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Women’s Grand Prix series goes international

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The SPAR Grand Prix, one of South Africa’s most prestigious athletics events, will be bigger and better than ever this year.

The Grand Prix has been expanded to include a sixth race – the Pietermaritzburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and the prize money has increased by seven per cent, with the eventual winner pocketing a whopping R173 000. In addition, the Grand Prix is now open to all woman runners, regardless of their nationality.

‘The inclusion of international runners is an important step,’ said Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton.

‘For 10 years, we helped a generation of local runners move into the international arena. Now it’s time to open it up to everyone, because our local girls are ready to take on the world.

‘With six races this year, these international runners need to come to at least four, and probably five, of the races if they want to win.  That means we could have several African stars here for the whole series,’ said Laxton.

‘That’s good for road running in South Africa and we plan to eventually become a destination for world class women athletes.  We invite the Kenyans, the Ethiopians and other world class runners to come to the SPAR Grand Prix in 2017.’

Laxton said the 10th anniversary of the SPAR Grand Prix in 2016 had been very special, but the organisers knew that they had to continue to improve the race.

‘We decided to include Pietermaritzburg as one of the Grand Prix races because we wanted to expand the Grand Prix, and the Pietermaritzburg race was ideal for our purposes. It is well run, and well supported, so it has enough clout to fit into the Grand Prix, and it has been sponsored by SPAR for a number of years.

‘We are excited about the improvements to the Grand Prix,’ said SPAR Marketing Director Mike Prentice. ‘The SPAR Challenge races and the SPAR Grand Prix are among our most important sponsorships, and it is important that they change and improve every year.  We look forward to another titanic battle for Grand Prix points in 2017.’

One runner who will be delighted by the expansion of the Grand Prix to all nationalities is Rutendo Nyahora. The Zimbabwean has been a regular top ten finisher for several years, with a number of Challenge wins to her name, but until now she has been excluded from the Grand Prix.

‘I didn’t mind that it was only for South Africans,’ said Nyahora. ‘But I am so happy that I can now also get Grand Prix points, and stand a chance of winning.’

As part of efforts to raise standards, there will be a cash incentive for runners who beat target times for each of the races. The targets are the fastest winning times in the past three years. In addition to the cash prize of R5000 in the open category and R2500 in the age categories, runners who meet the target times will receive bonus points. Only the winner will receive the cash bonus, but all runners who beat the target times will receive bonus points.

The first race is the Cape Town Challenge on Sunday 2 April. The Port Elizabeth Challenge is on Saturday 6 May and the Durban race is on Sunday 11 June. There will be two Challenge races in August, with the Pretoria race on Saturday 5 August and the Pietermaritzburg race on Sunday 20 August. The final race is in Johannesburg on Sunday 8 October at their new venue, Marks Park in Emmarentia.

Picture of last year’s Grand Prix Series winner, Irvette Van Zyl courtesy of Reg Caldecott


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