Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

With another win in the bag, Steyn looks ahead to Olympic marathon

The ultra-distance star sees her packed racing schedule as an opportunity to break new ground and motivate others.

She admits it is going to be tough, but long-distance runner Gerda Steyn remains confident she can recover in time to put up a fight at the Olympic Games in August.

Steyn has been superb this year, breaking the women’s records at the Om Die Dam, Two Oceans and Comrades ultra-marathons, all in the space of three months.

And while most elite ultra-distance runners wouldn’t race more than two or three times a year, Steyn felt she could handle the quick turnaround in preparation for the standard marathon race at the Paris Olympics.

“It is a challenge that I’ve set myself,” Steyn said after clocking 5:49:46 to shatter her own Comrades ‘up’ run record by more than nine minutes in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

“I know nobody has ever attempted running Comrades and the Olympics in the same year, but I feel really blessed that I’ve got this opportunity.”

Olympic marathon

Steyn, who holds the national record over the standard 42.2km distance, is one of three women in the South African team for the Olympic marathon.

She will be joined in Paris by experienced campaigner Irvette van Zyl and marathon rookie Cian Oldknow, with all three athletes having achieved the automatic qualifying standard of 2:26:50 for the longest running race at the multi-sport showpiece.

Steyn, 34, hoped to shine again on an Olympic marathon course that was perfectly suited to her. With more than 400 metres of climbing, and hot weather expected in the French capital, she could thrive in the conditions and spring a surprise if she’s at her best.

Encouraging people

While she acknowledged it was going to be difficult, however, after winning three ultras in recent months, she saw it as an opportunity to break new ground and motivate other individuals to raise the bar for themselves.

“For me, it feels like a platform to encourage people to go after difficult things because it’s worth it,” said Steyn, who finished 15th in the Olympic marathon in Tokyo in 2021, when Comrades and Two Oceans were cancelled due to Covid.

“It builds your character and you can inspire so many people, so I’m happy about my choice and I’m going to work so hard to be ready on 11 August to represent South Africa in the proudest way I possibly can.”

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