Irvette Van Zyl in pole position – Grand Prix

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Two-times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) has taken the early lead in the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix, after cruising to victory in the Cape Town Women’s 10km Challenge at Green Point on Sunday.
Van Zyl, who is in Britain to run in the London Marathon on Sunday, has 20 points. Lebogang Phalula (Boxer), who finished third in the Cape Town Challenge on Sunday, has 18 and Christine Kalmer (KPMG) has 16.
In a new venture, the six women who have won the Grand Prix title in the 10 years it has been in existence are each mentoring a junior runner, and the mentorship programme is reaping early rewards, as the top five in the Grand Prix Junior category are all members of the programme.
Two of them, Simonay Weitsz (9) and Ashleigh Simonis (10), finished in the top ten overall, while Nicole van der Merwe was 15th. Simonay, who has Mapaseka Makhanya as her mentor, heads the Junior category in the Grand Prix, with 10 points. Ashleigh, who has been paired with Lebogang Phalula, has eight, and Nicole, who has Van Zyl as her adviser, has six points.
The top runners were full of praise for the SPAR Challenge series after their race on Sunday.
“SPAR has done so much for women’s road running,” said Van Zyl.
“When I won my first SPAR race in Pretoria 4 years ago there were only about 800 runners taking part – now there are thousands. These women inspire me to go out and train.”
Van Zyl said they all enjoyed running in a race that was all about women.
“In a mixed race, there are always men trying to stick with the leading women in the hopes of being seen on television, but the SPAR races are so different. It is wonderful to be the very first person to cross the finish line.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it had not been for SPAR,” said Van Zyl.
Lebogang Phalula, the reigning Grand Prix champion, said the Grand Prix had been crucial for her and for her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, who won the Grand Prix in 2014.
“My sister won a car, so we are able to get to training, and with the money I won last year, I was able to buy a house,” she said.
“Everyone wants to win the Grand Prix, and it certainly motivates us all to get out there and train.”
The next Challenge race is in Port Elizabeth on Saturday May 7.

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