“It’s all about the chickens,” was Ethiopian athlete Tadu Nare’s explanation for her impressive speed in racing to a record-breaking victory in this morning’s (Saturday 4 September) SPAR Women’s Grand Prix race in Cape Town.
The diminutive athlete from the Nedbank International team broke the tape on the track at the Green Point Athletics Stadium in 31 min 28 sec – an impressive 54 sec faster than her previous best time, set in winning the series opener in Pietermaritzburg last week, and a yawning 2 min 42 sec clear of second-placed athlete, Kesa Molotsane of the Murray and Roberts team.
Nare’s time is the fastest ever run in the ‘Mother City’ and sixth fastest ever recorded in South Africa, just 33 seconds off Kenyan Sheila Chepkirui’s best ever of 30:55, set at the City to Surf 10km in Durban in 2019. Elana van Zyl’s 31:33, set in Durban in 1991, remains the fastest by a South African on home soil.
The Addis Ababa-based athlete collected her second winners’ pay-cheque of R25 000 in successive weekends and has made a strong start to challenge for the series-winning prize of R190 000.
“I love coming to race in South Africa,” said Nare, who placed third in the South African Half Marathon Championships in Gqeberha in May. “But I’m stronger and faster here because of the high altitude air in Ethiopia and also the diet, which is much healthier in my home country. When we eat chicken in Addis, you can’t break the bones. In South Africa the chicken bones are weak and crumble. So I’m stronger because of our healthy chickens!”
Missing from the Cape Town field were Namibian Helalia Johannes and South Africans Gerda Steyn and Irvette van Zyl, recovering from the Tokyo Olympic marathon, who are expected to join the later races in the SPAR series. Also absent were last weeks’ second and third-placed athletes, Glenrose Xaba and Tayla Kavanagh, opening up podium places for Free State’s Molotsane and her M&R teammate, fast-improving Cian Oldknow from Johannesburg.
Also missing from the traditional SPAR Grand Prix race, were about 20 000 women runners and walkers as this year’s series is limited to about a hundred elite senior and age group athletes at each of the City races.
“It’s good to be back as part of the SPAR series, but sad that we are finishing in an empty stadium and without the masses participating,” said former Olympian and SPAR Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, running the SPAR challenge for the first time in the Masters over 40 year category. “Hopefully by next year we will be back with the traditional buzz.”
Nare felt she could have run even faster, had she had competition, as she felt the course and conditions were perfect for fast times. “I struggled a bit to get going at the start,” she admitted. “Perhaps I should have warmed up a bit more as I think I lost some time in the first three kilometres.”
The race was over as a contest shortly after the start with none in the field capable of matching the Ethiopian and Molotsane recovering from a nagging knee and calf injury. “I have hardly run for a week,” the former SPAR Grand Prix winner admitted. “I was not chasing a time today. I thought I would be happy with a top four position, so second was fine.”
University of Johannesburg Sports Science graduate, Cian Oldknow, continued her fine form. Since linking up with a new coach in former Eastern Cape steeplechase athlete, George Bradley, Oldknow has run ten successive personal best times in 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, 10km and half marathon.
Oldknow ran a well-judged race, making up ground in the second half, after going through half-way in 9th position. “I prefer to run from behind,” admitted Oldknow. “Our plan was to go out at my personal best time pace, which was the 34:54 I ran in Pietermaritzburg last week.”
Oldknow drew level with Moletsane 1500m from the finish but could not match the Free Stater’s speed on the track to finish third in a personal best time of 34:15, giving her confidence ahead of the South African Cross Country Championships in Amanzimtoti in two weeks’ time.
Also capitalizing on the fast course and perfect running conditions was former Comrades champion, Charne Bosman, who won the Masters 40 year category in a fast 35:32 – her fastest time in the past ten years. “I’m delighted with my race today and my time,” said Bosman. “I ran the Magaliesberg Monster 24km trail race in Gauteng last week and I think that helped my strength today!”
Elmarie Pretorius, Judy Bird and Veronica van Niekerk won the Masters 50, 60 and 70-year categories respectively, with Elandri Schmidt of the Athletes Academy taking honours in the junior competition.