Van Zyl targeting longer distances

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VanZyl_JHB1 Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images Irvette van Zyl crosses the finish line to win the Johannesburg Spar Women's 10km Challenge.

Johannesburg – Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk) hopes to put her injury woes behind her as she looks forward to a better season next year, when she’ll be focusing on longer distance events.

Van Zyl, who is now married to SA hurdler LJ van Zyl, has been successful over shorter distances, winning the Spar Women's Challenge Grand Prix titles in 2010 and 2011, but has had mixed fortunes in her initial forays over the 42km standard marathon distance.

“My goal was to end the year on a high,” Van Zyl said after she won the fifth and final leg of the 10km Women’s Challenge series in Johannesburg on Sunday in 34 minutes, 34 seconds (34:34).

“This year has been rough for me. I have not done well and it was nice to win today.”

Van Zyl finished second overall in the series, behind Rene Kalmer, who won the first four races.

Kalmer withdrew from the final leg at the last minute due to an Achilles injury.

Van Zyl, 25, pulled out in the closing stages of her debut attempt over the classic 42km distance in last year's Soweto Marathon.

She bounced back at the London Marathon in April, clocking two hours, 33 minutes, 41 seconds (2:33:41) to qualify for the London Olympics.

Injury again plagued her in the build-up to the Games and she dropped out of the race before the halfway mark.

She had finished third in all her previous races in the Women's Challenge Grand Prix series this season, but missed the penultimate leg in Pretoria due to the same Achilles injury that ended her Olympic dream.

“I’m still not in good shape,” Van Zyl said.

“At some point in the race (on Sunday) I experienced cramps and wanted to stretch a little but I realised the other ladies were behind me so I just carried on.

“I’m training now but I will not be doing the Soweto Marathon.

“I will use this time to better my training and prepare for next year's races.

“I want to run more marathons in my career and will focus my training around that, and also improve on my 10km and half-marathon times.” – Sapa

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