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Van Zyl targets a personal best in Hamburg after dominating CGA 5000m on Saturday

South African road running queen Irvette Van Zyl is hoping to snatch a new personal best when she takes part in NN Mission Hamburg Marathon on 11 April in Germany. Van Zyl has been included in the top class field of 100 elite athletes including men's world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge. The once-off marathon has been organised by NN Running Team and Global Sports Communication with the aim of serving up a fast race to give athletes the best possible chance to qualify for the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo in July. Under the tagline ‘The fastest way to Tokyo,' the race will take place on a 10.5km looped course around the German city.

Van Zyl when she last took part in a track & field series at the ASA Speed Series in 2017. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

The Nedbank Running Club athlete won 5 000m race in a time of 16:55 at Central Gauteng Athletics' (CGA) first meeting of 2021 held in Boksburg on Saturday. She believes that was good preparation to test her speed leading up to Hamburg. But she thinks she could have gone much faster if her competitors pushed her. "It's not a great time but at least it's a reintroduction to track because it has been a long time since I was in a track race," reflects Van Zyl

"I think the last time on the track was 2017 and with no races going on and with that (NN) race happening you must do what you can. And to race on track will help me to build speed for the marathon. I didn't do great on Saturday but to for the sake of the rhythm and to get the feeling of the track, it was good. It was hot and windy on the day. There wasn't too much competition so I was on my own from the start," she explained.

Van Zyl lapped competitors as she won the 5 000m at the CGA Track & Field Meet on Saturday with ease. Photo Credit: CGA.

Van Zyl, who owns a 42,2km personal best of 2:31:21 achieved during the 2013 London Marathon where she finished in 10th position is targeting a new one in Hamburg. The mother of two feels she can't afford any excuses because there are no other races split her focus. She appreciates the event organisers for pulling this one off as she last raced 18 months ago.

"It just a Deja vu that 2020 is repeating itself," said Van Zyl regarding the cancellation of mass running events. "It certainly helps that you can have a race you can train for. I always wanted to try to beat my personal best again so this is like I don't have any excuses basically because there is no other race I can prepare for. The only alternative option is to go run an international marathon. So it's just nice that race organisers overseas are trying hard to put up races. So it's something I'm excited about about," she shared.

van Zyl in action in the 2018 Spar Ladies 10km Grand Prix Series. With races in SA being cancelled van Zyl is grateful that NN have invited her to race an international marathon in Hamburg in April. Photo Credit: Almerie Janse van Vuuren van der Berg.

The three times Soweto Marathon winner still isn't ruling out the possibility of being on the plane to Japan. Despite having been selected to represent South Africa at two Olympic marathons in 2012 and 2016, Van Zyl feels she has unfinished business at The Games and she is determined to close that chapter positively. "I don't put my head around it," said Van Zyl regarding her ambitions to qualify for Tokyo 2021.

"Right now, I want to run faster than my personal best. If it happens it happens, if it doesn't it doesn't. Even last year, it wasn't my goals since I had different goals. But this year there is nothing you can race for expect that in July it's the Olympics if it's going on. So definitely something to think about if you want to race again. If it happens that I make it to the team for the third time than definitely its unfinished business for me. I didn't have a great 2012 but at least I started but didn't finish. And in 2016, I didn't start at all and that was quite dramatic as I nearly quit the sport," she concluded.

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