More than 13,000 runners lined up for the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run in Joburg on Sunday, 6 October. Namibian sensation Helalia Johannes put on another stellar performance to win the 10km race in a record time of 33.16 minutes.
It was her sixth consecutive record-breaking win in the Spar Grand Prix series and came just over a week after she won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Comrades Marathon winner Gerda Steyn was second in 34.28 and last year’s Joburg winner, Irvette van Zyl was third in 34.40. It was an all-green podium at the finish venue at Marks Park Sports Club, with all three runners representing Nedbank.
As in the previous Spar Women’s Challenge races, Johannes went out fast and led from start to finish. Initially, she was in a bunch that included Steyn and Van Zyl, as well as Ethiopian junior Tadu Nare (Nedbank) and Glenrose Xaba (Boxer). Steyn and Van Zyl dropped back at this stage, and Johannes powered ahead, running on her own.
Steyn and Van Zyl made up ground on Nare and Xaba on the uphill part of the race, with Steyn showing her strength and experience as she stormed into second place. Nare finished fourth in 35.07 minutes and last year’s Grand Prix winner, Xaba, was fifth in 35.23.
Johannes said it had been difficult to recover from the world championships and still win in Johannesburg.
“I prepared very well for the marathon and I think that I was able to do well here because I really am super-fit,” she said. “I am very happy to have won again.”
SPAR Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton said Johannes’s performances in the race series have been exceptional.
“She earned the maximum points in each race, earning bonus points every time and taking the other runners with her,” said Laxton. “No-one has been this dominant in the SPAR Grand Prix before.”
Steyn, who is preparing for the New York marathon on November 6, said she used the Spar Challenge to work on her speed for New York.
“It’s a great way to prepare,” she said. “I knew that the second half of the race was uphill so I stuck as close as I could to the leaders on the downhill because my strength is in my stamina and endurance. I always do well on the hills. The SPAR Challenge races are great – I love taking part in a women’s race,” said Steyn.
An emotional Van Zyl, who was clearly not feeling well, said she had had a rollercoaster year and was very pleased to have finished on the podium in the race she won last year. Van Zyl underwent surgery for an ongoing neural problem in her groin earlier this year.
“My next goal is the Soweto Marathon on November 3, where I am hoping to win for the third time. It’s been a tough year, but I hope I will be in better shape then,” said Van Zyl.
Grandmaster Sonja Laxton notched up her 100th SPAR Women’s Challenge on Sunday.