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The SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge has called upon some of the Eastern Cape’s most-loved personalities to inject additional magic into this year’s run.

After the disappointment of the Covid-enforced cancellation in 2020, SPAR will host the popular mass-participation event virtually on September 4.

Entries opened on May 26 and thousands have already signed up for South Africa’s most beautiful road race.

SPAR EC sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton said an experiment to appoint ambassadors during last year’s virtual race in Gauteng proved successful.

“We are delighted to have seven regional ambassadors who will promote the race and help to create the circumstances which allow us to give back to the communities through our beneficiaries,” he said.

The ambassadors are Michelle Brown, Yolanda Bukani, Gino Fabbri, Bianka La Mude, Rebecca Nyangaresi-Gatang’i, Jeanie Steyn and Alec Riddle.

Cancer survivor Bukani said her partnership with the SPAR event was “a no-brainer”.

“Sanitary health is close to my heart,” said the founder of the Yolanda Bukani Foundation, a non-profit that educates rural communities on healthy living.

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One of the SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge’s seven regional ambassadors, Bianka La Mude (left), with SPAR Eastern Cape sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton. The event takes place on September 4. Photo: Supplied

“I come from a village where sanitary towels are lacking, so to partner with SPAR is so special because for every entry a sanitary towel will be donated, which can keep a girl in school.”

Riddle, a former athlete and commentator, has walked the entire 31-year journey with SPAR, but has never run the event.

“Perhaps this time I will join [comedian] Gino [Fabbri] and take part in the race,” said Riddle.

“SPAR is an iconic brand and it is a pleasure to be associated with them as we try to encourage people to make a conscious choice to live a healthier life.”

Steyn, a Madibaz netball star, has a strong connection with the retailer through her sport.

“It is an honour being involved in such an amazing event and being an ambassador will allow me to become involved in my community and connect with those around me.

“I truly believe by doing positive things together we subconsciously inspire each other to live without boundaries.”

Fabbri, naturally, adds the element of fun to the event.

“This year SPAR is enabling a much larger reach and it’s allowing everyone to change lives, create positivity and give some love and light during a very difficult time,” he said.

“Since the plague, I have hosted an online show called Gino’s Spot and it’s been amazing! The virtual challenge has struck a chord with me as my show is all about lifting spirits, celebrating life and loving limitlessly.”

Brown, a public relations expert, has been an entrant for several years but says the role of ambassador has created a “wow factor” for her.

“I was so honoured when Alan contacted me about this and am excited to create awareness of the event and the good it generates.

“I have so enjoyed the sisterhood it has encouraged because, as women, we need to not only participate, but also pay it forward.”

Fitness fanatic Nyangaresi-Gatang’I, who grew up in Kenya, said sport had helped her overcome severe mental issues.

“At one stage I was crippled by fear of the unknown until I drew the line in the sand.

“At this point I realised fear is a friend misunderstood and decided to step out of my comfort zone. I stumbled upon triathlon, which became my saving grace and my passion.”

She became a co-founder of Ketsh Up, an initiative that motivates women to acquire swimming, cycling and running skills, and felt her story had become an inspiration to many.

La Mude, a provincial squash player, career woman and first female MC at the SPAR Charity Golf Day, said growing up in a large Italian family had motivated her to live a life with meaning and purpose, and to forge a path “I can be proud to call me”.

“My beautiful daughter is my greatest achievement and I want to guide her to be the girl she wants to be without limitations.

“I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, friend and so much more and take on all these roles enthusiastically on my proud journey as a woman.”

Subject to lockdown regulations, participants can run or walk their own race on their own route over any distance on race day.

South African entrants will receive a virtual challenge pack containing a race T-shirt, buff and medal. Entries close on August 15, with the cut-off at 75 000 participants.

Visit www.sparvirtualchallenge.co.za for entry and other event information.