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03 October 2019

The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix reaches its climax this weekend with the running of the Joburg SPAR Challenge at Marks Parks Park on Sunday.
Namibian sensation Helalia Johannes (Nedbank) has the Grand Prix title more or less in the bag, after winning the five previous races, all in record time.  She has a total of 150 points, having earned bonus points in all five races. Johannes finished third in the marathon at the world athletics championships in Doha, Qatar, at the weekend.
She said after the last SPAR race, in Pietermaritzburg in August, that her immediate commitment was to the world championships, and she would have to see how she felt after that before deciding to run in the Joburg Challenge. However, she looked relatively fresh after her race on Friday and with prize money of R185 000 up for grabs, she is likely to run on Sunday.
Talented Ethiopian junior Tadu Nare (Nedbank) is in second position, with 134 points, after finishing second in Port Elizabeth, third in Cape Town, and second in Durban, Tshwane and Maritzburg. She earned time bonus points in four of the five races, only missing out in Tshwane. She is poised to take home R65 000.  She is in good form, having won the FNB Joburg 10km CityRun on Heritage Day last month, in 33.53 minutes.
The big battle will be for third place. 2017 Grand Prix winner Kesa Molotsane (Murray&Roberts), who was second in the South African 10km Championships in Middelburg last Saturday, is just five points ahead of three times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank), who won the Joburg Challenge last year, 15 weeks after giving birth to her second son.
Van Zyl withdrew from the FNB City Run, citing ill health, but has said on social media that she is geared up and excited about the Joburg Challenge on Sunday.
Other runners taking part on Sunday include Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon winner Gerda Steyn (Nedbank).  Steyn is preparing for the New York Marathon on November 3.  She was second in the Joburg Challenge last year, shooting past Molotsane and Glenrose Xaba  (Boxer) at the finish, after being in fourth position for much of the race.

Last year’s Grand Prix winner Glenrose Xaba had a quiet start to the year, but has stormed back in recent times.  She won the South African 10km Championships in Middelburg in 33.33 minutes.   She is currently in seventh position on the Grand Prix leaderboard.
There will be special cheers for RAC runner Sonja Laxton, who will be running her 100th SPAR Challenge on Sunday.  She has 79 SPAR titles to her credit, in all age categories except junior. Laxton, whose husband Ian is the mastermind behind the Grand Prix, says she has a special affection for the SPAR Challenge races.

“Women’s races are a lot of fun. The winner has the satisfaction of being the first across the finishing line, instead of coming after a bunch of men, and there is always a very good vibe at the SPAR races. They really are something to look forward to.  I plan my year’s training around the SPAR races,” she said.
“I think they have done a lot to get women involved in running.  Women who might have been a bit wary of running in a mixed race feel more comfortable about running in a women only race.”


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