Rene Kalmer revealed just what good shape she is in yesterday, exactly 42 days before she lines up at the start of the women’s marathon at the London Olympics, when she blew away the field of more than 6 000 in a clinical demolition |to win the SPAR Durban Women’s 10km Challenge.
It was arguably one of the strongest elite fields in the 23-year history of the Durban race, with all three of the women in the SA Olympic marathon squad – Kalmer, Irvette van Blerk and Tanith Maxwell – in the line-up together with previous winner Poppy Mlambo, who finished eighth.
Running in determined fashion, the 31-year-old Joburg athlete dropped her closest rivals,
Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora and Van Blerk, as early |as the 3km mark on the new counter-clockwise course based at the Kingsmead Cricket Stadium and incorporating a long stretch of the M4 freeway, turning for home at 5km with a lead of more than 20 seconds from Nyahora, with Van Blerk in third place.
Kalmer’s winning margin was increased to 59 seconds as she cruised to the finish in 33 minutes 25 seconds with Nyahora second in 34:26, Van Blerk third in 34:39 closely followed by Kalmer’s younger sister, Christina, in 34:48 and Portia Ngwenya in 34:55.
Durban’s Maxwell was ninth in 35:42 and the first to finish in the 35-39 years age group category.
It was the second year running that Nyahora had to settle for the silver medal and a crushing defeat for the 2010 and 2011 winner, Van Blerk, who just could not find the form that took her to a personal best of 32:50 last year.
It was only Kalmer’s third victory in the Durban leg of the SPAR Grand Prix series. It is not her favourite venue, although she won in 2007 and 2009, but it was her 26th SPAR 10km victory since her first one in 1998, with most of her successes in either Cape Town or Port Elizabeth.
Kalmer is undefeated in 15 road races this year, including the two previous SPAR 10km races in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, the 5 000m in the SA Track Championships and a half-marathon in Japan.
Yesterday’s win places her even more firmly at the top of the SPAR Grand Prix leader board with 80 points, with Van Blerk second on 55 and Zintle Xiniwe, who finished sixth yesterday, third on 52.
There are two races in the series still to come, in Pretoria (August 25) and Joburg (October 10).
Kalmer said that she had not found the new course to her liking, a feeling shared by several others in the top-10 finishers.
“The old route, running clockwise, is much more preferable,” said Kalmer, “especially as it felt as though I was running uphill for the last five kilometres.
“I would have preferred some companionship from Rutendo and Irvette, it’s not much fun running on your own for three-quarters of the distance in such a short race.
“But I’m very happy with my time today as I am obviously focused now only on the Olympic marathon for which I am in heavy training, and will be for the next four weeks before the SA team leaves for London.”
Nyahora was disappointed in her performance, saying she blamed her running shoes.
“I was wearing my half-marathon shoes instead of the pair I usually wear for 10km races,” said the 23-year-old runner from Harare.
Van Blerk was also not pleased with her time, saying she had been expecting to run a low-33-minute race.
“It just didn’t work out for me,” she said. “I had a bit of a scare at training last week when I thought I had torn an Achilles tendon, so I was a bit wary coming into today’s race.”
The popular 5km fun walk/ run drew an entry of just more than 9 000, making a total entry of more than 15 000 for the two-tier event.