Nedbank running club dominates opening Spar Grand Prix Series
May 30, 2022  

You could have been mistaken and had déjà vu as 2019 Spar Grand Prix Series winner Helalia Johannes returned to face her teammate Tadu Nare who took the series win last year. A ding dong battle ensued in all 6 events and the rivalry continued on Saturday when the two went head to head in the opening leg of the 2022 Spar Grand Prix series in Gqeberha.

At 42 years of age, Johannes was exactly double the age of the younger Nare but they say age is nothing but a number which Johannes certainly proved by not only taking victory, but setting a new World record for the veteran (40+) category when she crossed the line in a scintillating time of 31:53. Nare held on for 2nd in 32:11 with teammate Selam Gebre giving Nedbank RC a clean podium sweep in 3rd. Gebre was only 17 years old and also took the first junior title. 

“I’m very happy with my race today after missing last year’s event because of some injuries,” said Johannes in the post-race press conference. “I’m not surprised at all at my time because according to the training I have been doing, it was indicating this type of time.” After winning all 6 events in record times back in 2019, Johannes has a similar aim this year. “I am targeting to win all 6 events again this year although the records may be a bit tough to beat all!” 

In accordance to World Athletics rules, the usual ratification process now takes place to ensure that Johannes’s time can count as a world record. “She has been drug tested after the event and we have also sent her Nike racing shoes to World Athletics as per their regulations to check the shoes,” said Nick Bester, National team manager of the Nedbank running club. “The course is also an official recognised and certified route so all the correct boxes are checked.” 

Bester is no stranger to World records and their protocols that come with them. This is the 4th world record set in Gqeberha within the last 12 months. Last year, Bester hosted the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km which saw both men’s and Women’s new World records being set. This year the men’s world record was improved on again and now Johannes has the 10km pending. 

“I can even say that next weekend we may even see another world record being set as Helalia will be taking part in the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon and her eyes will be fixed on getting another veterans world record,” Bester said with a smile.

It was also the first time in the series where a veteran, senior and junior athlete all shared the open category podium. Johannes at 42 stood on top, with 21 year old Nare occupying the 2nd spot and 17 year old Gebre the bronze position.