Kalmer in pole position
Johannesburg - Two-time Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer has a 12-point lead going into the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach on Saturday.
Kalmer, who won the Grand Prix in the first year of its running, earned 30 points from the Cape Town race last month, after winning in record time to earn herself vital bonus points.
Elite South African runners in the five Spar Challenge races, held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg earn Grand Prix points by finishing in the top 20, with bonus points for clocking a faster time than the previous year.
Kalmer’s closest rival is defending Grand Prix champion and Nedbank CGA team-mate, Irvette van Blerk, who won the overall title in 2010 and 2011.
Van Blerk finished third in Cape Town, and has 18 points, one ahead of Zintle Xiniwe, who came fourth.
Kalmer said she was looking forward to the race in Port Elizabeth, having won there several times.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay race is one of my favourites,” Kalmer said.
“I think I have won there more than at any of the other Spar Challenge venues, and I have run some of my best times in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“I really like the course, although if the weather is bad, those last four kilometres along the beach front can be very tough.”
Kalmer, who has qualified to represent South Africa in the marathon at the Olympic Games in London in July, recently took part as a pacemaker in the London Marathon, and said that she was pleased with her run.
“I felt I ran very well in the London Marathon, and after the training I’ve been doing for the Olympics, a 10km race feels like a speed trial," she said.
"I am looking forward to the race on Saturday, and I want to extend my lead on the Grand Prix ladder, because I really have my eyes on that prize.”
Van Blerk, who also took part in the London Marathon, where she qualified for the Olympic Games, was less enthusiastic about the Nelson Mandela Bay race.
“I never seem to win in Nelson Mandela Bay,” Van Blerk said.
“I don’t really like the course either. It is a bit flat for me, and those last four kilometres are very hard if the wind is blowing.
“Maybe this year I can break my duck and win.”
Zimbabwean runner Rutendo Nyahora will also be taking part, although she cannot qualify for the Grand Prix because she is not a South African runner, while Kalmer’s sister, Christine, will also be running.
There are also Grand Prix points up for grabs for the top runners in the various age group categories.
After the first leg, Pamela Mtshemla is the top junior with five points, Ronel Thomas leads the veterans, Olga Howard is the leading master, while Sonja Laxton is the grandmaster category leader.