STRONG winds, rain and biting cold failed to deter thousands of runners from descending on the Port Elizabeth beachfront for the 20th instalment of the annual Spar Women’s Challenge on Saturday.
Pollok Beach in Summerstrand, the new race venue, saw a record 13149 professional and amateur runners from around Nelson Mandela Bay and South Africa gathered at the starting line of the 10km and 5km races.
In the latter, many men donned wigs, skirts and other female attire to take part in the race.
Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Nyahora, running for Nedbank AGN, took the 10km title in 33 minutes, nine seconds. She also won the Cape Town leg in March. Diana-Lebo Phalula, from Maxed Elite CGA, clocked 33:39 and Mapaseka Makhanya (Transnet ENG) was third in 34:06.
The top South African runners in the 10km Spar Grand Prix series stand to win a total of R139000 and a new car. The legs are in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban (June), Pretoria (August) and Johannesburg (October).
“The weather didn’t affect my run much,” Nyahora said “I was aiming to better my personal best of 32:55, but that didn’t happen because of the wind.”
Race organiser Colleen Muller, of Walmer Athletics Club, said the race route had changed because of renovations at the former starting point at Kings Beach.
She said the new course, which led runners up Admiralty Way and down La Roche Drive, was tougher but was not sure if it would remain the same as it impacted more residents. “Runners say they liked it, though.”
Locals Gail Willimott and Jodie Bosch, who competed in the 10km for the third year in a row, said they had run into the wind up Admiralty, and were pushed by it down La Roche.
Olwethu Bomvana, also from PE, said she suffered at the halfway mark, but managed to finish in 59 minutes.
Top SA singer Toya Delazy, sang hits like Love is in the air as runners crossed the finish line.
Another celebrity who had scores of fans queuing for photographs was actor and comedian Colin Moss. Before firing the starter’s pistol, he said the chilly weather made him feel like he was back home in Cape Town.
The Association for the Physically Disabled received R200000 from the proceeds of the event, while PE resident Lucinda Bergins won R50000 in shopping vouchers.
Lawson Brown High and Papenkuil Primary were the schools and St George’s Hospital the company with the most entries.