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  • Mosibodi Whitehead

'I just wanted to go with them and challenge them' - Xaba takes fourth as Nare wins SPAR Grand Prix

When it comes to road running, the lack of international success for South African athletes over the last decade in particular has left many armchair critics asking if local athletes can make the sort of global impact that Josiah Thugwane, Elana Meter, Willie Mtolo, Colleen de Reuck, Hendrik Ramaala and Xolile Yawa made a generation ago.

So it was encouraging to see Glenrose Xaba throwing caution to the wind today as she took the challenge to Ethiopia’s Tadu Nare and Selam Gebre in the Tshwane leg of the SPAR Grand Prix. Run on a chilly winter’s morning on an undulating course at the Irene Agrictultural Research Council, it was the affable East African who triumphed as she produced an effortless surge over the last kilometre to win in 32:44 ahead of Gebre in 33:08. Although Xaba ended in fourth, she ran with the Nedbank Running Club pair for almost 6km as the rest of the South Africans hung back.

2018 SPAR Grand Prix champion Glenrose Xaba is starting to look like her old self again. Photo Credit: Reg Caldecott.

“I just wanted to go with them and challenge them and see how far I could go with them. Because always when I am training, I’m training to keep the pace so that when the East Africans come to SA they can know that the athletes of SA are very strong. When Irvette passed me at 9.6km I couldn’t move because my legs were full of lactic,” she told #TheTopRunner during the post race media conference.

That she was beaten into fourth as a fast finishing Irvette van Zyl who took third in 34:14 to make it a Nedbank clean sweep, is evidence of just how far the Boxer Athletics Club top runner has come since battling injury last year. After setting a new 5 000m personal best of 15:25.92 at the end of June, the 27-year old ran under 33 minutes at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10km in mid July, before winning the Foskor Half Marathon in Phalaborwa last Saturday in 1:13:55. That was the second fastest time in the history of the race - bettered only by the legendary Elana Meyer.

Fast-finishing Irvette van Zyl passed Xaba to take third - a good performance after struggling with flu over the last few weeks. Nare dropped her compatriot Gebre with a final kilometre of under three minutes to win the race. Photo Credit: SPAR Grand Prix.

“I decided to run the Foskor Half Marathon after the World Half Marathon Championships were cancelled. I ran very well there, I was just a minute behind the course record. It was hot and the route is tough and hilly. I don’t think I had completely recovered from that effort. So when Irvette passed me I could still feel last week’s race because I was dead. But I’m happy with my performance and I know I will run well in the next SPAR Grand Prix race,” she explained.

Having missed two races in the 2022 Grand Prix, today’s fourth place finish leaves Xaba in line to finish inside the top ten if she can place well at the Joburg leg on the 2nd of October. And because Helalia Johannes having missed out in Tshwane today it means that Nare is essentially assured of defending her overall title.


When asked about the ease with which she won the race, Nare wore her trademark gorgeous smile saying it was a lot tougher than it looked so she is happy to have won and all but secured the overall 2022 SPAR Grand Prix title. “It may seem that way, but it was a bit tough for me, especially the weather. It was a bit hilly as well. It was good all in all but not as good as you thought it was,” she said.

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