2020 SPAR Grand Prix Likely to be Closest on Record

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.

Race Ambassadors!

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.

SPAR Women's Challenge Celebrates 30 Years in Durban

SPAR Women’s Challenge Celebrates 30 Years in Durban

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

Fast Pace Expected in Cape Town SPAR Women's 10km Challenge

Fast Pace Expected in Cape Town SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge

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.