Mapaseka Makhanya has her eyes on the big prize ÔÇô and after two races in the five race SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series, she has a seven-point lead on the Grand Prix ladder.
The Grand Prix has become a major element on South Africa’s road-running calendar, with South Africa’s best runners battling it out for top honours in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.┬áThe winner this year will receive a Nissan Micra car and the runner-up will take home R30┬á000.
Runners earn Grand Prix points according to their positions in the five Challenge races.┬áThe top 20 runners in each race earn Grand Prix points, with the winner receiving 20 and the 20th-placed runner one point.
Since its inception, Olympians Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk) have dominated the Grand Prix, with Poppy Mlambo the only other runner to win the ultimate prize. But things are looking very different this year, with road-running newcomer Makhanya determined to maintain top position.
ÔÇ£I’m very excited to be on top of the ladder.┬áI really want that Nissan Micra,ÔÇØ she laughed, after finishing third in the Port Elizabeth race on Saturday.┬áThe race was won by Rutendo Nyahora, who also won the Cape Town leg in March.┬áHowever, as a Zimbabwean, Nyahora does not qualify for the Grand Prix, which is open only to South African citizens. ÔÇ£I’m just enjoying doing well in the race, and I am aiming to win all five,ÔÇØ said Nyahora.
Kalmer’s sister, Christine, who finished fifth in Port Elizabeth, and Irvette van Zyl, who came seventh, are in joint second position on the ladder, with 30 points. Zintle Xiniwe is in fourth place, with 27 points.┬áDiana-Lebo Phalula, who came second in Port Elizabeth, but did not compete in Cape Town, is in eighth place, with 19 points.
Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, had to withdraw from the Port Elizabeth race because of a calf injury sustained during the Boston Marathon in April. She is currently in joint 10th position, with Nedbank CGA teammate, Cornelia Joubert, with 17 points.┬áKalmer has not given up on the Grand Prix, though. ÔÇ£There are still three races left and I will be back and I am determined to defend my title,ÔÇØ she said.
Kalmer told Road to Rio 2016 this week: “I just didn’t want to take any chances in making it worse. It was a tough decision, but I must focus on the bigger picture. It’s responding well to treatment and I’ve also started to train easy again. At this stage I’m not committing to any races till I’m 100% fit and pain-free.
Annie Bothma is in the lead in the junior category, and Janene Carey leads the veterans group. Multiple Comrades marathon gold medalist Grace de Oliveira is the leading master, and the evergreen Sonja Laxton, who has run 77 Challenge races, tops the grandmasters category.
Neddbank CGA, with 120 points, have a massive lead in the club competition.┬á They are followed by Boxer with 87 points, and Transnet with 72.
The third race in the SPAR Women’s Challenge series takes place in Durban on 23 June.