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April 21, 2011

One of South Africa’s most successful athletes of all time, Sonja Laxton, will have much to celebrate when she runs in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach in Port Elizabeth on May 7.

Laxton will be celebrating running her 70th SPAR Challenge – a record for this event. She will also be celebrating her return to competitive running, after being out of action since September because of a burst appendix followed by a back operation. “I’m so happy to be back and I’m especially happy that I will make my return in a SPAR race,” said Laxton.

“I love the Challenge races – it is wonderful to take part in a women’s only race, where you are not swamped by male runners, and the atmosphere in the Challenge races is always so friendly.”

She said that for many of the elite athletes, the Challenge races were as important as the national championships. “They are very competitive races, and SPAR are pretty generous with prize money, even in the age category sections, so many runners try to peak for the Challenge races.”

Laxton was also very pleased to be making her comeback in Port Elizabeth. “I spent my high school years in Port Elizabeth, at Pearson High, so I have a very soft spot for PE, and I always enjoy running in the Challenge there,” she said. “The course is a very good one – there’s a tough little hill after two kms, but otherwise it is a very nice course, and providing it isn’t too windy, you can usually do good times in PE.

“The atmosphere at the PE Challenge is always very good and PE certainly lives up to its reputation as the Friendly City,” said Laxton.

In a career spanning more than 45 years – she now competes as a grandmaster – Laxton claimed 70 national titles, on the track, on the road and in cross-country. She set 28 senior national records over the 1500m, mile, 3000m and 10 000m on the track, and over the half and full marathon distances on the road. She also set numerous SA age group and provincial records.

One of her greatest achievements was being the first South African to be awarded national colours in all three branches of running: track, road and cross country. “I just love running,” she said. “I really miss it when I can’t do it. It’s such a wonderful thing to do – if you travel, and you run, you get to see so much more if you go for a run in a strange city than you would from a car. And all you need for running is a pair of running shoes. You can buy all sorts of other things, but really it is a very cheap sport.”

Entry forms for the SPAR Women’s Challenge are available at all SPAR, SUPERSPAR and KWIKSPAR stores, or online at

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