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
As the entry deadline draws near, BLC Attorneys have placed on record an official challenge to the Eastern Cape corporate world to throw its weight behind the SPAR Virtual Women’s Challenge on September 4.
The Gqeberha lawyers have a long association with the Women’s Challenge and director Laurika von Alleman said they would again be out in force to support the event, even in its virtual form.
Entries for the run, which will be held in six regions countrywide, have a strict deadline of August 15 and no latecomers will be accepted.
SPAR Eastern Cape are encouraging companies, schools and other organisations to join thousands of runners and walkers on the day.
“With just a few days before entries close, whatever role you play in society, we would love to have you on board,” said SPAR EC promotions and events manager Alan Stapleton.
“Whether it be on your own, with your family and friends, or challenging your staff, sports friends or colleagues, let’s use this opportunity to reunite and reignite that South African passion of togetherness.”
BLC Attorneys have embraced that call and Von Allemann said they challenged others “in the commercial space to also get involved”.
“We have been entering the challenge for at least 15 years, always running as a group and there is no reason why we shouldn’t do it in this virtual format.
“We have 17 participants at this stage and have an internal challenge on the go, but we also encourage other corporates to enter in numbers and to let us know how they do.”
Besides the camaraderie the day creates, Von Allemann said they were also aware of the significant impact the event made to society, with charity organisations benefitting from donations and sanitary pads being made available for schoolgirls around the region.
Stapleton confirmed the difference the run could make after three regional events in Tshwane, Johannesburg and the Lowveld combined last year to donate over 30 000 food parcels to survivors of gender-based violence and people living in challenging circumstances.
“This year we’re going even bigger, collaborating with six SPAR regions to create the country’s biggest virtual challenge to date,” he added.
“Our theme is #LiveLimitless as we plan to inspire women to answer the call to adventure, to aspire to their highest excitement and to live their best, limitless lives. With this theme there is an underlying universal message of coming together, supporting each other to shatter any glass ceilings, facing our fears and redefining our own limits.”
Through the #LiveLimitless theme and initiatives, he said there were several objectives:
“First is to help people less fortunate than ourselves. For every single person that enters, a pack of sanitary pads will be donated to help keep a girl in school. We also want to highlight the many great South Africans who have achieved extraordinary things and lived limitless lives, despite their circumstances, to inspire and uplift others. And we want to encourage all participants to #LiveLimitless, embrace optimism and positive perspectives and fulfil their best potential.”
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