2011 SPAR Jhb Challenge's defending champ Irvette van Blerk (centre) lead the winners' podium at Old Parks in Johannesburg on Sunday 9 October, 2011. Van Blerk is pictured with (left) Rotendo Nyahora (2nd) and  Lebo-Diana Phalula. Photo : Reg Caldecott

With only four days left until the SPAR Johannesburg 10Km Challenge, top contenders for the title Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Blerk say they’re prepared for Sunday’s race.

Kalmer has been in fantastic form this year, winning the first four races, and she is hoping to become the first runner to win all five races in one year. The popular runner has already wrapped up the 2012 SPAR Grand Prix title, and says she is not looking to break any records on Sunday.

Rene Kalmer is trying to shake off the jet-lag after a 30-hour return from the World Half Marathons in Kavarna, Bulgaria. Kalmer has already clinched the season's SPAR Grand Prix title, and is set on a strategic run on Sunday to claim the first-ever straight flush of SPAR Women's 10km Challenge runs, at the Old Parktonian in Johannesburg on Sunday. Photo: gsport“I just want to run a practical race. My training is going well right now, although I’m feeling a bit jet-lagged at the moment,” says Kalmer, who has just returned from Kavarna, Bulgaria, where she finished 16th overall in the World Half Marathon. “My flight back home was 30 hours long, which was a bit hectic. I’m planning to rest before the race so I can recover.”

Van Blerk, who recently married 400m hurdles runner LJ van Zyl, hasn’t been in her best form this year, but is hoping to get back the form that has seen her win this race three times previously.

“My training hasn’t been really been up to scratch lately because I had a lot of things to plan, but now that the wedding is behind us, my running is getting back on track,” van Blerk says.

“I ran my first race since I got married this past weekend, and it was really tough. I was hoping to run around 35 minutes but I finished in 36 minutes. I am hoping for at least a top-3 finish this weekend. Time-wise I would be happy if I can run under 36 minutes.”

The Johannesburg SPAR 10Km Challenge holds special memories for both ladies. It was Kalmer’s first race when she was 13-years-old, and van Blerk won her first tittle here when she was 17-years-old.

“It was a surprise win back then. I have always loved this race because it’s all women. You don’t have to push and shove your way through like in mixed races,” van Blerk says.

“It also has the most challenging route out of all the SPAR races. It’s always unpredictable.” Kalmer agrees. “The SPAR races are all very well organized. They cater for everyone, it’s all about the ladies and you don’t get bumped.”

Although everyone already has her pencilled in for the win, Kalmer believes she faces stiff competition from van Blerk and Rutendo Nyahoro. Other runners who could possibly deny Kalmer her clean sweep of titles include her sister Christine Kalmer, Nolene Conrad, Zintle Xiniwe, Portia Ngwenya and Poppy Mlambo.

Prize-giving will be at 10h00 and only those attending will be eligible to participate in the lucky draws. There will be live entertainment before and after prize-giving and refreshments will be on sale. Time allowed for completing the 10km Challenge or 5km Run/Walk is 120 minutes. All participants with prams have to start at the back of the field to avoid injuries to athletes running.

Late entries will be open until race day between 06h00 to 07h45 at the Old Parktonian Sports Club. Goodie bags and medals will be given to the first 12,000 participants on completion of race.

Pre-registration and collection of race numbers at Old Parktonian Sports Club:
Thurs 11 Oct: 10h00 – 15h30
Fri 12 Oct: 10h00 – 15h30
Sat 13 Oct: 09h00 – 16h00
Entry fees
Non-Licensed Athletes: 5km (R50) 10km (R65, incl. temp Licence)
Licensed Athletes: 5km (R50) 10km (R50)
Start, Route & Finish Venues:
Old Parktonian Sports Club; Garden Road (Off Jan Smuts Avenue); Bordeaux, Randburg
5km & 10km both start at 08h00