Cape Town SPAR Challenge Draws SA Top 20

by | Mar 14, 2013

Last year’s race champion and reigning SPAR Grand Prix title holder Rene Kalmer crosses the finish line of last year’s SPAR Challenge in Cape Town. Kalmer will be in Cape Town Sunday to defend her title. Photo: Reg CaldecottThe pulling power of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge has been established with South Africa’s top 20 runners signing up for the series opener on Sunday at the Green Point Common in Cape Town.

Despite carrying an injury that has hampered her for some time, SPAR Grand Prix defending champion Rene Kalmer will be returning to competition.

Kalmer, who has been out of action for several months with an Achilles tendon injury which kept her out of the Johannesburg leg of the Challenge Series in October last year, says she will not be putting herself under any pressure in her first race back.

“The injury was more serious than I originally thought, and I am just very happy to be fit and back on the road again,” said the Olympic marathon runner.

“I’ll be running my heart out on Sunday, and I hope to be able to win, but I’m not going to put myself under pressure, just because I’m the defending champion.

“I just want to get back into the shape I was in last year, before I was injured.”

Last year, Kalmer cruised to victory over Rutendo Nyahora and Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk), who will both be running again this weekend. Kalmer, who first ran in the SPAR Challenger series in 1998, has been a regular ever competitor ever since, and has won more Challenge races than any other runner.

“Irvette is probably the one to look out for,” said Kalmer.

“She’s run a number of races this year and has been running very well, whereas I haven’t competed for several months.”

Kalmer, who represented South Africa in the Marathon at the Olympic Games in London last year, said her next big international challenge would be the Boston Marathon on April 15, where she will be competing as an elite runner.

“I’m very excited about that,” she said.

“It will be my first time in the Boston Marathon, which is one of the major marathons. I am enjoying running marathons – I prefer road running to running on the track, where you are under pressure from the clock all the time. Also, because I am not doing so much track running, I don’t have to be away from home for three months every year. It sounds very glamorous, but it can be very hard, competing week after week. With marathon running, you train for a race and then you can relax a bit,” said Kalmer.

Other top runners competing on Sunday include Kalmer’s sister, Christine, who is beginning to show signs of becoming a major force in road running, Zintle Xiniwe, Nolene Conrad and Cary-Ann Smith.

Multiple Comrades Marathon gold medallist Grace de Oliveira, and Sonja Laxton – who is South Africa’s most successful runner on the track as well as the road, will also be taking part. Great grandmaster Laxton will be running her 77th Challenge race. She is virtually unchallenged in her age category, having been beaten only once.

The Cape Town Challenge is the first in a series of five Challenge races, which are run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth (May), Durban (June), Pretoria (August) and Johannesburg (October). The top runners compete for points on the SPAR Grand Prix ladder. The runner with the most points after the five races will win a Nissan Micra, while the runner-up will take home R30 000 and the third placed runner will receive R17 500.

Since its inception in 2007, Kalmer and Van Zyl have dominated the Grand Prix. Kalmer won it in 2007, 2009 and 2012, while Van Zyl won in 2010 and 2011. Poppy Mlambo won the Grand Prix in 2008.

“I’m definitely going to be trying hard to win another car,” laughed Kalmer.

“Luckily there are five races, so even if I don’t win on Sunday, there is plenty of time to come back.”

As of Wednesday, race organisers had confirmed they had over 16 430 entries for the race on Sunday and were on track to reaching a race entry record.

 

Among the leading SA runners signed up for the first SPAR Women’s Challenge, in Cape Town on Sunday, 17 March, 2013:
Rene Kalmer – Nedbank CGA
Irvette (van Blerk) van Zyl – Nedbank CGA
Tannith Maxwell – Boxer KZN
Lebo Phalula – Maxed Elite CGA
Zintle Xiniwe – Maxed Elite WPA
Nolene Conrad – Nedbank CGA
Christine Kalmer – Nedbank CGA
Rutendo Nyahora – Nedbank CGA
Myrette Filmalter – Nedbank AGN
Carry-Anne Smith – Nedbank AGN
Grace De Oliveira – Boxer KZN
Jenna Challenor – Boxer KZN
Bulelwa Simae – Nedbank WPA
Annie Bothma – Helderberg WPA
Catherine Skosana – Transnet Engineering CGA
Mapaseke Makhanya – Transnet Engineering CGA
Thozama April – Transnet Engineering CGA
Portia Ngwenya – Transnet Engineering CGA
Annah Moketsi – Transnet Engineering CGA
Ronel Thomas – Boxer KZN
Sonya Laxton – RAC CGA
Janene Carey – Boxer KZN
Patience Khumalo – TUT AGN

 

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