CAPE TOWN – Twice winner of the Women’s Day 10km Challenge, Annie Bothma is one of over 500 runners set to make their marathon debuts at the Cape Town Marathon on Sunday.
One of Cape Town’s fittest and fastest, Bothma has several track and road titles to her name, but on Sunday she will be competing over a distance significantly further than she has yet raced. Quite possibly Bothma will turn to South Africa’s most successful distance athlete for marathon inspiration - Cape Town Marathon race ambassador Elana van Zyl-Meyer. In 1994 Van Zyl-Meyer was also facing her marathon debut, at the 1994 Boston Marathon.
“I would have absolutely loved to have run a huge city marathon in South Africa,” said Van Zyl-Meyer at the time. “But you’ve got to be realistic. We have a long way to go before we can compete with the major city marathons around the world.”
The Boston Marathon appealed to Van Zyl-Meyer who clocked the fastest debut, finishing third behind German Uta Pippig in 2hr 25min 15sec - still the fastest by a South African, although Colleen de Reuck’s 2:26:35 at Berlin in 1996 stands as the national record due to Boston not meeting IAAF accreditation standards. Running easily, Van Zyl-Meyer had taken the race lead from Pippig at 30km and was on course for a 2hr 22min marathon when disaster struck.
“The pace felt very comfortable,” recalled Van Zyl-Meyer. “The most difficult part was having to be patient and hold back. So it felt the right time to take the lead. But all of a sudden, I just had nothing left. I was still on 2:22 pace with 5km to go, but then lost all that time and finished third.”