Cape Town — Namibian Helalia Johannes set the Durban SPAR Women's 10km Challenge alight on Sunday morning, winning in the record time of 30 minutes 58 seconds.
This was the fastest time on South African soil and Johannes broke her Namibian national record for the third time in a row. It was also a course record, beating the time of 31.18 set by Colleen de Reuck in 2000.
Thirty-eight-year-old Johannes received a check for R30 000, to mark the 30 th running of the oldest race in the SPAR Women's Challenge Series.
Ethiopian runner Tadu Nare was second in 32.36 and Irvette van Zyl was third in 32.57.
Last year's Durban winner, Betha Chikanga shot into the lead at the start of the race, but Johannes, Nare and Van Zyl soon caught up with her, passing her at the one kilometre mark. Johannes and Nare ran side by side until the four-kilometre mark, when Johannes streaked ahead. She ran alone for the rest of the race, with none of the other athletes in sight.
The first three runners all earned 10 Grand Prix bonus points for beating last year's winning time of 33.07.
Last year's Grand Prix winner, Glenrose Xaba (Boxer), was fourth in 33.22. It was her best Challenge result this year.
"I am very happy with my time. The conditions were perfect," said Johannes.
"I have been focussing on shorter distances, but from now on I will be training for the marathon at the World Championships in Doha in September, so I don't know how I will do in the next SPAR races."
Nare, who is still a junior, said she went into the race knowing she could not keep up with Johannes.
"What I wanted to do was to improve my time, and I am very happy that I was able to do so," she said.
Van Zyl, a three times winner of the SPAR Grand Prix, said she had been determined to earn bonus points from the race.
"Having the international athletes competing has been very good for the SPAR Women's Challenge series, because we are all running faster times," she said.
"I wanted bonus points, because then you can stay in touch with the top runners in the Grand Prix. If you don't get the bonus points, then you can drop right out of contention," said Van Zyl.
"We are all going to struggle to get bonus points next year, because of the fast times set this year."
A total of 14 751 runners and walkers took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run.
The next race in the series will be in Pretoria on August 3.