Last year’s winner, Rene Kalmer, who has won the title three times, is fighting fit again, and is likely to be hard to beat in Sunday’s race. Kalmer was recovering from injury at the Cape Town Challenge, where she finished fourth, and could not compete in Port Elizabeth, after sustaining an Achilles’ tendon injury in the Boston Marathon.
However, Kalmer is confident that she can make up the deficit and retain her title. “Three races give me the opportunity to make up lost points,” she said. “I just have to run my best and win the last three races.”
But Challenge newcomer Mapaseka Makhanya, who currently heads the Grand Prix ladder, with 37 points, after finishing second in Cape Town and third in Port Elizabeth, has staked her claim to the Nissan Micra the winner will receive. “I want that car,” she laughed. “I believe this is my year, and I can win it.”
Makhanya is better known as a track runner, and is in the process of moving from 800 and 1500 metres to 5000 and 10 000 metres events, and is using the SPAR Women’s Challenge Series as part of her training programme. “I need to get the mileage in my legs for the longer races,” she explained. “But I am more used to running on the track – I find road running a bit harder. I have to convert the kilometres to metres – I can accept 10 000metres, but I find the thought of 10kms quite daunting.”
Grand Prix points are awarded to the top runners in the five Challenge races, which are run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The winner will receive a personalised Nissan Micra, and the runner-up will receive R30 000.
Rutendo Nyahora won the first two races this year, but as a Zimbabwean, is not eligible for Grand Prix points, which are awarded only to South Africans. “I’m just enjoying the races and am determined to win all five this year,” she said after her victory in Port Elizabeth. However, with Kalmer back at her best, Nyahora may have to look to her laurels on Sunday.