Kalmer favourite for Spar race in strong field

2010-08-28 00:00

RENE Kalmer’s disappointment at being left out of the Commonwealth Games team may be eased by a R20 000 bonus from this weekend’s Spar Ladies’ Double.

The talented 29-year-old spent most of the season notching up personal bests in middle-distance track events with a view to making the South African team to India in October, all of which will put her in good stead for this weekend when she is attempting back-to-back wins in the Spar ladies’ race series.

Today Kalmer lines up at Centurion as favourite to take the tape and a R10 000 first prize ahead of a strong field of 20 000 women that includes Poppy Mlambo, Annerien van Schalkwyk, her sister Christine and the recently crowned SA 10 km champion, Irvette van Blerk.

The sweat will barely have dried on their kit before many of the elite contenders will commence their trip from O.R. Tambo to King Shaka to be ready for tomorrow’s Durban race, which starts from the Moses Mabhida Stadium at 9 am.

The quality of the Durban field, combined with a new, faster, flatter sea-level course, has the potential to deliver personal bests for all age groups. Kalmer’s recent 8:44 for the 3 000 m suggests that on her day she is capable of going close to 31min:30sec, which would endanger Colleen de Reuck’s 2000 time of 31:38, which is the fastest recorded in a Spar ladies’ event.

Boxer’s Tanith Maxwell was set to carry the local hopes, but withdrew from tomorrow’s race on Thursday as a result of flu symptoms. “My focus has to be on the Berlin Marathon at the end of September where I hope to get close to two hours 30 minutes,” said the 34-year-old who is the country’s leading marathoner and leaves for UK on the weekend. There she will compete in the Bristol Half-marathon as a final tune-up to Berlin.

Jenna Challenor is another local who could have been expected to take KZN to the fore, but a foot injury that has niggled since May has put paid to her chances, and Daniella Adlam’s racing schedule appears to have reduced the Boxer athlete to a mere shadow of herself. The 30-year-old was only able to post a 38 min:20sec time in this month’s SA championship.

Although she is not listed as a starter, these injuries could see Cary Ann Smith as the top local contender come 9 am tomorrow.

It will also be interesting to see how Pietermaritzburg-based Comrades runner Kerry Koen copes with the shorter distance. The 34-year-old narrowly missed out on a gold medal in 2009, but improvement over the 10 km distance would signal greater potential for the 86th Comrades up-run next May.

The province’s chances of podium places look better in the age groups where Janene Carey could give 2006 winner Ronel Thomas stiff competition in the 35-39 category.

Gaunteng-based Tessa Burrell and Boxer’s Maya Lawrie have often traded wins over the short distances, and home ground support may be the telling factor for Lawrie who is preparing for the Beirut Marathon on November 7.

Now in its 21st year, the Durban Spar race commenced with 2 200 participants in 1990 and grew to be the country’s largest race with 17 200 women in 2004 before dropping to 12 373 in last year’s race. It’s now under the organisational control of ChestervilleAthletic Club.

Indications this past week are that the numbers are on the increase and over 14 000 runners and walkers are expected to participate in the 10 km (9 am) and five kilometre (9.45 am) tomorrow morning.

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