Jenna of all trades

2014-03-23 14:00

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Marathon runner is brimming with confidence and ready to showcase her vast talent in Copenhagen on Saturday.

The women’s team representing South Africa in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships has a unique squad member in debutante Jenna Challenor.

Apart from being a multiskilled athlete, the mother of three is a professional photographer and a qualified teacher.

Challenor, of Boxer Athletics Club in KwaZulu-Natal, is part of a three-woman team of René Kalmer, a two-time Olympian; and SA marathon champion Cornelia Joubert, who will represent the country at the global event in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Saturday.

Challenor earned her place in the team courtesy of her personal best time of 1:16.21 for a third place at the SA Half Marathon Championships last year.

Little is known about the 32-year-old because of the stop-start nature of her running career due to maternity breaks.

She is from a sporting family. “Running has always been part of my life and my husband Brett has represented South Africa for many years in life-saving championships and water polo, and won his age group at the Dusi Canoe Marathon this year. Brett also runs and gives me unconditional support in everything I do,” said Challenor, adding that her mother has completed 10 Comrades Marathons.

The Durban Girls’ College graduate said her qualification for the World Half Marathon Championships was a significant progress following the birth of her third child in 2012.

“I went to all the Spar races, SA 10km and 21km, and SA Cross Country trials, and finally started to run decent times. I had a fantastic 2013 and am so excited for this year,” said Challenor.

She also participated in swimming, played provincial hockey and represented the Durban Surf club at the World Life Saving Championships in New Zealand in 1998.

Challenor said she did part of her training in New Zealand in December, when she went there as the official photographer at a friend’s wedding.

She is coached by renowned distance coach Gerrie Coetzee.?“Representing SA has been a lifelong dream for me and I can’t wait to put on the green and gold vest, run my heart out and make South Africa proud,” she said.

On Saturday, Challenor and her team-mates will face the massive challenge of displacing the Kenyans and Ethiopians while in the process emulating Elana Meyer, who remains the only South African woman to win a medal at the World Half Marathon Championships – gold in Norway in 1994 and silver in Switzerland in 1994 – and made a top-10 finish on two other occasions.

.?Men’s team: Lusapho April, Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant


Juggling with Jenna

.?I am pretty organised and plan my days quite rigidly.

.?I train early in the morning when my children – Nicolette (9), Rylee-Kai (7) and Tao (2) – are asleep.

.?When I get home from training, I get them ready for school.

.?When they are at school, I do my photoshoots, edit the pictures and train sometimes.

.?Once I pick the girls up from school, my time is theirs. I have a spreadsheet on where and what time I fetch and drop them off at their various extramural activities.

.?At the same time, I need to fit in homework and spend quality time with my baby too.

So yes, it is a juggling act during the week but come the weekend after training or races, I go with the flow or just relax and enjoy time with my family.

How we have fared

SA performances at World Half Marathon Champs

Top-10 finishers (women’s and men’s) since South Africa’s readmission to international competition:

2012: Kavarna, Bulgaria

Stephen Mokoka (8th, 1:02.06)

2009: Birmingham, UK

Stephen Mokoka (8th, 1:01.36)

2005: Edmonton, Canada

Norman Dlomo (10th, 1:02.45)

2002: Brussels, Belgium

Shadrack Hoff (6th, 1:01.23)

2001: Bristol, UK

Elana Meyer (6th, 1:08.56)

Hendrick Ramaala (4th, 1:00.15)

1999: Palermo, Italy

Elana Meyer (7th, 1:10.20)

Hendrick Ramaala (silver medal, 1:01.50)

Abner Chipu (6th, 1:01.54)

Mluleki Nobanda (10th, 1:02.17)

.?SA won men’s team medal (gold)

1998: Uster, Switzerland

Elana Meyer (silver, 1:08.32)

Hendrick Ramaala (silver, 1:00.24)

Gert Thys (5th, 1:00.37)

Abner Chipu (9th, 1:01.20)

.?SA won men’s team medal (gold)

1997: Košice, Slovakia

Hendrick Ramaala (4th, 1:00.07)

Gert Thys (6th, 1:00.23)

.?SA won men’s team medal (silver)

1995: Belfort-Montbéliard, France

Colleen de Reuck (4th, 1:10.34)

Josiah Thugwane (5th, 1:02.28)

1994: Oslo, Norway

Elana Meyer (gold, 1:08.36)

1993: Brussels, Belgium

.?Meck Mothuli (gold, 1:02.11) and Isaac Radebe (silver, 1:03.35) – junior boys’ category

1992 Newcastle, UK

Meck Mothuli (silver, 1:05.01) – junior boys’

.?SA won team medal (silver) in the same category

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