The 2016 Comrades Marathon is done and dusted and attention now turns to the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Durban on Sunday, June 5.
For years the Durban Challenge has taken place a week after the Comrades Marathon, and now there is an even stronger link – Charne Bosman, who won the women’s race last Sunday , is a former poster girl for the SPAR Women’s Challenge. She was a regular winner on the Challenge Circuit in the early years of the 21st century, and even provided novice runners with advice on how to prepare for a 10km road race.
The current top runners, such as Irvette van Zyl, and the Phalula twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang, probably have no thoughts of running Comrades at this stage in their careers, although all the top runners have turned their attention to running standard marathons.
There will be a star-studded field for the Durban race on Sunday. Van Zyl and the Phalula twins will be joined by the Kalmer sisters, Rene and Christine, Mapaseka Makhanya, Nolene Conrad and Cornelia Joubert.
In addition to trying to cross the finish line first, the top runners will also be competing for valuable SPAR Grand Prix points, which are awarded to the top runners.
Van Zyl, who is a two-times winner of the Grand Prix, having triumphed in 2010 and 2011, has a narrow lead over Lebogang Phalula after the first two races in the five race series. Van Zyl has 40 points, after winning in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Phalula, the 2015 winner, has 37 points, after finishing third in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth, and Christine Kalmer and Nolene Conrad are in joint third position, with 29 points each.
Van Zyl, who has been unbeaten on home soil this year, said she was taking nothing for granted in the Durban race.
“In the first two races, we all had our minds on qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio in August, and most of us had run marathons,” said Van Zyl, who won in Port Elizabeth only two weeks after coming 15th in the London Marathon.
“But things have calmed down ahead of the Durban race, and I think we will be on a more equal footing. I wasn’t able to beat the previous time in either race, so I haven’t got those valuable bonus points, but I will be going all out to win in record time on Sunday,” she said.
The six women who have won the Grand Prix have each been paired with a promising junior athlete, who will also be running on Sunday. Makhanya’s protégé, Simonay Weitz, heads the junior section of the Grand Prix, with Lebogang Phalula’s partner, Ashleigh Simonis, hot on her heels.
Only manual entries are now available for the challenge. This can be done at the race registration, where participants can collect their race numbers, promo bags and T-Shirts at Berea Rovers, 73 Jacko Jackson Drive (off Masabalala Yengwa Avenue) on Thursday 2 June and Friday 3 June from 10am to 5pm and on Saturday 4 June from 10am to 3pm. No entries will be taken on race day.
For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org, like the Facebook page SPAR Women's 10/5km Race or follow on Twitter for up to the minute postings.