SA Athletes tackle the Vodacom Country Challenge
Johannesburg, 21 August, 2011 - Thousands of eager athletes, both professional and amateur runners, surged along the roads surrounding Vodacom World in Midrand during the 11th Annual Vodacom Country Challenge on Sunday morning. A major draw card for many participants was the fact that the race proceeds will be donated to the development of athletes from historically disadvantaged communities.
The day's toughest race, the 21,1km half marathon, got off to an exciting start with over 2800 entrants. The challengers in the men's race quickly separated themselves from the pack and ended with a head-to-head sprint. The day's winner, Xolisa Tyali came in just a few seconds in front of Desmond Mokgobu, who lead periodically throughout the race. Although the course offered a few undulating hills, it was the final incline of the day from 17km that separated the two front runners from Enos Matalane, who later caught up and finished close on their heels.
Tyali, who has won the 10km race four times in the past, raced in the 21,1km for the first time this year and was overjoyed with his win. Final times of the day for the men's open race were 1:06:27 for first place, 1:06:30 for second and 1:06:41 for third.
The women's 21,1km promised to be interesting, with the defending champion Irvette Van Blerk recovering from an ankle injury. Challengers Cornelia Joubert, who eventually took second place, and Tebogo Masehla fought for the coveted first place but van Blerk managed to maintain a fast pace and won in a time of 1:20:35. Van Blerk's win was not without sacrifice as Masehla, who came in third, went out swiftly for the first 11km of the race and pushed van Blerk to run faster than she initially intended.
The 10km race had its fair share of action. The course offered one ‘killer' hill at the 7km mark, but was otherwise a fair challenge. Lucky Mohale maintained the lead throughout the route and came in at the winning time of 30:46. Mohale, who pushed hard to the finish, said he was pleased with his time. The 11th Vodacom Country Challenge is his last race before the World Championships and he leaves next week to represent South Africa on the 4th September in North Korea.
The winner of the women's race, Rutendo Nyahoza came in at a record-breaking time of 35:41 and despite her joy at wining, says it was a tough race. The two frontrunners of the women's 10km fought hard throughout the route, but Nyahoza managed to overtake her opponent Diana-Lebo Phalula at the 7km mark, where she surged up the hill and gained a significant advantage.
"It's been a privilege to host such a great group of athletes, and the best part is that together we are all contributing to the development of sport in South Africa", said Neville Van Niekerk, Vodacom Regional ME for Southern Gauteng.
The Fun Run was a family affair attracting a number of both young and old participants who either ran or walked the 5km route.
The popularity of this family-supported event will go a long way to assisting developing athletes in South Africa. The funds generated from this event will be used to equip runners with the appropriate gear and shoes, provide the transport and accommodation needed for the athletes to attend running events throughout the country (including the Comrades) and will help with provisions for the athletes during these races. Essential medical treatments, such as physiotherapy, will also be provided for.
A total of R33 000 worth of prize money was awarded to the winners in the various categories. Each finisher also received a medal and a lucky few walked away with cellphones and running shoes at the 21.1km prize giving. Officials were on hand to reward participants.
A record field of 6050 runners participated and there were no reported incidents during the race.
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