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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I had a long break' - Gerda Steyn bounces back from Comrades with SA Record in Valencia

Gerda Steyn underlined her status as South Africa’s best marathon athlete of her generation when she broke her own national record at the Valencia Marathon yesterday. The darling of SA road running finished 11th place during the World Athletics Elite Platinum label race in 2:24:03 to take 1 minute and 25 seconds off her previous personal best and SA Record, which also secured her spot at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

“New South African National record, a big chunk off my previous PB and Olympic qualifier done,” was her immediate reaction which she posted on social media hours after the race. “Feeling so grateful for today and having this experience, especially to have run along incredibly strong women and putting it all out there to get the result I worked for,” said the woman who represented the country at #Tokyo2021 where she finished in fifteenth position.

Steyn in action at Tokyo 2021. The SA national record holder has secured another Olympic birth for Paris 2024. Photo Credit: Supplied.

But what surprised many is just how the 33-year-old has been able to bounce back from two gruelling ultra marathons earlier in the year, including that magnificent Comrades Marathon performance in June where the Queen of Comrades averaged 3:56 minutes per kilometre for 87km to set a new Down Run record from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Speaking to #TheTopRunner, Steyn revealed that 10km races particularly in the Absa RUN YOUR CITY Series helped her to shake off that ultra marathon stiffness and get back her marathon speed.

“I had a long break - maybe the longest break that I’ve ever had. So it was very enjoyable. But after the Hollywoodbets Durban 10km, I drew a line in the sand and started my marathon preparation and part of that training incorporated the Absa RUN YOUR CITY JOBURG 10KM and then after that purely marathon focus without any other races,” she revealed in early September when she began preparing for Valencia in earnest.

Steyn poses on the finish line after a great run at the Valencia Marathon. Photo Credit: Gerda Steyn.

Having booked her ticket to France and set new records at the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon and Comrades, the Adidas Ambassador can take time to reflect on a highly successful 2023 before planning her 2024 racing calendar. And with next year’s Olympic Marathon taking alpaca on a highly course in the French capital, Steyn has every right to aim for a top ten finish.

Speaking after a Olympic debut in Japan, the Phantane Athletic Club top runner said she had gained a lot of experience from that run and is looking forward to improve on that finish when next she dons the Olympic green and gold. "The marathon is very interesting for me and I do feel that like I've still got a couple of years of growth in terms of bettering my times on the marathon. I do think that on a good day I can do it. That is definitely something I'm looking forward to," she smiled.

Aside from Steyn there were a few other South Africans in action at the Valencia Marathon in Spain yesterday. Former 50km World Record holder Irvette van Zyl of the Hollywood Athletics Club clocked 2:27:29 for the second fastest time of her career. While Durban-based Adam Lipschitz produced 2:13:01 in what was his marathon debut.

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