ATHLETICS-ROAD by Lerato Gumbi
JOHANNESBURG Oct 14 Sapa
VAN BLERK WINS LAST LEG OF 10KM CHALLENGE
Irvette van Blerk ended her season on a high after cruising to victory in the fifth and final leg of the Spar Women's Challenge 10km series in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Van Blerk, who competed in the women's marathon at the London Olympic Games in August, finished second overall in the Grand Prix series.
Her training partner, pre-race favourite Rene Kalmer, won the series, despite withdrawing from the final leg with an Achilles injury on the eve of the event, after securing victory in all four of the previous legs.
Having built an early lead, Van Blerk maintained her advantage throughout the race to win comfortably in 34 minutes, 34 seconds (34:34).
Rutendo Nyahora crossed the line a minute later, finishing second in 35:34, and Lebo Phalula took third in 35:43.
"I'm happy and surprised to have won today," Van Blerk said.
"The plan was to hang in the bunch and then make my move at the 5km mark.
"I struggled as I got to the 4km mark and that's when I thought they were going to catch up to me.
"My leg went numb with each hill and I thought I would stretch and would feel better, but the ladies were right behind me."
Van Blerk, who withdrew from the Olympic marathon at the 17km mark with an Achilles injury, had finished third in all her other three races in the Grand Prix series, missing the penultimate leg in Pretoria due to the same injury.
She said her recovery was going well but getting back to full fitness was still a challenge.
"I'm glad about my time as it shows my fitness is coming back," she said.
"I rested for a month after the Olympics and training is a battle right now, and I'm doing a lot of catching up.
"It was a lucky race for me. I almost decided not to run, but...I pushed on."