Kesa Molotsane (KPMG) entered the SPAR Women's 10km Challenge races this year to boost her training for track events.
She ended up winning the coveted SPAR Grand Prix title in her debut year!
Molotsane was handed a cheque for R173 000 at the SPAR Grand Prix awards ceremony in Muldersdrift on Tuesday.
Molotsane is only the seventh person to win the title, and the first to do so in her debut year. She won the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg races, finished second in Durban and Johannesburg and third in Pretoria to finish with 156 points - 10 ahead of her nearest rival, three-time Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank), who won in Pretoria and Johannesburg, came second in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and third in Pietermaritzburg.
The battle for top spot would have been even closer if Van Zyl had not been forced to drop out in Durban because of an injury.
Molotsane gained bonus points for finishing within the target times set by the organisers in every race except Durban and Johannesburg, while Van Zyl earned bonus points in every race she finished.
'I lost the Grand Prix when I pulled up after four kilometres in Durban,' she said ruefully.
Van Zyl, winner of Sunday's Soweto Marathon, won R50 000.
Nolene Conrad (KPMG), who finished every race in the top 10, with podium finishes in Pretoria and Johannesburg, came joint third with 2013 Grand Prix winner Mapaseka Makhanya (Massmart) with 67 points each. They each received R27 500.
Molotsane said she felt humbled by winning the Grand Prix title. 'When I ran the first one, in Cape Town, I was really doing it just as a form of training for track racing. I planned to run just one or two, but then I realised I had a chance of winning the Grand Prix, so I carried on, and I'll definitely be running the SPAR races again next year,' said Molotsane.
'Thank you to SPAR for what you have done for women's road running in South Africa.'
Van Zyl, who won the title in 2010, 2011 and 2016, congratulated Molotsane on her achievement. 'Kesa is a great competitor,' she said. 'I think she's added a new dimension to the SPAR Challenge races. She has an amazing kick, and I had my work cut out against her. But I'll be back next year and I look forward to an exciting battle against Kesa.'
Nicole Louw (KPMG) topped the leader board in the junior category, winning the four races she entered, earning a total of 35 points. Shanley Koekemoer (KPMG) was second, with 21 points, and Simonay Weitz (BOXER), who won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races, was third, with 20.
Congratulating the award winners, SPAR Group Marketing Executive Mike Prentice said the quality of the runners on the leader board was a clear indication that the SPAR Grand Prix had established itself on the local athletics calendar and that the top athletes and clubs that supported the Challenge races around the country viewed it as an important part of their annual programme.
'SPAR promised after celebrating 10 years of the Grand Prix last year to have a bigger and better circuit this year,' said Prentice. 'SPAR delivered with increased prize money and an additional race, with the Pietermaritzburg leg making it a six race series. We're excited that the series once again has been a great success and our thanks to you all for contributing to this success.
'We also need to be aware of the many thousands of other women from all walks of life that participate in the six races making up the SPAR Challenge series. We're proud to have exposed our brand to 148 000 women throughout South Africa in 2017,' he said.
Prentice confirmed that the sponsorship would continue in 2018, and said SPAR looked forward to announcing some exciting innovations early next year.
Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen who assisted Prentice in handing over the winners cheque and trophy congratulated Molotsane on her win and commended SPAR for the contribution they were making in the development of athletics and particularly the promotion of women's sport in the country.