A determined Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) led from start to finish in Sunday’s Joburg SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Sporting Club in Johnanesburg to win in 34min 58sec.
At the same time she made sure of winning the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix for the third time.
Mapaseka Makhanya (Olifantsfontein) came from nowhere to claim second place in 35:46 minutes, ahead of Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank), who finished in 36 minutes.
Van Zyl, who was a late withdrawal from the Olympic Marathon in Rio in August because of a stress fracture in her foot, set the pace from the start and opened up a 40 second gap before the first kilometre mark. Van Zyl won the first three races, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, but was unable to run in Pretoria because of her injury.
‘I knew what I had to do to win the Grand Prix. I got into the lead on the first uphill and decided that I was going to run my own race. If the others wanted to catch me, it was up to them,’ said an elated Van Zyl.
‘I’m so happy to have won and I am so glad it’s over – I have had nightmares about this race for about four weeks.
‘I really wanted to win, to make up for my Olympic Games disappointment. I had planned to use the Olympic Games to compensate for my previous Olympic disappointment, when I had to drop out of the race in London, so I really needed something good to happen.
‘I think possibly I went out too fast and I forgot about one or two hills, so I struggled a bit in the last two kilometres, but I kept thinking about my little boy and my husband LJ [fellow Olympic athlete], and was so happy when I got to the finish line and they were waiting for me,’ she said.
With Van Zyl in command throughout the race, the real battle was for second place. Nyahora and last year’s winner Lebogang Phalula ran together for the first seven kilometers, with the lead changing hands frequently, before Makhanya surged ahead to claim second spot.
‘I have been battling with injury for some time, and it was good to be running pain free,’ said Makhanya.
‘I am very strong mentally and I am very patient, and I used my patience today to surge at the right time. This 10km race is part of my training for the Shanghai Marathon at the end of October, and I am feeling very good,’ she said.
‘I was strong on the hills and that is what helped me.’
Nyahora said she was very happy to be on the podium and delighted to see her teammate Irvette van Zyl back in form.
‘The SPAR race is always very important to me,’ said Nyahora. ‘Lebogang and I were challenging each other, but I think what helped me was that I was stronger on the hills. I am grateful to her, because she helped me push myself because I was determined I was going to beat her.’
Phalula, who ran her first marathon three weeks ago, dropped off the pace about midway through the race, and finished in sixth position, behind Glenrose Xaba and Botswana runner, Onneile Dintwe. Phalula’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo, finished eighth.
A record entry of 14 562 women took part in Sunday’s race.
Pictures of Van Zyl winning and celebrating with husband and son, courtesy of Reg Caldecott
1 Irvette van Zyl 34.58, 2 Mapaseka Makhanya 35.46, 3 Rutendo Nyahora 35.00, 4 Glenrose Xaba 36.28, 5 Onneile Dintwe, 6 Lebogang Phalula 37.07, 7 Andrea Steyn 37.17, 8 Diana-Lebo Phalula 37.35, 9 Christine Kalmer 37.41, 10 Simonay Weitsz 37.58
Juniors: 1.Simonay Weitsz, 2 Cheryl-Lee Schoeman, 3 Yandiswa Shange, 4 Lesego Mpshe, 5 Rachel Leistra
40-49: 1 Ulrica Stander, 2 Ronel Thomas, 3 Janene Carey, 4 Shani Silver, 5 Maria Vilakazi
50-59: 1 Judy Bird, 2 Ansie Breytenbach, 3 Sarah Mahlangu, 4 Linda van der Gryp, 5 Sandra Brookstone
60+: 1 Margie Saunders, 2 Mkgoaole Magwetshu, 3 Margret Boshoe, 4 Mirriam Mashaba, 5 Jane Chocho