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Elite runners overcome challenges to finish strong at SPAR race

Ethiopian star and newcomer take the the top two spots while Irvette van Zyl finishes in third as first South African.

It was not the easiest of races, nor did it see times as good as previous years, but the SPAR Women’s Challenge Jozi was still a colourful and vibrant celebration of fitness and the human spirit.

Debash Kelati Desta finishes second. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

The 5km event was a blast, and thousands turned up from as far as Soweto, Krugersdorp, the East Rand and Olifantsfontein to take part in ‘Joburg’s most beautiful race’ at Marks Park Sports Club on October 1. Many men also participated to show their support for the women in their lives.

Selam Gebre wins the race. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

But the 10km run was always going to be the highlight, the Joburg race being the sixth and final one of the SPAR Grand Prix series every year.

Selam Gebre of Ethiopia and Nedbank Running Club won the race in 00:33:41 after finishing second to compatriot Tadu Nare in the first five SPAR Grand Prix races. But after sealing an unassailable lead in the fifth race in Centurion, Nare opted to skip the final leg and prepare for the Chicago Marathon happening a week later.

Lebo Phalula warms up before the run. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

Another Ethiopian, Debash Kelati Desta was second in 00:33:55. Three-times SPAR Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (Hollywood RC) was third – and the first South African to cross the line – in 00:35:08.

Irvette van Zyl is third and the first South African to cross the line. Photo: Nicholas Zaal.

Only a few of the elite runners appeared to struggle with conditions on the hot morning and needed attention after the race, but Gebre was not one of them. When asked if she was happy with her finishing time, perceived as being worse than expected, she responded that she was. “I am satisfied with how the run went,” she said afterwards through her translator. “It was a hilly, difficult course and I have had quite a busy time – I was in Copenhagen three weeks ago, and then I ran the Absa race last week, so I haven’t had time to rest and recover.”

Blind runner Louzanne Coetzee and her guide Claus Kempen finish their first SPAR race. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

Desta had run her first SPAR Grand Prix race on the day, and only her fourth race in South Africa. She called it an exciting race and looked forward to spending more time running in South Africa.

Debash Kelati Desta finishes second. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

Rounding off the podium, Van Zyl said she had had a cold recently and had little rest in the week leading up to the run, so she was very grateful to have finished third. Having healed from a stress fracture, she said she was extremely glad to be on the road and work on her speed again, which she had not done in months.

Judy Bird is the first 60+ category runner to cross the line. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

The trio also spoke of the nature of the changing elite road running landscape in South Africa, and how local runners have been meeting the influx of international competitors with determination. Local runners have been improving their times and showing they are up to the challenge. They said there were still training methods that could be improved, and coaches can push their runners harder.

Selam Gebre of Ethiopia and Nedbank Running Club finishes first. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

Other notable winners included Boxer AC securing the top three juniors spots in Jackie Coertze (00:40:55), Corlize Stolz (00:42:18) and Courtney Sole (00:43:06).

Sisters and Olympians Christine and René Kalmer meet at the finish line. Photo: Nichola Zaal

Makhosazane Mhlongo (Hollywood Athletics Club) won the 40–49 age category in 00:37:50, a whopping two minutes 37 seconds ahead of the next person. Elizabeth Potter also shone for 32GI by winning the 50–59 age category in 00:42:16.

Irvette van Zyl, Selam Gebre and Debash Kelati Desta finish third, first and second respectively. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

Glan Austin’s own Judy Bird (Boxer AC) won the 60+ category in 00:40:55.

https://www.citizen.co.za/randburg-sun/469980/supersport-players-welcome-the-smell-good-partnershipSelam Gebre of Ethiopia and Nedbank Running Club finishes first. Photo: Nicholas Zaal

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Runners dash to the Jozi SPAR Women’s Challenge

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