Fresh from her victory in the 5000-metre on the track at the South African Athletics Championships in Stellenbosch on Friday, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) cruised to victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday morning.
The Johannesburg athlete won in in a time of 33min 24sec. Teammate Rutendo Nyahora was second in 33.52, followed by Lebogang Phalula (Boxer) in 34 minutes.
A smiling Nyahora took the early lead, but Van Zyl overtook at about three kilometres, and never looked back.
Van Zyl, who gave birth to a son just seven months ago, looked relaxed as she ate up the kilometres.
‘I wasn’t planning to run fast,’ she said. ‘My coach told me not to go under 33.20, because he didn’t want me too tired for the London Marathon next Sunday.
‘I really didn’t expect to win, but everything went my way today. My legs are feeling alive again, and I’m very happy at the moment. I’m enjoying my running and I am enjoying motherhood.’
Van Zyl was pregnant for much of 2015, and before that had a number of injuries, but now she appears to be in the form of her life. Late last month, she won the Two Oceans half marathon, and in fact has not been beaten in 2016.
Nyahora said she had enjoyed the race. ‘Everything went according to plan,’ she said.
‘I ran a marathon last week, so I knew I would be tired, but I ran better than I expected. The weather was perfect for running today.’
Phalula, the reigning SPAR Grand Prix champion, said she had also enjoyed the race, although she was tired after running the 1500m at the national championships on Saturday.
Van Zyl leaves for London on Tuesday, where she hopes to qualify for the marathon in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
‘We’ll see what happens there,’ she said. ‘If I don’t make it, I’ll try to qualify in one of the track events.’
Phalula is heading for Port Elizabeth, where she will run in the 1500 and 5000 metre events at the ASA Night Series meeting on Tuesday, hoping to qualify for the Olympics. Her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, missed the Cape Town race because she was running a marathon in the Netherlands, also aiming to qualify for Rio.
A record entry of 27 532 took part in the 10km race and the 5km Fun Run.
In a new innovation, the six women who have won the SPAR Grand Prix are all mentoring promising junior runners.
Rene Kalmer, who has won more Challenge titles than any other runner, said she was happy to be mentoring a younger runner. ‘I chose Chery-Lee Schoeman, because she is at the school I used to teach at, and because I think she has a great future.
‘I think it is working well, and I predict great things for her.’
Chery-Lee, who was first junior home in several 10km races last year, said she was learning a lot from Kalmer. ‘We don’t actually train together, but she is always ready to give me advice and to help me if I have a problem,’ she said.
The Cape Town Challenge is the first in the five-race SPAR Challenge series. The second race is in Port Elizabeth on 5 May, to be followed in June by the Durban race. The Pretoria Challenge will be run in September, and the Johannesburg race in October.
Picture of Nyahora, Van Blerk and Phalula courtesy of Reg Caldecott