Following two thrilling contests which kicked off the 2023 SPAR Grand Prix, a number of elite athletes from across Africa are positioning themselves to challenge for top honours as South Africa’s premier women’s road running series heads into its third leg in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal on Sunday, 25 June.
It is a foregone conclusion that the competition for places in the top six will be fierce and, because the beachfront course is super-fast, the likelihood of very fast times means that this could be one of the quickest 10km races in South Africa’s history.
Under SPAR Grand Prix rules, fast times equate to valuable bonus points in addition to position points for the top runners. This in turn makes the possible positions of the runners on the Grand Prix leaderboard after Durban even more intriguing.
While Ethiopian athletes Hiyane Lama (Cape Town) and Tadu Nare (Gqeberha) won the first and second legs respectively, both have run only one race which has left them chasing from behind in terms of the leaderboard.
However an exciting change this year, where athletes need to run only four of the six nationwide 10km races, means that Nedbank Running Club teammates Lama and Nare are both still very much in the running for the overall crown.
Nare, in particular, is better positioned than her fifth place in the leaderboard suggests. After raking in bonus points with a superb performance in Gqeberha last month, the defending series champion will be eager to stamp her authority as the season reaches its halfway point.
With the top six athletes on the leaderboard all turning out in Durban, the two Ethiopian race winners, Lama and Nare, will have to be at their best if they want to close the gap on the leaders and put distance between themselves and the chasers in what has been a thrilling series thus far.
Nare’s compatriot and Nedbank teammate, Selam Gebre, tops the leaderboard and, although she has never beaten Nare or Lama, will be hoping for a career breakthrough after finishing second in Cape Town and Gqeberha.,
Among the elite South African group, Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) will be confident of putting up a fight against the foreign contingent this weekend after setting a spectacular personal best of 1:08:37 to win the national half-marathon title in Gqeberha earlier this month.
Xaba is two points behind Gebre in second place on the SPAR Grand Prix leaderboard and the former series winner will be confident of building on her fine form by leading the local charge once again. The addition of significant prize money for the top local runners adds even more impetus to Xaba’s 2023 SPAR Grand Prix campaign.
Other athletes to watch include Tayla Kavanagh (Hollywood), who won the South African 5km title in Johannesburg last week, and experienced athlete Irvette van Zyl (Hollywood), who is on the entry list after missing the first two legs of the series. Kesa Molotsane and Cacisile Sosibo, both of whom ran the first two races, are also in the race for a top 5 finish at the end of the season.