Durban, South Africa – Zimbabwean runner Betha Chikanga (Maxed) led from start to finish to win the 29th Durban SPAR Women’s Challenge in 33.07 minutes on Sunday morning. Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) was second in 33.27, followed by Nolene Conrad (KPMG) in 33.43.
Twenty-one year old Chikanga shot into the lead from the start, opening up a gap of more than 100 metres. Xaba, Conrad and race favourite Kesa Molotsane formed part of the following pack.
Chikanga, running only her fourth SPAR race, retained her lead throughout, stepping up a gear at the halfway point and all the following pack could do was battle it out for the other podium spots.
“She took us by surprise,” said Conrad.
“We thought she would fade after a while, because we have run against her before. We stayed in a pack to try to counter the effect of the wind. I surged at about six kilometres and then Glenrose took over at eight kilometres. We just couldn’t catch Betha – there was too much work to do.”
Chikanga, who was a late entrant into the race, said her race plan had been to take the lead early and not give it up.
“I am very fit, so it worked,” she said.
She said she was a 10km specialist, although she was also a 5000m track runner.
“It’s the first time I have been in the top three in a SPAR race, and I am planning to run the last three races.”
Xaba, who finished second in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth as well, said the group had just let Chikanga go, thinking they would catch up with her.
“I took the lead at about eight kilometres, but it was too late to catch her. I don’t like finishing second – I am determined that I am going to win one of the SPAR races and I am getting there,” she said.
Chikanga’s victory throws the SPAR Grand Prix wide open. Xaba moves into the lead, ahead of Molotsane, who finished in sixth place.
There are three more races in the SPAR Challenge series. The Pretoria race takes place on August 4, the Pietermaritzburg race on August 19 and the series finishes with the Johannesburg Challenge on October 7.