A year ago, Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) announced her intention to win the 2015 SPAR Grand Prix title.
On Sunday, she accomplished just this when she won the Johannesburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club in a time of 35min 08sec, to add to her victory in Durban, and her podium finishes in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. Her victory sees her taking home a cash prize of R150,000.
Phalula and Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) broke away from the pack almost immediately, and continued to draw away from the rest of the field as the race went on. At four kilometres, Phalula passed Nyahora and went into the lead. Nyahora finished second in 35:49.
Phalula’s twin sister and defending Grand Prix titleholder, Diana-Lebo, (Boxer) was third, in 36:22 minutes, five seconds ahead of Keneilwe Sesing (Randmark).
‘I was very focused for this race,’ said Lebogang. ‘I knew the others would push me but I just wanted to go for it. I was running with Rutendo at the beginning, but decided to push ahead from four kilometres.
‘They have changed the route and I really liked the route today, so I was comfortable throughout the race.’
Lebogang said she was very grateful to the sponsors for the Challenge races, which provided a great motivation for road runners. ‘I also want to thank my sister, because she pushed me to get up and train, when I just wanted to stay in bed.’
Zimbabwean Nyahora said she was very happy with her performance. ‘I have had a very good year, and I am very proud that I finished in the top three in all the SPAR races this year.’
Diana-Lebo, who was the first South African home in the Cape Town marathon three weeks ago, said her main ambition today had been to achieve a podium finish.
The Phalula sisters said their focus for the next year would be doing well in the 2016 Challenge series, but they have also set their sights on qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Lebogang is aiming to qualify for the 1500m, while Diana-Lebo said she still had to sit down with her coaching team and decide whether to focus on track running or try to qualify for the marathon.
Former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank), who gave birth just five weeks ago, surprised everyone, including herself, by finishing in 11th place. ‘I only started running again this week, so I am very proud of myself,’ she said.
‘But next year, I am going to be going all out to start winning the Challenge races again, and I also want to qualify for the Olympic Games in the 10000m,’ she said.
There was a record entry of 13,358 runners for the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.
Picture of the victorious Lebogang courtesy of Reg Caldecott
1 Lebogang Phalula 35:08; 2 Rutendo Nyahora 35:49; 3 Diana Lebo Phalula 36:22; 4 Keneilwe Sesing 36:27; 5 Cherry Lee Schoeman 36:39; 6 Rasaline David 36:52; 7 Nolene Conrad 37:11; 8 Tebogo Masehla 37:29; 9 Charne Bosman 37:31; 10 Rene Kalmer 37:53
Juniors: 1 Cherry Lee Schoeman 36:39; 2 Nicole Van Der Merwe 38:23; 3 Simonay Wetse 40:12
Veteran (40 49 Age Group): 1 Janene Carey 42:39; 2 Ronel Thomas 42:57; 3 Melanie Jennett 43:59
Master (50 59 Age Group): 1 Judy Bird 42:19; 2 Ansie Breytenbach 45:01; 3 Sarah Crooks 45:32
Grandmaster (60+ Age Group): 1 Frances Van Blerk 50:00; 2 Sonja Laxton 50:58; 3 Virginia Augustine 54:58