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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I am in shape to run my PB' - Irvette van Zyl excited about 10k season after Durban SPAR Grand Prix

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Dismissed as an ultra marathon runner by some, Irvette van Zyl showed that she remains dangerous over the shorter distances as well when she produced a gutsy performance during the second leg of the SPAR Grand Prix in Durban yesterday. The 50km world record holder (3:04:24) placed fourth behind winner Tadu Nare of Ethiopia, Namibia's Helalia Johannes and Ethiopian junior Selam Gebre to finish as the first South African.

"I think everyone who knows me, knows that I am a front runner and will try my best to be the most competitive I can be in each race I run," she told #TheTopRunner when asked about being the only local athlete to have gone with the scorching early pace set by Nare, Johannes and Gebre. "I am an aggressive racer, even if it sometimes doesn't work to win the race. That is the way I race and feel comfortable with. I would rather fail trying than to not try at all."

Irvette van Zyl in the lead bunch during the Durban leg of the SPAR Grand Prix. Photo Credit: Rogan Ward

Her strategy paid off handsomely eThekwini because that 33:03 in a Nedbank Running Club sweep of the top four positions was the second fastest time run by a South African woman on South African soil in 2022 after Tayla Kavanagh ran 33:02 in Cape Town in May. Only Dominique Scott (31:59 in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States) and Kavanagh (32:37 in Herzogenaurach, Germany) have run faster over 10km this year. It's an effort worthy of praise when one considers that van Zyl ran 3:30:31 to take the runner-up spot behind Gerda Steyn at the Totalsports Two Oceans 56km ultra marathon in April.

"Training has been consistent," she explained when asked about how she is able to balance her training such that she can run both far and fast. "But it is a massive switch to get the legs running faster after longer distances and also getting the mind switched to all out mode. But the ultra in the end compliments the shorter distances because to be faster you need good endurance. The strength of being a faster 10km runner are your Long Runs. This is one of the most important sessions of the week to help keep the fast momentum going during the last 3km of the 10km race. The days of doing long slow long runs are over."

van Zyl and Gerda Steyn battling it out during the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon in April. van Zyl is able to run fast 10km races, while excelling at ultra marathons because of her approach to training which priorities hard and fast long runs. Photo Credit: Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon.

With that never-say-die racing attitude and armed with her fastest 10km clocking since 2019, the 34-year old mother of two is excited about threatening her 32:06 10km personal best at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10k on July 10. Having produced some of her most notable performances in Durban, van Zyl says she always runs well in Indian Ocean city because those races generally tend to take place in the second half of the year once she is racing fit.

"It is not really Durban that lets me run well it is because it is later in the year. I need races to race me into shape. I am feeling really excited for RYC Durban. I feel I have a great opportunity and am in shape to do it and run my PB. Also, the extra time incentives are a huge bonus for us as SA athletes. I am predicting a lot of our SA athletes will run great times in 2 weeks time," she said.

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