Van Zyl itching to race against Spar champ Molotsane again

Irvette van Zyl. (Gallo Images)
Irvette van Zyl. (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - After winning the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon on Sunday, Irvette van Zyl says her highlight of the year was competing in the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge.

Van Zyl became the first South African woman to win the Soweto race since 2009, but said being part of the women-only race was always special.

Made her hungrier

“I think the Spar [Women’s Challenge] is always the highlight of the year because it doesn’t matter what position you end up in,” said Van Zyl, who walked away with R50 000 after winning the Soweto race.

She said it was great to run in a race in which only women participated.

But she admitted that ending the year by winning the Soweto Marathon had made her hungrier.

“Topping it [the marathon] off just makes me hungrier for next year ... maybe I’ll try another marathon".

The Olympic marathoner upgraded her bronze medal from last year to gold in a time of 2:41:06.

René Kalmer was the last South African woman to win the gruelling race in the famous township.

Van Zyl was speaking at the Grand Prix Awards ceremony in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg.

Women’s Challenge champion Kesa Molotsane was handed a cheque of R173 000 for winning the series.

Target times

Molotsane is the first person to win the title in her debut year. She won the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg races, finished second in Durban and Johannesburg, and third in Pretoria to finish with 156 points – 10 ahead of her nearest rival, three-time Grand Prix winner Van Zyl of Nedbank.

Van Zyl won in Pretoria and Johannesburg, came second in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and third in Pietermaritzburg.

The battle for top spot would have been even closer if Van Zyl had not been forced to drop out in Durban because of an injury. Molotsane gained bonus points for finishing within the target times set by the organisers in every race except Durban and Johannesburg, while Van Zyl earned bonus points in every race she finished.

“I lost the Grand Prix when I pulled up after 4km in Durban,” she said ruefully.

Nolene Conrad of KPMG finished every race in the top ten with podium finishes in Pretoria and Johannesburg. She came joint third with 2013 Grand Prix winner Mapaseka Makhanya of Massmart –  they garnered 67 points and  R27 500 each.

New dimension

Molotsane said she felt humbled after winning the Grand Prix title.

“When I ran the first one in Cape Town, I was really doing it just as a form of training for track racing,” said Molotsane.

“I planned to run just one or two, but then I realised I had a chance of winning the Grand Prix, so I carried on and I will definitely be running the Spar races again next year".

Van Zyl, who won the title in 2010, 2011 and last year, congratulated Molotsane on her achievement.

“Kesa is a great competitor,” she said. I think she has added a new dimension to the Spar Challenge races".

*Meanwhile, Shalane Flanagan dethroned three-time defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya last Sunday and became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years, potentially ending her highly decorated career with her first major marathon victory.

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