Cape Town — Women's road-running in South Africa has been given a boost on two fronts with the continuation of the Spar Women’s Grand Prix Series and the 10km Virtual Challenge in September.
The Grand Prix Series takes in six races, starting later this month in Gqeberha and ending in Cape Town in October. The other five stops are Durban, Mbombela, Tshwane and Johannesburg. The new host is Mbombela which has replaced Pietermaritzburg.
Since the country is still battling Covid-19 and the rise in infections appears to be driven by Omicron sub-variants, entries for each of the six legs will be restricted to 500 invited athletes.
Social runners will miss out, but they can still participate in the 10km Virtual Challenge. Women across the country can enter the race on Saturday, 3 September, anytime between 06h00 and 18h00 (subject to government lockdown regulations).
The Junior, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70+ Category hit the road.— SPAR Grand Prix (@SPARGrandPrix) September 11, 2021
Remember to join in on the Livestream on the SPAR Grand Prix series and KZN SPAR Women’s 10/5km Race Facebook Page. #SPARGrandPrixDurban pic.twitter.com/PQeouFCp1Y
As a virtual event, there are no geographic boundaries to the race. Participants decide on their route, pace, and whether to do it alone, with friends, family or as a community. Participants can run, jog, or walk their virtual challenge at their own pace anywhere in South Africa.
James Moloi, the President of Athletics South Africa, said sponsors Spar were making a significant contribution to the growth of women's road-running in the country.
“As our sport continues to ease back from the clutches of Covid-19, we applaud the efforts of the Spar Group for ploughing back into communities through the sport of athletics," said Moloi.
"Over the years, we have also seen the revival of many careers of women athletes who had given up. On behalf of the board of ASA, we wish all athletes and the communities hosting the respective races, a wonderful experience."
The Virtual Challenge was launched in 2020 as a homage to South African women’s resilience and strength amid the uncertainty and strife brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though the government has lifted the state of disaster, the pandemic is still prevalent ad this prompted Spar to take the race into the virtual space once again.
“For the safety of our participants, based on the fluctuating Covid-19 regulations and the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, we have gone virtual again this year,” said Spar Sponsorship & Events Manager Charlene Subbarayan.
"However, that does not mean we have compromised on the fun. Get your friends together, work out a route in your local community and share all the fun by tagging us in your pictures #IRise #YourRaceYourPace.”
The Grand Prix Series have attracted some world-class runners who have helped bring the best out of local talent on South African soil.
“The Spar Grand Prix Series has served springboard to some of the country’s best female road runners for nearly three decades, and we are proud to continue that tradition,” said Mike Prentice, Spar Group Marketing Executive.
“We are delighted to bring Mbombela on board as we look to spread the net wider and take the most beautiful race to all corners of South Africa.”