Updated: March 16, 2016

Two of the country’s top distance runners will join some of their compatriots on the international marathon circuit next month, adding another dimension to a closely contested race for three available spots in the Olympic women’s 42km team.
Lebo Phalula confirmed on Wednesday she would compete at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands on April 17, while Rene Kalmer, bouncing back from a persistent hip injury, revealed she would turn out at the London Marathon in England on April 24.
The duo would join Irvette van Zyl, also racing in London, and Mapaseka Makhanya, in the line-up for the Daegu Marathon on April 10, as they prepared to make final qualifying bids for the Rio Games.
With only three spots available in the squad, Christine Kalmer (2:33:43), Jenna Challenor (2:37:12) and Makhanya (2:37:21) were the leading contenders for selection ahead of the April 30 qualifying deadline.
Having recovered from her injury troubles, Kalmer hoped to shake things up by dipping under 2:33:00 in an effort to secure her place in the team.
“I think sub-2:33 will be a safe goal, but you can’t really say because Mapaseka, Lebo and Irvette are all still running,” said Kalmer, who finished 35th in the women’s marathon at the 2012 London Olympics.
While most of her fellow contenders would have completed their qualifying campaigns before she toed the line in London, Kalmer was not putting pressure on herself by worrying about the performances of other athletes.
“I think that’ll help, just knowing what to expect, but you also can’t really chase times,” said Kalmer, the fourth fastest SA woman of all-time, holding a career record of 2:29:27.
“You have to focus on your own race. If you’re going to start chasing times of other athletes you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself.
“I’m not expecting a miracle. I’m just hoping for a solid race.”
Phalula, meanwhile, said she would scrap her plans to compete on the track in Rio, opting instead to put all her eggs in one basket with another qualifying attempt in the marathon.
Having clocked 2:38:55 on debut in Cape Town last year, Phalula was lying fourth among the long list of athletes who had dipped under the required standard of 2:45:00, and she hoped to go quicker in Enschede.
“I’m focussing on the marathon now. I’m not in the right shape for the track at the moment, and my training is better suited to the longer distance,” she said.