Neither the threat of rain nor blustery conditions could deter the thousands of runners and walkers who turned out for the 22nd annual SPAR Women’s Challenge in Port Elizabeth on Saturday morning.
Pollok Beach turned pink with delight as the women, clad in the official blush-coloured race T-shirt, and a few brave men dressed in drag, made their way along the beachfront route.
Top Billing presenter Nico Panagio, who acted as emcee for the event, set more than a few hearts racing as the action got underway in the 5km fun run and 10km feature race.
Defending 10km champion Diana-Lebo Phalula (Boxer) took her second straight victory in 32:57 – 30 seconds shy of her course record, which she set last year.
Her twin sister Lebogang (Transnet), who won the Two Oceans half marathon last month, made it a one-two for the family in 33:26.
Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) rounded out the podium in 33:43 and dedicated her result to the victims of recent xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Barefoot runner Diana-Lebo said she had gone into the race intending to set a high tempo and better her own record in order to earn SPAR Grand Prix Series bonus points.
She said the wind had definitely been a factor on the day and that her plan had initially been to pace alongside her sibling behind early leader Nyahora.
“Then after kilometre one, everything just changed in my mind. I said to myself let me make a surge and, if they catch me, they’ll catch me on the finish line.”
The 32-year-old Diepkloof resident broke away and proved to be untouchable but underestimated her split times to miss out on her personal best.
“It didn’t work out as planned today but I’m very happy with my win.”
The 5km fun run was won by 13-year-old Framesby High School learner Lara de Bloe in a blistering time of 19:46.
Further back in the field, mother-and-son duo Estha Bouwer, 53, and Evan Engelbrecht, 31, were among those who participated for more personal reasons.
Despatch resident Bouwer said they had decided to take part in honour of her friend Helena Botha, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was currently consulting specialists regarding treatment options.
“My heart goes out to her and that’s why I walk – for her.”
The Vers family from West End in Port Elizabeth, who range in age from eight months to 63 years, also turned out en masse to support the event.
Matriarch and grandmother Martha led three generations of women, including her three daughters, niece and three granddaughters.
“We enjoyed our run very much. Beforehand I just prayed that the rain must stay away because we wanted to enjoy our special day.”
The event also made Brian Bezuidenhout’s weekend when he accepted a cheque for R250 000 on behalf of beneficiary organisation the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities in Nelson Mandela Bay.
PE’s own Stuart Reece Band and Cape Town singer Jimmy Nevis warmed up the crowd with musical entertainment before the highlight of the day – the main prize draw for a limited edition Hyundai i10 Glide.
Michelle Meyer emerged as the lucky recipient after five finalists were randomly drawn and mystery keys handed out.
Her nominated celebrity representative Mr South Africa Armand du Plessis pressed the immobiliser button on his key and the vehicle lights flashed, declaring Meyer the winner.
SPAR Eastern Cape marketing manager Abri Swart said the retailer was proud to have hosted another successful edition of the road race.
“We’re thrilled with the turnout we had today. People arrived in their droves, as is the PE way, and the weather is never a problem.
“We need to thank everybody for being here. From a community involvement perspective, we managed to give away R250 000 to APD and without the support of the Friendly City we wouldn’t be able to get that right.”
For more information on the event, find SPAR Women’s Challenge Port Elizabeth on Facebook or follow @sparchallengepe and @spar_ec.