The Phalula twins had much to celebrate after the Johannesburg leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at the Wanderers Club in Illovo on Sunday.
The twins went into the lead right from the start of the race, which was run on a cool overcast morning. For the first two kilometres, they ran in a bunch which included Rutendo Nyahora and Lesotho runner Mamorallo Tjoka.
Lebogang then moved ahead, and was never seriously challenged after that. “I knew that I had to get well ahead, because Rutendo finishes strongly, “ she said.
Lebogang Phalula finished the race in 33.34 minutes, seven seconds ahead of Nyahora, who was closing in on her in the last kilometre.
“I just hung in there,” said Phalula, smiling. “The weather was good for me today. I really struggle when it’s hot, so it was good that it was cool and overcast.”
She said her victory was very important to her.
“I tested positive for drugs in a Challenge race in Pretoria and was banned for six months,” she said.
“It was hard to come back into running after that, especially as the banned substance was given to me by my coach. Now I’m running clean and I want to prove to everyone that I am not a drug cheat. I am so happy to be running well again.”
Nyahora said she had decided to push hard from the six kilometre mark, although her legs were very tired.
“My aim was to win, but I couldn’t catch her. But next year . . .” she said.
Third home was Tjoka, in 34.43 minutes.
“I’ve been running these races for a long time, without really getting anywhere. But I’m preparing for the Soweto marathon, and I decided to test my speed today,” she said.
“I’m very pleased with the way I ran today and will push myself harder the next time I run the SPAR race.”
Irvette van Zyl, who won the Pretoria race in August, was fourth in 34.58, followed by Diana-Lebo Phalula, 35.21. Three times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, finished in sixth place, in 36.02, and last year’s Grand Prix winner, Mapaseka Makhanya was seventh in 36.27.
Diana-Lebo won the SPAR Women’s 10km Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record time, but was then hampered by a hamstring injury.
She said she was thrilled to have won the Grand Prix, for which she will receive a Nissan Micra.
“It’s the biggest prize I have ever won,” she said. “It is a wonderful motivator. When you don’t feel like training, you think of that prize and it makes it easier to hit the road.”
The Phalula twins said they would both be using the Nissan Micra which Diana-Lebo will receive as winner of the Grand Prix.
“We’re twins, so we share whatever we have,” said Diana-Lebo. Her sister, however, said she had her sights set on winning her own car in 2015.
“Then we will each have a car,” she laughed.
Nearly 13 000 runners took part in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run, with proceeds from the race going to breast cancer support group Reach for Recovery. They received a cheque for R50 000.