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Van Zyl’s 21.1km champs shows she’s ready for Rio
- Updated: August 1, 2016
Believe it or not but Rio Olympics marathon athlete, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank), was actually disappointed to only finish second at Saturday’s South African half-marathon championships in Port Elizabeth.
Kenya’s Sheila Chesang won in 70min 58sec with Van Zyl second in 1:11:00. Lebogang Phalula was third in 1:11:35. Although she finished second Van Zyl still claimed the South African title.
‘I would have been OK with finishing third, but finishing second was a disappointment,’ Van Zyl said.
This certainly sounds confusing, especially taking into account that Van Zyl missed out on setting a new personal best time by only four seconds.
But, confusing as it might be, the Nedbank athlete had reason to be disappointed.
Initially the plan for her was to only use the Championships as a last good tempo run before the Olympic Marathon on 14 August.
‘Lindsey Parry (coach) and I agreed that my aim should be to finish in about 73 minutes which ought to have been good enough for a top three finish. After three kilometres I realised the pace we were running was too fast, so I dropped off slightly and focused on running the pace we have agreed on.
‘At the 16 kilometre marker I could hear the announcer telling the spectators that I was busy closing in on the race leaders. My reaction was that he was totally wrong, but seeing that I was feeling really good I decide to up my pace. I was not thinking about winning, but decided to lessen the margin by which I was going to lose.
‘To my surprise I started to feel stronger with every stride. I accelerated even more and caught up with the race leaders at the 19km marker.
‘That was when I made a stupid tactical error. Instead of just sticking with them, saving my energy for an attack on the last kilometre, I surged ahead hoping to drop everybody. But this did not happen because they stuck with me.
‘Eventually Phalula could not keep up the pace, which left just me and the Kenyan athlete. I had not really done any speed work before the race and realised that I might not be able to contest a sprint to the line, so I attacked. It was to no avail and the Kenyan remained immediately behind me.
‘In the last 400 metres she attacked. I was able to counter, but when she surged for a second time she opened a small gap and managed to cross the line before me.
‘In hindsight I think I would have beaten her if the race was a kilometre longer, but the reality was that we were competing in a 21.1km race and not a 22.1km race. I would have been happy with a third place finish but finishing second coming so close to winning the race was disappointing.
‘What hurts is the fact that I lost out by two seconds on winning an extra R20 000, basically losing R10 000 a second.’
‘Still I can take a lot of positives from the race. The most important is the fact that in spite of “loafing” during most of the race, I still came so close to winning. It proves that the training I have been doing is starting to pay off.
‘I went for a training run this morning (Sunday) and I can honestly say it did not feel as I’d had raced the day before.’