Road-running fans will have their eyes firmly fixed on the SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, when South Africa’s top runners will be in action.
The runners who finished in the top three in the Cape Town race, Louisa Leballo, Kesa Moletsane and Irvette van Zyl, all earned bonus points in Cape Town for finishing below the target time set for the race. The target time for Port Elizabeth is 33.26 minutes, which is within the capabilities of the top three or four runners and if the weather is good, the pace should be fast and competition fierce.
The top runners have not allowed the grass grow under their feet since the Cape Town race on April 2. Moletsane won the 5000 m at the South African championships in Potchefstroom, using her powerful kick to clinch the title. Van Zyl was second and Nolene Conrad, who finished seventh in Cape Town, was third. Moletsane followed up by winning the 5000m at the SA Student Championships in Cape Town last week.
Van Zyl won the Two Oceans half-marathon in one hour 13.53 minutes. Conrad was second and Leballo third.
Another runner who has been in good form is Simonay Weitsz, who was first junior home in the Cape Town Challenge. She won the senior 1500m event at the national championships in Potchefstroom.
Others who are expected to compete are former SPAR Grand Prix winners Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebogang Phalula.
Van Zyl, winner of the Grand Prix in 2016, can be expected to be more competitive in Port Elizabeth. She started strongly in Cape Town, but was caught at about 7kms by Leballo and Moletsane. She said after the race that she had been taken by surprise.
“I didn’t realise Kesa was in the race until 7kms. Maybe, if I had known at the start I might have run differently. In the last kilometre, I knew I was in big trouble. Kesa has a big kick and Louisa was a surprise,” said Van Zyl. She is likely to change her tactics to meet the challenge on Saturday. However, Moletsane is in superb form and will be hard to beat.
Leballo, Moletsane and Van Zyl are well ahead of their nearest rivals on the Grand Prix ladder after the first race. But there are five races to go and with a first prize of R173 000 up for grabs, South Africa’s top runners will be going all out to earn maximum Grand Prix points.
Online entries are open for the Durban SPAR Women’s 10/5km Challenge which takes place on Sunday, June 11.
Photograph: Reg Caldecott