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Phalula looks to wrap up Challenge on Sunday

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The Wanderers Club in Illovo is the place to be on Sunday, when South Africa’s top roadrunners vie for first place in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge.
The Johannesburg race is the last of the five-race Challenge series, and the winner of the annual Grand Prix is virtually cut and dried.  There is only the smallest technical possibility that Diana-Lebo Phalula will not emerge as winner of the Nissan Micra awarded to the runner with the most points from the five races.
She has a total of 94 points, after winning the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record time, and finishing fourth in Durban and Pretoria.
Her nearest rival is three-times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer, who is 28 points behind, with 66 points, just two points ahead of last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya.
Diana-Lebo’s twin sister, Lebogang, and two-times winner of the Grand Prix, Irvette van Zyl, are in joint fourth place on the log, with 57 points.  Lebogang won the Durban race and Van Zyl was first across the line in Pretoria.
Although the outcome of the Grand Prix may be known, the top runners have all let it be known that they will be satisfied with nothing less than victory on Sunday.
They have all been in good form recently.  Van Zyl followed her record-breaking win in Pretoria with victory in the Nelson Mandela Marathon the following day. She was unable to finish the Cape Town race because of an injury, but she has been running outstanding times and could be hard to beat on Sunday.
Kalmer finished ninth in the Berlin Marathon last month, in a personal best time of 2 hours 29min 27sec.  She has not had a win in this year’s Challenge races, and will be determined to change that in the last Challenge of the year.
The Phalula sisters have been running better than ever this year, and either of them is capable of winning the Johannesburg race. Diana-Lebo had a hamstring niggle in Durban and Pretoria, but should be back at her best for the Johannesburg race.
Other runners to look out for include Rutendo Nyahora, Rene’s sister Christine, Marelize Retief, Jenna Challenor and Thozama April, who will all be pushing for a place on the podium.
The evergreen Sonja Laxton will also be running.  Last year, she completed her 80th SPAR race when she won the Grandmasters category in Johannesburg.  A few weeks later she was struck by a car while training, and suffered multiple fractures.  While there were those who thought she might never run again, Laxton had other ideas, and less than six months later, she ran in the Port Elizabeth Challenge, finishing in 57.12 minutes – a time that would put most women of her age to shame.
Late entries will be accepted at registration at the Wanderers on Thursday October 9, Friday October 10 and Saturday October 11, but only pre-entries are eligible for the free race t-shirt.

Pictured is Diana-Lebo Phalula, showing her place on top of the leader board. Picture by Reg Caldecott


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