Gerda Steyn celebrates wining the 2019 2 Oceans Marathon. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Gerda Steyn subscribes to the notion that the Comrades Marathon is a special race and plans to treat it with the reverence it deserves on Sunday.

While she intends improving on her second place finish from last year’s Down Run, the Nedbank Running Club ace acknowledges the ultra has to be approached with care.

“Comrades is a long way and I need to respect the route,” she said.

Be the first woman to reach Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg and Steyn will join Frith Van Der Merwe and Caroline Wostmann (now Cherry) on the list of women who have won the Ultimate Human Race and the 56km Two Oceans Marathon in one year.

“Haha!! I don’t want to count my chickens before they have hatched. But Caroline also won the double in 2015 so it definitely proved to me that it is possible.

“My first goal is to finish because it doesn’t matter where you are in the field, or what time you are able to achieve. But after finishing in second place last year I will really do my best to try and improve that to first place.”

Gerda Steyn finishes second in the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
Gerda Steyn finishes second in the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Steyn last month trained in the high altitude surrounds of the French Alps alongside teammate Steve Way who was third in the men’s race last year.

“I started training for Comrades even before Two Oceans and my build-up to the race has gone really well. I focused a lot on strength training and getting stronger on the uphills. I feel ready.”

The woman who got to within a minute of breaking Van Der Merwe’s Two Oceans record in April believes mental strength is more important at Comrades.

“To get a podium place at Comrades takes a lot of training, but more importantly a strong mind. I would say 70% of the race is a mental game.”

As tough as this year’s competition is, Steyn goes into the race as a firm favourite.

She anticipates a high-paced race.

“This year will be a very fast and interesting race for the women. The field this year is extremely strong with the likes of race favourite Ann Ashworth, Alexandra Morozova and many other athletes. But I can’t control what others will do and therefore I just believe in myself and the preparation that I have done.”

Whereas some athletes prefer the Up or Down Run, Steyn just loves the Comrades.

“I always say for me, Comrades is Comrades. I love the race regardless of the direction we run. I have fantastic memories from two years ago when I finished in fourth place after coming back from an injury and I am planning to carry those memories with me on Sunday.”

Mbongiseni Buthelezi