Grand Prix so competitive. “I don’t think we will see so many runners earning time points this year,” said Laxton, adding, “In fact, I think even Johannes will find it hard to beat the times she set last year. This means that every point will count – I think there will be just two or three points between the top runners.”
“They won’t have that nice cushion of 10 points and they will have to run every race,” said Laxton.
Rewards for Up and Coming Runners!
Young up and coming runners will also be eligible for an exciting new award – the Breakthrough Runner of the Year. This will be awarded to a South African athlete, who, in the opinion of the panel of judges, has shown the most improvement, and who has made an impact on the SPAR Challenge Series for the first time. The winner will receive prize money of R20 000.
Three-times SPAR Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer has once again been named an ambassador for the SPAR Grand Prix and this year she has been joined as ambassador by the 2017 winner, Kesa Molotsane.
“I am very happy and excited to be an ambassador for the SPAR Grand Prix,” said Molotsane. “Through the Grand Prix, SPAR has done much to empower women and I am very pleased to be able to give something back. I believe I can offer hope to other women.”
Modern Athlete have been named media partners of the 2020 SPAR Grand Prix season and the series is endorsed by Athletics South Africa.
The first SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race takes place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday March 21 and the second in Cape Town on Sunday April 5. The Grand Prix then moves to Durban (21 June) followed by Tshwane (1 August), back to KwaZulu-Natal for the Maritzburg race on 16 August and ends in the City of Joburg (4 October) which this year celebrates its 30th race Birthday.
The oldest race in the SPAR Women’s Challenge series, the Durban race, turns 30 this year, and the organisers predict a fast and exciting race as part of the celebrations on Sunday 23 June.
The Durban Challenge takes place two weeks after South Africa’s most famous race, the Comrades Marathon, and many of the women who did well in the Comrades Marathon cut their road-running teeth on SPAR Challenge races. Gold medallists Jenna Challenor and Charne Bosman are both former SPAR Challenge winners, while Comrades winner Gerda Steyn finished second in the Joburg race last year, after entering as part of her training for marathons.
There will once again be a very strong field for Sunday’s race at King’s Park. Namibian Helalia Johannes (Nedbank), who already won the Port Elizabeth and Cape Town races this year, both in record time, will be attempting to make it three in a row. Meanwhile, the talented Ethiopian junior Tadu Nare (Nedbank), who finished second in Port Elizabeth and third in Cape Town, will also be running on Sunday.
Among the top South Africans competing are 2017 Grand Prix winner Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) and three-times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank). Last year’s podium finishers, Betha Chikanga (Maxed Elite), Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) and Nolene Conrad (Murray & Roberts) are also expected to compete on Sunday.
The elite runners are expected to put up fast times. In Cape Town, the first 11 were all under the 2018 winning time, while the first seven in Port Elizabeth beat the previous year’s winning time. This trend is expected to continue in Durban.
“Durban is traditionally the fastest race of the series,” said SPAR Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton. “It depends on the weather, of course, but I expect a lot of runners to earn bonus points for finishing in less than last year’s winning time.” Laxton adds that he also expects top South African runners such as Molotsane and Van Zyl to make a strong push to get on the podium.
IMAGES: Reg Caldecott
There will be a very strong field of runners in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Sunday.
Since the SPAR Grand Prix was opened to international as well as South African runners, a number of African runners have started competing in the SPAR 10km Challenge series, which is run at six cities around the country.
Nedbank Running Club manager Nick Bester has confirmed that Namibian runner Helalia Johannes, who won the Port Elizabeth Challenge earlier this month, will be running in Cape Town, as will Tadu Teshome Nare of Ethiopia, who came second in Port Elizabeth.
Another Nedbank runner, Irvette van Zyl, is in good form at the moment. She finished fifth, behind a group of East African runners, in the FNB OneRun 12km race in Cape Town on Sunday, in 39.22 minutes. Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) was seventh, in 40.45 minutes.Bester said he expected Van Zyl to do well on Sunday.
“She still had the Two Oceans ultra marathon in her legs when she came fifth in Port Elizabeth. But she has recovered from that and I think she will do well.” SPAR Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton has predicted a fast race on Sunday. “In Port Elizabeth, the first 11 runners finished in under 35 minutes, and the first six runners all earned bonus points for running faster than the winning time last year,” said Laxton.
“If you think Port Elizabeth was fast, wait for Cape Town. The course is more sheltered than in Port Elizabeth and if the weather is good, I think we can see times around 31, 32 minutes.”
“I also think more runners will earn bonus points in Cape Town. The race has been moved from Bellville to Green Point and I think that will make a difference – it is flatter.”
Other runners who can be expected to put up a good showing are last year’s Grand Prix winner, Glenrose Xaba of Boxer, Betha Chikanga and Caroline Mhandu of Maxed Elite Zimbabwe and Jenet Mbhele of Umzimkulu Striders.
More than 20 000 runners are expected to take part in the 10km SPAR Women’s Challenge and the 5km Fun Run. The 10km Run will start at 7am and the 10km Walk 15 minutes later. The Fun Run starts at 7.40am.