Namibian athlete Helalia Johannes from the Nedbank running club showed she means business by setting a new national record in the opening leg of the Spar Grand Prix series which kicked off in Port Elizabeth last Saturday.
With a very fast start, Johannes was joined by Nedbank teammates Teshome Nare, a young 17 year old from Ethiopia and South Africa’s Irvette Van Zyl who only 2 weeks ago finished 3rd in her debut at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. Van Zyl went through the first km in a fast 2:55, which saw the green dream team of 3 already separated from the rest of the field.
Just before halfway, Johannes tested the strength of Nare and Van Zyl with a surge that saw Van Zyl dropped with only Nare able to keep with the relentless tempo being set. Another increase at 7km and it was Johannes who had the better of Nare, with Johannes now covering the last section of the race at under 3:00 per km.
It was a runaway victory for Johannes as she crossed the line, with a huge smile and arms in the air, stopping the clock at 31:50, a new national record and one of the quickest times ever run in South Africa for the distance. “I am happy with my win and also the record,” said Johannes who in the process set her 3rd national record of the year following her half marathon and marathon records earlier in the year.
Nare held on for 2nd in 32:38 to also take the title of first junior home with defending champion Kesa Moletsane running a well-judged race to come from behind for 3rd in 33:09. Van Zyl ended 5th in 33:39. A staggering 23 women dipped under 36:00, the most in a long time in the history of the Spar ladies series.
The series now moves to Cape Town on 26 May and you can expect some more fast times and action from the Nedbank ladies in green