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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'I enjoy the race so much' - Irvette van Zyl eyes victory at African Bank Soweto Marathon

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

South African long distance sensation Irvette Van Zyl will line-up for the iconic African Bank Soweto Marathon as one of the favourites to take top honours. The annual event which is run through the country's the biggest township Soweto, the race is also of historic significance as the route takes in heritage sites such as the Walter Sisulu Square, Vilakazi Street and the Hector Peterson memorial. With over 20 000 participants expected to lineup this year over the standard marathon, the half marathon and 10km, van Zyl is looking to add a fourth 42km title to her name.

Speaking to #TheTopRunner, the 36-year-old who spent the first half of the year nursing injury says her training has gone well and she is ready of Sunday. "The preparations have gone quite well for me. After coming from injury which sidelined me from the start of the year, I have been cautious on how I approach the training and racing as well. The speed has been coming along nicely in the past few weeks but I must avoid going too hard in order to avoid injury," explained the former World 50km record holder.

Irvette van Zyl is happy to be running the African Bank Soweto Marathon again. Photo Credit: Hollywood AC.

Having won the race three times before, The People's Race has a special place in the Hollywood Athletic Club top runner's heart. She says is excited to line up again at the start line for the first time in four years.

"The important thing is that I'm going to make a return to the race after four years. The last time I ran it was in 2019 then it was canceled the following year due to Covid19 then I skipped it last year due to injury. It always wonderful to run the race that hold such history of the country. Another thing, Soweto offers such tough and hill course that will challenge even guys with speed to dig deep if they want to win it. The race is so challenging. So I can't wait to make it into the start line," said the woman whose 2:26:11 marathon personal best makes her the second fastest South African woman of all time.

van Zyl celebrates victory during the 2019 Soweto Marathon where she missed out on her own 2018 course record by just 16 seconds. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

Having represented SA in the marathon at the recent World Championship in Budapest, Hungary, where she finished in 45th place with a 2:38:32 season's best, van Zyl believes that she is peaking at the right time after a year riddle with injury. She feels that if the legs allow her then she will challenge her own 2:33:43 course record, even though her first priority remains to win a title.

"In 2019, I missed the record by a few seconds. But I wasn't disappointed at all with that. Its hard to say that I will challenge for the record without knowing the weather conditions on the day. Because on race day, it can be hot which would be disadvantage. With 4km to go, if I know that I am within a course record then I'll give it a go. It so hard to start with an idea to chase the record then ending up blowing. But if I can get a record then it be special. I think to win it again would be good. That's why I keep on coming back because I enjoy the race so much. I don't want to talk much about the record," she said.

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