MARITZBURG SPAR WOMENS CHALLENGE CRUCIAL FOR NEDBANKS RUNNING CLUB'S HELALIA JOHANNES
The top elite runners will all line up for the fifth race in this year’s SPAR Grand Prix series – the Maritzburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in the Kwa-Zulu Natal capital on Sunday.
With only two races to go, log leader, Namibian sensation Helalia Johannes (Nedbank RC) has the SPAR Grand Prix virtually sewn up. She won the first four races, all in record time, and has accumulated 120 points – 15 more than her nearest rival, Tadu Nare of Ethiopia (Nedbank RC).
Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton believes Johannes will try to wrap up her Grand Prix victory this weekend.
“I believe she will go very fast this weekend and try to wrap things up,” said Laxton.
“She has earned bonus points in all four races so far, so she has a substantial lead. She is running the Marathon at the World Championships in Qatar in September, and if she has enough of a lead, she can miss the Joburg race on October 6,” said Laxton.
“It will be all about her and her tactics.”
Johannes said after winning the Tshwane race on August 3 that while she was committed to running in Maritzburg, it was too soon to say whether she would run in Joburg. She said her focus was now on the marathon at the world championships.
Triple SPAR Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank RC), who missed the Tshwane race because of surgery to repair an ongoing nerve problem in her left leg, has confirmed that she will run on Sunday.
“Don’t expect any fireworks from me. I am just going to try to get some Grand Prix points,” said Van Zyl.
Laxton said the Maritzburg race was different from any of the others because it was a hilly route.
He said he believed the route would suit a runner like Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank RC), who came third in the Tshwane race earlier this month.
“Another one to look out for is Glenrose Xaba (Boxer), who is improving steadily, after being a bit flat earlier this year.”
Xaba, who was fifth in the Tshwane race, won the SPAR Grand Prix title in 2018.
Race coordinator Brad Glasspool said the Maritzburg race changed the dynamics of the SPAR Grand Prix.
“It is very hilly and some runners prefer a flatter route, while others like the hills,” said Glasspool.
In 2018, there was confusion when several of the leading runners took the wrong route in the Maritzburg race, but Glasspool said steps had been taken to prevent this from happening again.
“We have extra marshalls as well as experienced runners at strategic points on the route, and they will intervene if any of the runners try to go the wrong way,” he said.
Glasspool said its association with the SPAR Grand Prix had raised the he profile of the Maritzburg race. This is the third year that the Maritzburg race has counted towards the Grand Prix.
“The top 11 runners on the Grand Prix log have all entered the race,” he said.
“The SPAR Grand Prix has done wonders for women’s road running in South Africa.”