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Van Zyl overcomes cramps to be first in line for Olympic marathon

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By Mark Etheridge

Irvette van Zyl’s 15th spot in Sunday’s London Marathon has elevated her to the front of the selection queue of South African women’s marathon hopefuls at this year’s Rio Olympics.
The flying Van Zyl ran 2hr 32min 20sec to make her the quickest SA woman inside the Olympic marathon qualifying time of 2:45:00.
But Van Zyl, married to two-time Olympic 400m hurdler LJ, had her own obstacles to overcome in London.
‘It was really cold and my feet were numb till around 15km and my body never really warmed up,’ she told Road to Rio 2016 after arriving back in South Africa.
Her first hiccup was missing her personal drink at 25km. ‘That meant that between 20 and 30km I ran without any hydration. And the cold caused me to start cramping from around 28km.
‘By the time I got my next drink at 30km it was too late.’
It all made for a drawn-out final 12km for the Pretoria athlete. ‘The week before I’d had a stomach virus ahead of SA Track and Field Championships in Stellenbosch and my tummy just never really recovered properly.
‘So I was suffering from both leg and stomach cramps.. it was touch and go that I pulled off for a “pit-stop”.
‘But with the leg cramps I knew that if even stopped for any period of time it would have been extremely hard to get going again. So I really had to hang in there and lets just say I was really pleased to get to the finish line.’
Now she’ll take a few days rest. ‘I’m just a mom for the next few days and will be able to spend some quality time with my little boy Louis who is getting big so quickly now.’
Then she’ll touch base with coach Lindsey Parry, currently in Stellenbosch on a training camp with the elite South African triathletes. It’s Parry who really seems to be getting the best out of the long-limbed athlete who suffered from many an injury in previous years.
‘What makes Lindsey’s training programme so different is that the rest days are really rest days so that on the hard training days your legs are fresh and you can train to the best of your ability. And he is also very good for my self-confidence. He really believes that I can reach my targets both in training and in a race.’
There had been talk of Van Zyl targeting the SA record of 2:26:35, set by Colleen de Reuck 20 years ago but Van Zyl says this was never the case.
‘No, I was never going for the SA record. The pace we decided on was too slow for that. Lindsey and I just wanted to play it safe but the target was 2:28 and I was actually nicely on track till about 29km.’


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