Durban – Helalia Johannes is human after all. The seemingly invincible Namibian athlete was finally defeated in a SPAR Grand Prix Series race Sunday morning.
And it was Ethiopian runner Tadu Nare who ended the veteran’s domination of the popular women’s 10km race
Overall champion in 2019 after winning all the races in the Series, Johannes missed the 2021 edition which saw Nare dominate. But when she won the maiden leg of the series in Gqeberha last month, it seemed to confirm the notion that Nare would not have been champion last year had Johannes been present.
On Sunday though, Nare showed her class when she outsprinted Johannes in the last kilometre to win in a time of 31:50, nine seconds faster than Johannes.
But without trying to take the shine away from Nare’s success, Johannes revealed that she had a nightmarish pre-race that led to her even considering not competing.
Describing a travelling ordeal that saw her miss her flight from Windhoek as well as the one from Johannesburg to Durban, Johannes said she ran with a headache and a dizziness spell.
“I was not feeling well today. I woke up at 4am yesterday to go to the airport but then missed my flight and had to wait five hours for the next one. And then I missed the flight to Durban, and I arrived here late last night, and I woke up at 4am feeling dizzy. I didn’t know I would compete because my body was very tired, so I thank the Lord for finishing the race after all the travelling (nightmare)”
Despite her suffering a rare defeat, there was nothing in Johannes’ run to suggest she’d had the hellish pre-race she described, the veteran athlete being in the lead bunch all the way until Nare sprinted away from her at the ninth kilometre mark.
The Ethiopian said she’d planned to stick to Johannes until the 8th klometre mark and then make her break then before the Namibian could as she usually does.
“But when we got to the 8km mark they were still with me and at nine kilometers I knew I had to go fast”
Like Johannes, veteran Irvette Van Zyl finished fourth and was the first South African in 33:03 behind third-placed Salem Gebre (32:17) despite feeling unwell too.
“It was not the most comfortable run for me because today I felt off balance, so I took it one kilo at a time. Imam grateful to have finished.”
The next leg of the SPAR Grand Prix Series takes place in Mbombela on July 16.