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Irvette says she can go quicker than her London PB
- Updated: April 27, 2013
By Mark Etheridge
She ran her fastest time in London last week but South Africa’s fifth fastest marathoner has no doubts that she can go still quicker. Irvette van Zyl raced to a flying 2hr 31min 26sec at the London Marathon, improving her previous best by more than two minutes.
And it was certainly a case of blood, sweat and some tears en route to her best after having run 2:33:41 at the same race last year. In between the London experience she’d run the Olympic marathon in the green and gold colours of Team South Africa but was forced to pull out after 17 kilometres with an Achilles tendon problem.
In fact, the two London Marathons are the only marathons she’s completed, after her debut at the Soweto Marathon the previous year went awry when she was bumped over at the start and also forced to pull out further into the race.
This time though, Van Zyl, who married fellow Olympian athlete LJ after the Olympics, hit pay dirt to place a fine 10th spot and she’s now SA’s fifth fastest women’s marathon. Only Elana Meyer, Colleen de Reuck, Frith van der Merwe and fellow Olympian and training partner Ren├® Kalmer are quicker
What makes her lope in London all the more impressive is that she went into the race after two weeks of severe stress. “My training all went well but I had a problem with my hips and left leg which would suddenly go totally lame at the strangest of times. At Two Oceans half-marathon I had to stop three times to stretch etc and I nearly pulled out of London.
“But I spoke to Ren├® who said that I may as well run because I’d done the hard work. So in the two weeks before London I ran around like a headless chicken, going to rehabilitation therapy and even getting injections in my back.”
The actual race was a roller coaster. “My leg went lame in the first 5km already and the wedge under my heel shifted and irritated me. But I just tried to stay positive and by 10km I felt a bit more comfortable and felt strong ÔÇô at halfway I realised I could run a good time and targeted under 2hr 30min.”
But the troublesome wedge came back to bug her and caused a nasty blister, which in turn forced her to overcompensate with her right leg.
“The thing is, I knew I was so close to running 2:30 that I just had to dig deep. The last 8km were terrible ÔÇô my right knee wouldn’t play along and the blister was so sore.
“Still, I ran a 2:31 which I was very happy with but what really made me happy was that I didn’t pull out.”
And the future? “I know I can definitely go faster. I’m only 25 and I reckon when I’m around 30 I will have transformed into a really good marathon athlete. So I’m very positive about the distance but for now I’ll focus on the shorter distances again and slowly but surely get used to the marathon distance.”
Coach Gerrie Coetzee (he also coaches Olympian Ren├® Kalmer) has no doubt that she’ll go under the 2:30 barrier. “If it weren’t for that blister she would definitely have done it,” he told Road to Rio 2016.
“In fact I think Irvette is an athlete who can definitely go under 2hr 25min even. She’s a really hard worker and has so much discipline in her training sessions.”
SA’s fastest female marathoners
Elana Meyer ÔÇô 2hr 25min 15sec, Boston (1994)
Colleen de Reuck ÔÇô 2:26:35, Berlin (1996)
Frith van der Merwe ÔÇô 2:27:36, Port Elizabeth (1990)
Ren├® Kalmer ÔÇô 2:29:59, Yokohama (2011)
Irvette van Zyl ÔÇô 2:31:26, London (2013)