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by Michelle Carnegie
31 October 2017

They are fast, determined and pretty tough! They are Team Massmart, SA’s newest women’s elite road running team, and they are set to make a significant impact on road running events in South Africa.

Backed by Massmart, the team is captained by experienced ultra-distance runner Ann Ashworth, whose passion and commitment to advancing the running careers of women helped establish this elite squad of 8 ultra and long distance women runners.

At the official launch yesterday in Sandton, Johannesburg, the exciting running journey of Team Massmart started, with the main goal of supporting women in sport and in particular, the advancement of black athletes.

How it all started
The idea behind Team Massmart was born at Comrades 2017, a race which should have been dominated by strong South African performances, in both the men’s and women’s race, said Ashworth, who was forced to watch the race as a spectator after injury ended her Comrades Gold medal hopes.
“Watching the race as a spectator, it became glaringly obvious to me that there needed to be a renewed focus on female ultra-distance athletes in South Africa. While initiatives such as Endurocad have encouraged young athletes to excel at Olympic distance events, there has not been a similar focus on ultra-distance running in the country. Bearing in mind that South Africa is home to the World 100km champion, the Comrades Down Run men’s record holder, and the winning 100km men’s team; it is surprising that we have failed to foster a similar level of excellence amongst the greater community of South African female runners.”
Together with one of SA’s most successful coaches John Hamlett as well as journalist, podcaster and producer David Katz the group formulated a well thought through plan and approached Massmart. “Massmart has similar values and goals aligned to our own, and is also wholly committed to assisting the team to make a real difference in the ultra-distance space, specifically through the empowerment of black female athletes. It is such a privilege to be able to work with a sponsor as passionate about the upliftment of female athletes as we are,” said Ashworth. 
A winning formula
Massmart Communication Manager Annaleigh Vallie explained as fate would have it Ashworth approached Massmart at the same time the company was becoming more aware that little was being done to promote road running.  “While working on our ‘Sports in a Box’ kit where we provide sporting equipment to children, we became aware that little was being done to promote road running. In our view it is one of the more accessible sports, with the barrier to entry being a little less daunting, making it an inclusive sport. We knew we had to do something more and as fate would have it, Ann approached us with her vision for an ultra-distance women’s team. We were so impressed by her credentials, her approach and commitment to advancing the running careers of women we knew we had to get involved,” said Vallie.

Massmart will be providing the team with the opportunities and resources they require to reach their full potential, and chase their dreams. “We believe this will not only touch the lives of our athletes, but will inspire the next generation of South Africans to pursue their individual goals. Team Massmart has the potential to be South African heroes, and now have the opportunity to fulfil their role,” said Ashworth.

Who’s in the team?
The initial members of Team Massmart include Ashworth, Ramadimetja Lizzy Babili, Vicky Hansen, Mapaseka Makhanya, Catherine Malungane, Enie Manzini, Mia Van Heerden and Katy Van Meter.
The athletes on the team are well lauded with Makhanya having represented South Africa at the IAAF World Championships in London while Ashworth took first place at the Loskop 50km Marathon in Mpumalanga earlier this year.
Massmart has committed to sponsor the team for three years. The sponsorship will include travel, kit, accommodation and specialised training camps. Massmart is hoping the team will not only take top honours at future road running events, but also serve as role models for future generations.
Team Bio
Ann Ashworth
Since linking up with Colonel Coach, John Hamlett after the 2016 Comrades Marathon, Ann hit new heights in 2017. In February she equalled the course record at the Buffs Marathon, going through halfway in 1h22, before a 2h47 finish. A win at the Loskop 50km followed, before injury ended her Comrades Gold medal hopes. The year 2018 will see her return to The Ultimate Human Race, with a score to settle.
Enie Manzini
Hailing from the East of Johannesburg this mother of two is not only a runner; she is a fire fighter and an advanced life support paramedic. Enie’s study and work commitments have often curtailed her Comrades Marathon training. Despite this, she ran a 7h36 Down Run in 2016. What does 2018 hold for her? Hopefully a Silver medal.
Katy Van Meter
While she may have been born in the USA, Katy was raised in, and has a deep love for South Africa. Katy ran an impressive 2h55 at the Boston Marathon in May. The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon beckons in 2018, and possibly so does a Gold medal.
Mia van Heerden
As a newly appointed Financial Accountant at Investec Private Bank, if there is something Mia knows, it is numbers. Like all runs, times matter, even if it is beating your own. Having only taken running seriously in the past year, Mia got her marathon PB down to 3h03, in Cape Town this September. The year 2018 holds a wedding in April, and her novice Comrades in June.
Mapaseka Makhanya
Soweto is renowned as a hotbed of South African talent; this includes producing one of our best distance runners. Mapaseka remains a force; she was second at the South African half-marathon Championships in 2017, while also representing her country at the IAAF World Championships in London. She doesn’t only run, she gives back, and is a great role model for up and coming female runners. While Ultras are not yet on her radar, see her continue to grace the 10, 21 and 42km scene in 2018.
Vicky Hansen
Mother to a two-year-old, personal trainer, and ultra-marathon runner, Vicky Hansen is one fit lady. With a half-marathon best of 1h23 and a marathon best of 2h56, Vicky has the credentials to be a top ultra-marathon challenger. Having clocked 7h34 at Comrades 2017, she will most likely be joining the Silver Comrades medal club in 2018.
Catherine Malungane
There is an air of determination about Catherine that is infectious. This full-time athlete has some big ambitions, spurred on by the support of her seven-year-old son. Having represented Gauteng North over various distances, Catherine has an impressive 1h19 half marathon PB, and a 2h47 marathon time to her name. Gold medals at Two Oceans and Comrades seem destined to come, as she focuses more on Ultras.
Ramadimetja Lizzy Babili
Don’t let Lizzy’s infectious smile fool you, she is one determined and hardworking runner. Having grown up running with her father and brother, Lizzy is now the star of the family. An inspiration to her two kids, she is a recent winner of the Vaal Marathon. The confidence to achieve greatness is there, with Two Oceans and Comrades victories on her future agenda.
Follow the team on Twitter and Facebook : @TeamMassmart
IMAGES: Terence Vrugtman

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