Although they will be eager to strengthen their grip on the Spar Grand Prix, Ethiopian athletes won't have it all their own way this weekend, with a strong South African contingent preparing to put up a fight in the second leg of South Africa’s premier women’s 10km road running series in Gqeberha on Saturday, 27 May.
Even in the absence of defending series champion Tadu Nare - who finished eighth at the London Marathon on the same day - the Ethiopian contingent dominated the opening leg of the Spar Grand Prix in Cape Town last month.
Hiyane Lama made a spectacular debut on the road over 10km, storming to victory in cold and wet conditions in 33:42, with compatriot and Nedbank Running Club teammate, Selam Gebre, taking second position.
This year the best four results scored by an athlete in the six-leg series will count at the end of the season, meaning that runners can miss one or even two races and still have a chance to win overall. In Gqeberha, Lama won’t be competing, but defending series champion, Tadu Nare, will make her season debut, accompanied by Selam Gebre. This suggests that the Ethiopian juggernaut will continue to be the team to beat in the Friendly City.
SOUTH AFRICAN CONTENDERS
The next three finishers in the Cape Town race are all taking part in Gqeberha and are keen to make an emphatic statement in the absence of series leader Lama and even with Nare and Gebre in the race.
Glenrose Xaba (Boxer Athletics Club), who was third in Cape Town and is currently the top-ranked South African in the Spar Grand Prix, is eager to challenge the international contingent, as are Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts Running Club) and Cacisile Sosibo (Boxer Athletics Club), who were fourth and fifth respectively in Cape Town.
After missing out on the first contest in the Mother City, former multiple Spar Grand Prix series winner Irvette van Zyl (Hollywood Athletics Club) is also in the lineup for the Gqeberha race.
DE OLIVEIRA MAKING HISTORY
This weekend there will be plenty of interest a little further back in the field, with Grace de Oliveira preparing to become the only second runner to complete 100 SPAR Women’s Challenge races. So far, in the more than 30-year history of the Spar series, only the iconic Sonja Laxton achieved the elusive ‘century’ of races when she completed the Spar Grand Prix race in Johannesburg in October, 2019.
De Oliveira has had an illustrious running career, including representing South Africa internationally in the standard marathon and, moving up to the ultra-marathons, an amazing seven gold medals in the Comrades Marathon. Competing in the 60+ years age category, the Durban-based athlete, now running in the colours on the Phantane Athletics Club, finished second in the grandmasters category in Cape Town in 45:10, kicking off her 2023 SPAR Grand Prix series with an excellent nine points.
‘ROAD RUNNING EXTRAVAGANZA’
"We are so excited to be hosting the 30th edition of the Spar Women's Challenge Gqeberha," said Roseann Shadrach, Spar Eastern Cape Advertising Manager.
"As the event sponsor, we are ready to once again welcome elite athletes from around Africa, as well as thousands of social runners and walkers, and we are eager to celebrate the race's anniversary with live entertainment and various activities which are planned for race day.
"As always, this race is expected to be superbly organised, thanks to the incredible team that puts it together, and we invite runners and walkers from across South Africa to join us in this road running extravaganza."
The 10km race in Gqeberha starts at 7am and the 5km fun run will begin at 8am at Pollok Beach in Summerstrand, with both contests taking place on fast courses which are well suited for participants to set quick times and chase personal bests.