CLAIMING the title of the Maritzburg SPAR Women’s 10/5km, this year’s queen of the SPAR Grand Prix, Helalia Johannes (Nedbank), took the top honours in a course record breaking time of 32.23.
In a full field of 4 500 runners, this is the fifth time Johannes has won the SPAR race, with records tumbling along the way, dominating this year’s Grand Prix series. The 39-year-old Namibian star has improved her race every time her feet have hit the South African tarmac.
Going into the race, Johannes had the murmurings of a headache but as she got into her stride, her headache started to subside, and she put her head down and charged through the course.
Johannes was pushed by Ethiopian runner Tadu Nare (Nedbank) for the majority of the race, cruising through the half way with only a second separating the two. Johannes started opening the gap just after the 7km mark as she powered up the hills, pulling apart from the rest of the field.
For the fifth time, Nare finished in her familiar second place position, in an impressive time of 33.06. The soft-spoken Nare stated at the press conference: “The weather was superb but the route was extremely hilly.”
Finishing third, South African Glenrose Xaba came in at 33.41. Midway through the race, Xaba was just off the leading ladies, and only 17 seconds behind the Namibian.
Back on the road after her operation for her Illiac Artery shortly after the Durban race, the defending champion, Irvette van Zyl, finished in seventh with the clock on 34.21, five seconds faster than her winning time from 2018. Van Zyl said she wasn’t 100% fit but said she was happy with her recovery.
Kicking off her phenomenal year, Johannes — the Commonwealth Games Marathon champion — set a Namibian record in the Port Elizabeth SPAR race with a time of 31.50. Later that month she cruised to victory in the Cape Town SPAR race, beating her recent record by five seconds. Continuing her Grand Prix quest, the determined runner ignited the Durban track in June with a crushing time of 30.58, smashing the record set by Colleen de Reuck of a 31.18 run in 2000. In her fourth successive win, the leading lady ran an impressive time at altitude, crossing the Tshwane SPAR Challenge finish line in a time of 32.29. In September, she is running the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Doha. She smiled when asked if she was running Johannesburg.
Crunching the numbers for the final SPAR Grand Prix race in Johannesburg on Sunday, October 6, Johannes needs to finish in the top 15 to win the overall Grand Prix that boasts an overall prize purse of R185 000 for the six runs.
1. Helalia Johannes (Nedbank) 32,24; 2. Tadu Nare (Nedbank) 33,07; 3. Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) 33.41; 4. Kesa Molotsane (Murray and Roberts) 33,56; 5. Fortunate Chidzivo (Retail Africa Langa) 34,03; 6. Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) 34,19; 7. Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) 34,21; 8. Jenet Mbhele (Umzimkulu Striders) 34,23; 9. Betha Chikanga (Maxed) 34,28; 10. Caroline Mhandu (Maxed) 35,00. — Supplied.