The SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series moves to Port Elizabeth this weekend, with the Friendly City race being run from Pollok Beach in Summerstrand at seven o’clock on Saturday morning.

Last year’s SPAR Grand Prix winner, Kesa Molotsane, who dominated the Challenge Series last year, got her 2018 campaign off to an excellent start, with a convincing victory in the opening race in Cape Town in March. She has also been in good form on the track, winning the 5000m and 10 000m titles at the South African Students Athletics Championships in Sasolburg last month.

But Molotsane would do well to keep a watchful eye on KPMG teammate Nolene Conrad, who appears to be in the form of her life.

Conrad recently became the latest South African to achieve IAAF Gold Label status after finishing 25th in the World Half Marathon championships in Valencia, Spain. This opens the way to more international competition for Conrad, who was South Africa’s top ranked woman marathon runner last year.

She recently finished eighth at the Vienna Marathon, in a time of 2 hours 38.17 and she also won the Two Oceans Half Marathon in March.

In the past few years, Conrad has been a familiar figure on the podium at SPAR Challenge races, and was third on the Grand Prix ladder last year. She missed the opening race in Cape Town this year because of her world half marathon commitment, but with five races to go, the battle for the title is still wide open.

Three-times Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl, who finished third in Cape Town, despite being six months pregnant, is still undecided about whether she will run on Saturday.

“I’m running the Wally Hayward 10km on Tuesday, and I’ll see how I go,” said Van Zyl.

“If I finish in about 35 minutes, I might run on Saturday, but there’s no point in going all that way and not finishing in the top 10. Also, I am a bit nervous of flying – I would hate to go into labour on the plane.”

Other runners to look out for are Glenrose Xaba, who was second in Cape Town, Christine Kalmer, who is back in form after a quiet 2017 because of illness, and the Phalula twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang, who are both former Grand Prix winners.