Despite cold, windy and wet conditions, reigning Comrades and Two Oceans champion Gerda Steyn managed to break Coleen de Reuck’s long-standing national marathon record on Sunday in Sienna, Italy.
Racing at the Xiamen Sienna Tuscany Elite Marathon, Steyn’s phenomenal tenacity and her sustained training through the global lockdown ensured the Biogen-backed Nedbank running club athlete achieved her goal by setting a new national record.
Executing the plan
Steyn lined up alongside compatriot Irvette Van Zyl, who was chasing an Olympic qualifying time.
Both athletes are coached by Nedbank running club national team manager Nick Bester and executed their race plans to perfection.
Steyn took a minute off her previous best to finally better De Reuck’s national marathon record of 2:26:35 after narrowly missing out on it last year in London.
Van Zyl was looking to run a new personal best and dip under the automatic Olympic Marathon qualifying time of 2:29:30. Both athletes did not disappoint.
Running on her own for most of the race, Steyn set out a blistering pace and was on track to finish in a projected 2h25 on the looped 5km course. Never falling off her target pace, Steyn powered through the final 5km to the finish and crossed the line in ninth overall and set a new national marathon record of 2:25:28.
Van Zyl, who set off on 2h27 pace, bravely held on behind Steyn to finish 13th overall in a time of 2:28:40 and smashed her previous best. In doing so, she also booked herself an automatic Olympic qualifying time.
“We ran and we fought, and we did it,” said an elated Steyn after the race. “I am super happy with my time after narrowly missing out last year on the record. There is so much to say about the experience but for now I want to celebrate PB’s with Irvette!”
An elated Van Zyl also expressed gratitude and thanks for her race. “It’s all smiles for myself and Gerda after today’s run. I could not be prouder today of being a South African,” said Van Zyl.
“After being so close to quitting the sport after the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as recent operations I don’t have words to describe right now but there are so many people I am thankful for who made this all possible.”
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Kenya’s Angela Tanui claimed victory at the race on Sunday, breaking the Italian all-comers’ record with a time of 2:20:08.