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Johannes takes full honours at SPAR Challenge

Helalia Johannes takes full honours in SPAR Grand Prix series.

COMING off a bronze medal win at the World Athletics championship in Doha in the week of the SPAR Women’s Challenge Joburg leg, Helalia Johannes took full honours in a record-breaking time on October 6.

Namibian sensation Johannes (Nedbank) won the 10km in 33:16, notching up her sixth consecutive record-breaking streak in the 2019 SPAR Grand Prix series.

Comrades Marathon winner Gerda Steyn was second in 34:28 and last year’s Joburg winner, Irvette van Zyl, was third in 34:40. It was an all-green podium, with all three runners representing Nedbank.

As in the previous 2019 SPAR Women’s Challenge races, Johannes went out fast and led from start to finish.

Initially, she was in a bunch that included Steyn and van Zyl as well as Ethiopian junior Tadu Nare (Nedbank) and Glenrose Xaba (Boxer). Steyn and van Zyl dropped back at this stage and Johannes powered ahead, running on her own.

Steyn and van Zyl made up ground on Nare and Xaba on the uphill part of the race, with Steyn showing her strength and experience as she stormed into second place.

Nare finished fourth in 35:07 minutes and last year’s Grand Prix winner, Xaba, was fifth in 35:23.

Johannes said it had been difficult to recover from the world championships and still win in Johannesburg.

“I prepared very well for the marathon and I think that I was able to do well here because I really am super fit,” she said.

“I am very happy to have won again.”

The top three finishers in the 10km at the 2019 SPAR Women’s Joburg leg on October 6 at Marks Park are Gerda Steyn (Nedbank), Helalia Johannes (Nedbank) and Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank). Photo: Annette van Schalkwyk

Steyn, who is preparing for the New York Marathon on November 6, said she used the SPAR Challenge to work on her speed for New York.

“It’s a great way to prepare,” she said.

“I knew that the second half of the race was uphill, so I stuck as close as I could to the leaders on the downhill, because my strength is in my stamina and endurance. I always do well on the hills.

“The SPAR Challenge races are great. I love taking part in a women’s race,” said Steyn.

An emotional van Zyl, who was clearly not feeling well, said she had had a roller-coaster year and was very pleased to have finished on the podium in the race she won last year.

Van Zyl underwent surgery for an ongoing neural problem in her groin earlier this year.

“My next goal is the Soweto Marathon on November 3, where I am hoping to win for the third time. It’s been a tough year, but I hope I will be in better shape then,” said van Zyl.

Grand master Sonja Laxton notched up her 100th SPAR Women’s Challenge on Sunday.

More than 13 000 runners took part in the 10km challenge and the 5km fun run.

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