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Irvette’s two wins in two days

By Mark Etheridge

In-form Irvette van Blerk notched back-to-back road victories in different cities at the weekend.

Her victories came at the Spar Women’s Challenge events in Pretoria and Durban and her double triumph showed that she’s without doubt the premier road athlete in the country right now.

This after already having won the national half-marathon and 10-kilometre championships this year. Both the weekend races were over the latter distance. First up was the Pretoria leg of the Spar Women’s Challenge on Saturday and Van Blerk has now won four out of five of the Pretoria legs of this event. The next race came less than 24 hours later, in Durban where Van Blerk won again.

In Pretoria the 23-year-old won in a time of 34min 26sec and in Durban she clocked 33:45 making it a wonderful weekend of power-running. Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Nyhoro (34:59)was runner-up in Pretoria while Zintle Xiniwe was second in Durban.

Reflecting on her weekend, Van Blerk said: I’m just enjoying my running so much now that it just motivates me to train even harder. My legs were tired on Sunday but then so were a lot of the other girls’ legs.

“We started the Durban race later than expected because of traffic and people still in the road from the 5km race. So it was quite warm. I told myself beforehand that I wasn’t going to think about running a specific time and just go for the win. For the first 2km Rene (Kalmer) was in front but she just fell off the pace at 3km (she’s had problems with her stomach this week and is battling to breathe) and then it was just me and Zintle.

“We turned at 3km and into the wind and although the course was flat the wind made it feel like there were hills. At 5km I put in a surge and from them on it was me on my own. The last 3km felt like they took forever and that’s where I really felt Saturday’s race in my legs. I would have liked to go under 33min but it will come. I’m patient.”

As for Saturday’s victory. “It was a good line up with most of the top local girls and also some Zimbabwean girls so my nerves were almost finished! My plan was to run with the pack until about 7km but I was already in front at the gun and although I thought of holding back at 4km I then decided to just go for it and if they caught me then so be it. But no-one came after me so I had a huge smile when I ran into the SuperSport Stadium because the wind was blowing, it was warm, so just good to have won.

Kalmer could only finish seventh in the Pretoria race (37:08) and 10th in Pretoria. Compounding her health worries no doubt is the bitter disappointment at not being included in the SA team for Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India later this year.