Defending champion Tadu Nare (Nedbank) of Ethiopia proved that she is not just a coastal runner with a thrilling victory over teammate Helalia Johannes of Namibia in the SPAR Grand Prix Women’s 10 km race in Mbombela on Saturday morning. She finished in 32.43 minutes and Johannes in 33.02.
Ethiopian junior runner Selam Gebre was third in 33.12 minutes. Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) was the first South African home, coming in at 33.37. Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) was fifth in 33.44.
The first two races in the SPAR Grand Prix series were run at the coast (Gqeberha and Durban). The inaugural Mbombela race was run on a hilly inland course on a mild winter’s day. It started and ended at the iconic Mbombela Stadium which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
A group of about 10 runners stuck close together for the first seven kilometres before the top three broke away. At eight kilometres, Nare surged ahead but Johannes came back alongside her. There was a moment of true sportsmanship when Nare missed a waterpoint at about 8.5 kms on the steep incline known as Heartbreak Hill. Johannes noticed this and passed her rival a sachet of water.
Nare said she had enjoyed the challenging course.
“I am used to running on hills and it made me feel at home,” she said.
“I planned my strategy after the race in Durban. I decided to test Helalia at 8kms. She caught up with me, but then I pushed again and this time I got away from her,” said Nare.
Johannes said she had been in hospital on a drip a week ago and was just grateful that she had done as well as she had.
“I ran my own race and I am proud of what I achieved.”
Asked about her sporting gesture, Johannes said her rivals were not her enemies but friends.
“I just wanted to make sure that my fellow runner was all right.”
Xaba said the course had been very tough.
“That hill was a real heartbreaker,” she said.
“I have been doing a lot of track running recently, so I am not that used to hills. I am very pleased with my performance today.”
Xaba missed the first two races because she was trying to qualify for the world athletics championships or the Commonwealth Games. However, she narrowly missed qualifying and said she would now concentrate on road running.
She said the presence of the international runners was good for South African road running.
“They push us to run faster and do personal bests.”
The next SPAR Grand Prix race is in Tshwane on August 6. Johannes will miss the race because she will be defending her marathon title at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.