Can it get any better for Gerda Steyn? Can South Africa’s road running darling have a year better than the one she has just had?
Such is her talent though that you bet against her having an improved season in 2024 at your own peril.
Yet when you look back at her 2023, you just cannot fathom her shining much brighter, can you? I mean how does anyone better a season that has seen them set three new records?
But then again when she broke Frith van der Merwe’s long-standing Two Oceans Marathon record last year, we did not envision her running faster again this year, did we?
And yet she went and smashed her own record this year with a run so compellingly fast yet controlled that it looked like she still had enough steam left to go for at least a full marathon more at the end of the 56km run.
It has been generally agreed that it is near impossible to win both the Two Oceans and the Comrades Marathon in one year, such is the difficulty of the country’s most loved ultra marathons.
And for years it has been proven true, with many top athletes – men in particular - trying but failing.
And so it was thought Steyn had limited her opportunities of adding the Comrades down run record to the Up Run one she already owned.
But the ever-smiling athlete from Bothaville out in the Free State is clearly cut from a different cloth.
And she confirmed that much when she obliterated another of Van der Merwe’s records, the Comrades down run with a run for the ages; a display so dominant she beat the runner up by more than just the proverbial mile.
Steyn crossed the finish line in the record time of 5:44:54, minutes faster than Van der Merwe’s previous mark.
The second placed finisher - Adele Broodryk, clocking a 5:56:25 - came in so much later we who were at the finish line had already forgotten about the women’s race. If that is not dominant, then tell me what is.
Incredible ability across all distances
She is a versatile runner, Steyn, though and, done with the ultras, she switched her focus to the standard marathon. She was coy about which race she was going to do and expectations were that she would do her favourite New York Marathon.
But she didn’t and opted to run the Valencia Marathon last weekend. I was not aware she was running it and watched as the Ethiopians and Kenyans dominated the race as they always do.
And then I saw her social media post to discover that while she was not among the top 10 women in Valencia, she had delivered yet another record run.
Steyn broke her own national marathon record which she had set in Italy two years ago. She ran a 2:24:03, slicing a minute and 25 seconds off her previous time.
“2023 has been a wonderful year,” she posted on her socials.
Wonderful is an understatement, Gerda. It was a fantastic year. It was a brilliant year.
“I don’t take anything for granted and look forward to seeing what the future holds.”
Oh, we are looking forward to it, too.
No doubt her focus next year will be on the Olympics where she will hope to be much more competitive than she was in Tokyo where she finished 15th in a 2:32:10.
A top finish would be brilliant. But then again this is Gerda Steyn. So brace yourself for something amazing.