Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) crosses the line to win the SPAR Women's Challenge, at Randburg’s Old Parktonian in Johannesburg on Sunday, 9 October 2011. Photo: Reg Caldecott

Nedbank CGA’s Irvette van Blerk had plenty to celebrate on Sunday with her emphatic victory in the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge at Old Parktonians in Randburg, after also winning the Durban and Pretoria legs of the race, her victory ensuring that she was the clear winner of the R60 000 Spar Grand Prix.

The three top finishers in the 2011 SPAR Women's Challenge, (from left) Rotendo Nyahora (2nd), Irvette van Blerk (Winner) and Lebo-Diana Phalula (3rd). Photo: Reg CaldecottRene Kalmer, who kept pace with Van Blerk in the early stages, dropped out of the race because of an ITB injury. Kalmer has twice won the Grand Prix. Rutendo Nyahora of Nedbank AGN was second, followed by Gauteng Strider’s Lebogang Phalula.

Van Blerk went into the lead from the start, and extended her lead as the race continued. “I had a very good run, although it was a tough course,” said Van Blerk.

“I decided to go hard – I knew that if I won the Grand Prix, but didn’t win the race, it would be an anti-climax. So I decided to go all out, and then if I didn’t win, I would know I have given it my best.”

“I thought that maybe the new course wasn’t as hilly as last year, but there was a big surprise waiting for me at 8kms.” Van Blerk said she had not looked back during the race, although she was expected Kalmer, Nyahora or Phalula to catch up with her at some stage.

“So I just kept going hard, and they didn’t catch up,” she smiled.

Irvette van Blerk went into the lead from the start, and extended her lead as the race continued. “I had a very good run, although it was a tough course,” said Van Blerk. Photo: Reg CaldecottNyahora and Phalula ran together for much of the race, but Nyahora pulled away at the 7km mark. “I really wanted to win this one, but I was determined to do as well as I could,” said Nyahora. “So although we had been running together, I decided I had to get away from Lebo.”

Van Blerk said she was overjoyed to win her second Grand Prix, but that her focus was now switching to the marathon.

“I want to qualify for the Olympic Games in London next year,” she said. “I think I’m the right age now, and I really enjoy half-marathons, so why shouldn’t I enjoy two back-to back half-marathons.”

She rejected suggestions that she should aim for the 10 000m at the Olympics. “I’m a road runner,” she said. “I don’t like track – I find it very boring.”

There was a record entry of 10 534 runners, despite the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between South Africa and Australia being played at the same time, and celebrities Poppy Ntshongwana, Vanessa Carreira, Romy Titus, Carol Manana and Nicole Flint, accompanied by members of the Spar national netball team took part, gave the race’s designated charity, Reach for Recovery, reason to celebrate by raising R40 000, in addition to the money Reach for Recovery receives from the proceeds of the race.


Results of the Johannesburg SPAR Women’s Challenge run at Old Parktonian on Sunday, 9 October 2011:


1. Irvette van Blerk, Nedbank CGA, 34.22
2. Rutendo Nyahora, Nedbank GN, 35.20
3. Lebo-Diana Phalula, Gauteng Striders, 35.38
4. Mapaseka Makhanya, Mr. Price CG, 35.54
5. Zintle Xiniwe, Nedbank WP, 36.35
6. Onneile Dintwe, UCKG, 36.39
7. Charne Bosman, Mr. Price CG, 37.20
8. Christine Kalmer, Nedbank CGA, 37.41
9. Cornelia Joubert, Randmark, 37.53
10. Sylvia Tshetlanyane, Atlholang Primary, 37.54



1. Sylvia Tshetlanyane, 37.54
2. Happiness Mkhize, 37.59
3. Letitia Saayman, 39.26



1. Vanessa Bowman, 44.01
2. Catherine Nana, 44.11
3. Arselinah Nyathi, 46.02



1. Grace Da Oliveira, 41.48
2. Frances van Blerk, 46.06
3. Sewele Maponya, 52.30



1. Sonja Laxton, 44.32
2. Elaine Greenblatt, 52.58
3. Elaine Jones 57.58