A new course record and the presence of South African athletics royalty highlighted this year’s SPAR Women’s Challenge Tshwane in Centurion on Saturday. Thousands of participants took to the streets around SuperSport Park for the annual race with more than 23 000 people lining up at the start for the 5km and 10km races. Already the biggest race in the SPAR Grand Prix series, the Tshwane event was close to capacity highlighting its popularity on the annual running calendar.
Namibian superstar Helalia Johannes won the elite race with a new course record of 32 minutes 39 seconds for her fourth consecutive victory in the series. Johannes was welcomed at the finish line by none other than South African track queen Caster Semenya. The Namibian runner was in a class of her own dropping a quality field three kilometres into the race for a commanding victory. Ethiopian junior Tadu Nare finished second in 34:13 with Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Nyahora bagging bronze clocking 34:40. Last year’s winner and defending Grand Prix champion Glenrose Xaba was the first South African to cross the line finishing fifth place in 35:39.
“I am excited and happy with my performances in the last few events that I have competed in,” Johannes said. “I am turning 39 this month, and if you look at how I am performing, it is amazing.”
Johannes was not the only star on the day with thousands of brave women, their friends and family poring across the finish line to add to the carnival-like atmosphere.
Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya and former Comrades winner Charne Bosman were among the celebrities showing their support to all the participants. Semenya’s Masai Athletics Club is one of the race beneficiaries which will provide support to aspirant young athletes. The three-time world champion congratulated and thanked the participants as their entries made the donation possible.
Highlighting the spectacular growth of the SPAR Women’s Challenge Tshwane, Bosman won the event 22 years ago when only 1000 people lined up for the inaugural race. She won the veterans category on Saturday with a time of 39:51.
The race did not only attract the cream of South African athletics but ambassadors including Chantel Struwig, Ivan Botha, Sarina Frauenstein, Willem Botha, Hanna Grobler, Dianne Broodryk and Ouma Tema.
Participants embraced this year’s race theme, “Yes I Am” which is a rallying cry to the women of Tshwane to accept who they are and inspire others.
SPAR North Rand Marketing Executive, Charleen Goschen thanked women and men who embraced the theme and took part in the race, which ultimately contributed to the donations to the various charities. “We would like to thank the participants for their overwhelming support of the race and of SPAR stores which helps us make a difference in the communities we serve,” Goschen said.
“It is part of SPAR’s culture to give back to our communities, and we hope to continue in this vein. The race will not be possible without our loyal supporters, and we hope to see everyone again for the 2020 edition.”