Athletics reporter

Although race favourites Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Blerk have their sights firmly set on the Olympic Marathon in London on August 5, both have much to gain from the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Durban on Sunday.

With two victories under her belt, Kalmer’s eyeing the Grand Prix prize of a new Nissan Micra.

She completed the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record times, and has a total of 60 points – well ahead of Van Blerk and Zintle Xiniwe, who have 36 points each. But with three races to come, Kalmer will be aware she needs to keep winning to make sure of claiming the Grand Prix.

Van Blerk came from behind last year, and won the last three races to secure her second Grand Prix in two years. With both runners in peak pre-Olympic condition, the race should be a neck-and-neck tussle between the two two-time Grand Prix winners.

Xiniwe gave notice in Port Elizabeth of her determination to challenge for the top place, and Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora (who does not qualify for GP points) is also likely to give the top runners some stiff competition. Other contenders for top honours include Annerien van Schalkwyk, Kalmer’s sister and training mate Christine Kalmer and the Phalula twins, Diana-Lebo and Lebogang.

The Durban Challenge is the oldest of the five Challenge races, and more than 17000 runners are expected to take part.

The top 20 runners earn GP points, and there are also points in the various age categories.

Annie Bothma of Helderberg is in the lead in the junior section, Ronel Thomas has a two-point lead in the veteran’s category, Olga Howard and Comrades gold medalist Grace de Oliveira are in joint first position in the Masters category, and the evergreen Sonja Laxton is the top Grandmaster.

The runner-up will pocket R30000, and the runner finishing third will receive R15000.