Johannesburg - After enduring a season of misery following struggles with injuries, long-distance runner René Kalmer says she looks forward to ending the year on high.
"I feel very happy because I wanted to win this race," Kalmer said after her successful title defence at the SA Half-Marathon Championships in East London on Saturday.
"The conditions were tough and windy and really tested my strength. The course was really challenging, with the first 10kms all uphill, and I'm very glad I made it.
"I hope to run injury free for the rest of the year and end my year on a high."
The long distance runner went clear of a strong field in the closing stages of the race and soloed in for victory, unchallenged.
She outclassed SA marathon champion Cornelia Joubert, who came in second. Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora finished third.
Kalmer had a brilliant 2012 season, bagging the overall prize in the Spar women's Grand Prix Series after winning four out of the five races.
She also represented South Africa in the women's marathon at the London Olympics, where she finished 35th. She came 16th at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Bulgaria and also took the titles at the SA Half-Marathon National Championships as well as the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town.
However, 2013 has not been so great for Kalmer, who has had to deal with recurring injuries, which have affected her performance on the field.
Last month, Kalmer sat out the IAAF World Championships in Russia after she declared herself unavailable for selection because of her fitness levels.
She placed second at the Two Oceans half marathon in March, and also struggled in her Boston Marathon debut, taking two hours, 37 minutes and 15 seconds (2:37:15) to finish.
She has yet to win a race in the women's grand prix series, and secured her best finish so far this year in last month's fourth leg in Pretoria, where she placed second.
After romping to victory at the half marathon champs, Kalmer said she hoped to now swing back into her winning ways and boost her chances of earning a spot at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, next year.
"After the race today, I believe I have a good chance of running the world champs next year and hopefully I can make the selection for the team," said Kalmer, who made a stop to tie her shoe laces at the 9km mark during the race on Saturday.
"I know I'm going to bounce back stronger, because from previous experiences, I know that I always come back stronger from a setback and just have to be patient."
The men's race was won by defending champion Stephen Mokoka, who was followed home by Lusapho April, with recently crowned SA Cross Country Champ Elroy Gelant finishing third.