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18 July 2019

The 2019 SPAR Grand Prix Women’s 10km Challenge series has reached the midway point and sensational Namibian runner Helalia Johannes (Nedbank Namibia) is firmly in the lead, with three wins from three races.
On the 23rd of June 2019, Johannes exceeded expectations when she won the Durban leg of the series in 30 minutes and 59 seconds – the fastest time by a woman on South African soil. It shattered the course record of 31.18 set by Colleen de Reuck in 2000 and also set a new Namibian national record.
Tadu Naru (Nedbank Ethiopia) was second in 32.36, and three-times SPAR Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank Central Gauteng) was third, in 32.57.The top three all received 10 Grand Prix bonus points for finishing faster than last year’s winning time of 33.07.
Johannes now has 90 points, Naru has 86, and Van Zyl, for whom this year’s Durban leg was her first podium finish this year, has 78. They have opened up a big gap between themselves and the following pack. 2017 Grand prix winner Kesa Molotsane, who came in seventh for the last race in Durban, is in fourth place on 67 points.  
After the race, Van Zyl made it clear that her priority had been earning bonus points. “I knew I couldn’t keep up with Helalia, but I was running for bonus points,” she said.“As long as you earn bonus points, you can keep in touch with the top runners. If one of them doesn’t run all six races, you are right up there with them,” said Van Zyl.
Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton agreed that bonus points could decide the outcome of the Grand Prix title.“Anyone who doesn’t run all six races will battle to win. The top three are so close that if one drops out, another is lying in wait for her,” said Laxton.
Johannes, who is the Commonwealth Games marathon champion, said after the Durban race that she would be turning her attention to training for the marathon at the World Championships in Doha in September. “I have been concentrating on shorter distances, but I will be doing more long-distance training from now on,” she said.“I don’t know how that will affect me if I run in Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg.”

Van Zyl said the presence of international runners like Johannes and Naru was doing much for road running in South Africa.“They are forcing us all to run faster,” she said.“But it will be interesting to see what happens in the altitude races, in Pretoria and Johannesburg.  And we are all really going to struggle to get bonus points next year.”
The Durban race was one of four in which Juniors can earn points in their own category.  Naru, who is 18, has an 11-point lead, with 20 points from the two races so far.

Bulelwa Simae (Boxer WP) leads the 40-49 category with 14 points from three races.  Janene Carey (Boxer KZN) is in second position, with 10 points. 
The leader in the 50-59 category is former Comrades Marathon gold medallist Grace de Oliviera (Murray & Roberts KZN), with 11 points. Olga Howard (Nedbank WP) leads the 60+ category with 23 points.
In the club competition, Nedbank is firmly in the lead with 424 points, followed by Maxed Elite Zimbabwe with 138.  Boxer is in third place with 132 points.
The next race is the Pretoria Challenge on August 3.

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