It was two out of two for Warrant Officer Helalia Johannes, as the Namibian solidier raced with military precision to her second SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix title at Greenpoint this morning (Sunday) in one of the fastest times run in South Africa.
Twenty thousand took part in the annual celebration of women’s running and walking over 5 km and 10 km in surprisingly warm winter’s weather.
The 38-year-old Johannes is the reigning Cape Town Marathon champion, but her improvement as an athlete in the last 6 months has been particularly impressive. She bettered her previous marathon best by seven minutes to clock 2 hr 22 min in Nagoya, Japan, in March and shattered the Two Oceans Half Marathon record last month.
Johannes appears to set Namibian national records whenever she runs, and her 31 min 45 sec performance this morning improves her own record, set just two weeks ago in the first leg of the series in Port Elizabeth, but just five seconds. Her time is the fastest ever for the Cape Town leg of the SPAR series – 42 seconds quicker than Elana Van Zyl Meyer’s 32:27 in 1996 – and is the 8th fastest 10 km ever run in South Africa, 31 seconds off Ugandan Stella Chesang’s all time record, set last year.
“I’m really happy to have set another Nambian record,” Johannes confessed. “The conditions were not perfect for running – there was a warm wind out there and the paving along the promenade is not as quick as a tar road – so I think I can still go a bit faster!
“I’ll race the third leg in Durban, but I’m not sure after that. Hopefully I’ll be running the marathon at the world championships in Doha in September.”
It was a bitter-sweet ending for young Ethiopians Sofia Chege and Birho Gidey Adhena. The two came to Cape Town to compete in last week’s ONERUN over 12km, where Chege placed a close third and Adhena won the junior’s competition. They placed second and fifth respectively in this morning’s race, but face five year bans from returning to South Africa after over-staying their five-day visa allocation.
Another Ethiopian, 17-year-old Tadu Nare, who dropped a position from second in Port Elizabeth to third this morning, clocking 32:56 – 47 seconds behind Chege, had visa challenges of a different kind.
Already set on a career as a full-time athlete and top business women, Nare is studying for an accountancy diploma in Addis Abebe, but had to contend with long queues and interviews in Ethiopia to obtain her second short-term visa in just three weeks. “I was happy with my run under the circumstances,” Nare explained. “But my training preparation was badly affected by the time taken to secure the visa.”
Kenyan, Sarah Naibei, set the pace through 3km, closely followed by Johannes, Chege and Nare. These four stayed together until the Nambian took control with an acceleration shortly after the turn onto the Sea Point Promenade at the halfway mark. Chege was forced to give up the unequal struggle, leaving Johannes to power to another impressive victory.
Defending champion, Kesa Molotsane, was denied a hat trick of wins, but was first South African home in 6th place in 33:40, just three seconds clear of Irvette van Zyl.