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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'SPAR is always special to me' - Irvette van Zyl to fine tune Olympic prep at SPAR WOMEN’S DURBAN CHALLENGE

With #Paris2024 set to get underway in just over a month's time, Irvette van Zyl is putting the finishing touches to her Olympic preparation. The woman who celebrates her 37th birthday on the 5th of July, has been selected to represent South Africa once more after having been included in the teams that took part at #London2012, #Rio2016 and #Tokyo2021. Although the five-time SA Champion failed to finish the marathon on each of those three previous occasions, she feels more confident that things will be different this time around, especially after returning from a long injury layoff to take second place behind Gerda Steyn at the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon in April.

"My recovery was quite slow after Two Oceans because I was struggling a bit with my calf. So I took ten days off from running after Oceans. Then after a good rest, I got back to training - slowly. The first few weeks were still uncomfortable but then miraculously, the discomfort in the calf just disappeared. So I'm very happy about that. I'm so delighted that the training is really going well now. I've been going from strength to strength," she told #TheTopRunner.

van Zyl always loves taking part in the SPAR Grand Prix series. She will run two more SPAR 10km races before heading to Paris. Photo Credit: Reg Caldecott.

With her training going well and her confidence rising, the Hollywood Athletics Club top runner will now put herself through a fitness to gauge just how well she is shaping up ahead of her 42,2km race through the streets of Paris on 11 August. van Zyl has confirmed that she will race the Durban leg of the SPAR Women's Grand Prix on Sunday 23 June on a course not too different to the one on which she set her 32:06 10km lifetime best back in 2018.

"SPAR is always special to me in Durban. That's where I ran my first SPAR race and I have a lot of podiums there. I'm hoping for a top five finish, close to the 33 minute mark or under. That would be nice because I feel that I'm in that shape. I only chose three races to do before the Olympics after Oceans; the NMB Half Marathon where the weather was horrific but I still managed to finish as the third South African (1:16:21), then this SPAR DURBAN and SPAR Mbombela on the 13th of July and that will be my last race before the Olympics," she shared.

van Zyl has been preparing for the hills since the beginning of the year. Here she is pictured on her way to winning the hilly Dis-Chem Half Marathon in Bedfordview in January. Photo Credit: Action Photo.

With the plan laid out to the tee, all that is left is for the mother of two to execute. Having qualified to represent the country by virtue of her 2:27:29 clocking for 16th position at the Valencia Marathon in December, van Zyl will know that she has a realistic chance of claiming a top 20 finish if she can run close to 2:30. And with a hilly course and hot weather expected in the French capital during the Northern hemisphere summer, the four-time African Bank Soweto Marathon champion is backing her strength on the hills to see her through.

"I definitely like hard courses. It’ll definitely make difference. The one thing we will suffer with is the heat and humidity. That is one of my weaknesses, heat and humidity. Every time it’s an Olympic year athletes seem to be next level. It just brings about the best in you and the athletes around you. I want it bad, but if you want something too bad then it becomes and obsession. I’m just taking it a day at a time and give it my best then I’ll be happy."

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