Excitement is building ahead of the inaugural SPAR Women’s 10km Grand Prix race in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, on Saturday. It is the third race in the 2022 SPAR Grand Prix series.
Namibian Helalia Johannes and Ethiopian Tadu Nare, both of Nedbank, will be battling it out for top honours. Johannes, the 2019 SPAR Grand Prix winner, won the opening race in Gqeberha in May and Nare, the defending SPAR Grand Prix champion, won the second race in Durban last month, so they are neck and neck on the SPAR Grand Prix leaderboard.
It is the first time the race is being run in Mbombela. The warm winter weather and low altitude are expected offer the runners the best chance of running excellent times.
SPAR Lowveld Marketing Director Sean Komlosy says the race will provide a strong foundation for the development of female runners.
“SPAR is well known for its support for women in sport, particularly in grassroot areas,” said Komlosy.
“The event will also include differently abled athletes in a non-elite race, which is a first for our province. We will also be offering opportunities for local community leaders and organisations to provide manpower for the hosting of the race.”
While all eyes will be on the tussle between Johannes and Nare, some South African runners will be aiming to get onto the podium. Diana-Lebo Phalula (Boxer) appears to be returning to the form that helped her to win the SPAR Grand Prix in 2014, finishing the Absa 10km in Durban on Sunday in 32.59 minutes. Kesa Molotsane, the 2017 winner, was just behind her in 33.19, with fellow Murray & Roberts runner Cian Oldknow hot on her heels in 33.23.
Three-times SPAR Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) can never be ruled out and she was the first South African home in the SPAR Grand Prix in Durban last month.
Others expected to fight for top 10 spots include Cacicisile Sosibo (Boxer) and Rutendo Nyahora (Xcel).
The race starts at the iconic Mbombela Stadium, which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is home to the Curry Cup rugby champions, the Mpumalanga Pumas. The runners pass through the suburb of Matsafeni before moving onto the property of avocado giants HL Hall & Sons. The route reaches its highest point at 2.4 kilometres and the runners go down what is known as Heartbreak Hill. They cross the Crocodile River – the lowest point of the race – and then run up a gradual incline to the 5km mark, which is the turning point. The runners then retrace their steps, with Heartbreak Hill living up to its name before the route flattens out again.
Some of the runners will welcome the hilly route after the two flatter sea level routes in Gqeberha and Durban.
Spectators will be welcome to give support to the continent’s top runners. The race starts on Saturday at 08h00. The race will be livestreamed starting at 07h30 on the SPAR Grand Prix Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SPARGrandPrixSeries and fans can follow their favourite runners by using the SPORTSPLITS App.