SPAR – Women’s Challenge 1

Ethiopian Tadu Nare burning up the course in record time with thousands of social runners following in her wake made the 30th SPAR Women’s Challenge in Gqeberha one to remember.

The 21-year-old defending champion clocked a blistering 31:35 in the 10km Grand Prix Series race to finish 18 seconds ahead of compatriot Selam Gebre.

Umhlobo Wenene breakfast show presenter Mafa Bavuma and entertainer Gino Fabbri created the gees on the start line of the 10km and 5km runs, which took participants from Pollok Beach through the oceanside suburb of Summerstrand.

SPAR Eastern Cape advertising manager Roseann Shadrach said they were delighted with how the day unfolded and that its impact went beyond the race.

“I felt we were able to provide a stellar event, with an outstanding entertainment line-up for the participants to enjoy afterwards,” she said.

With so many activities and a variety of festival fare available at the race village, the occasion was about more than just participating in an event.

“The camaraderie and traditional atmosphere were back [after Covid] and spinning around on social media, so we are thrilled with how it all turned out,” said Shadrach.

She added that it had been a phenomenal effort by Nare to set a new course record in the defence of her title after missing the Cape Town leg.

SPAR – Women’s Challenge 1

Thousands of women turned out for the first post-Covid SPAR Women’s Challenge in Gqeberha on Saturday. Photo: Leon Hugo.

“This is one of my favourite cities and I was very happy to be back here,” the Ethiopian said following her impressive performance.

“I had been aiming for a sub-31 but was still happy with my effort. It was a wonderful win on a very good course.”

Slightly down the field, some of the biggest cheers were reserved for 61-year-old Grace De Oliveira, who became only the second person to complete 100 SPAR Women’s Challenge races.

Prior to this weekend only the iconic Sonja Laxton had achieved a century of races – in Johannesburg in October 2019.

De Oliveira, who won her debut SPAR race in Durban in 1992, has had an illustrious career, including representing South Africa in the marathon. She has also amassed seven gold medals in the Comrades Marathon.

The Durban-based athlete finished second in the grandmasters category in Cape Town in 45:10. She was however slightly slower on Saturday and not overly happy with her effort.

“I battled quite a bit with my breathing and my chest was burning. But I have never bailed from a race and it wasn’t going to happen today.”

She walked a portion to ensure she could run the final kilometre.

“It was such a special moment to achieve the 100th event in one of my favourite races. I had goose bumps at the end and it was a wonderful moment.”

In keeping with the objective of #4Smiles, proceeds from this year’s SPAR Women’s Challenge went to Autism EC and the Umphanda Foundation for Autism.

SPAR Grand Prix Series results: 1 Tadu Nare (Ethiopia) 31:35, 2 Selam Gebre (Ethiopia) 31:53, 3 Glenrose Xaba (SA) 32:12, 4 Blandina Makatisi (Lesotho) 32:46, 5 Cian Oldknow (SA) 32:49, 6 Kesa Molotsane (SA) 33:06, 7 Cacisile Sosibo (SA) 33:10, 8 Tayla Kavanagh (SA) 33:11, 9 Lebo Phalula (SA) 33:32, 10 Patience Murowe (Zimbabwe) 35:03.