CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s Gerda Steyn announced herself as a new sensation in South African ultra running with a stunning win in the Two Oceans Marathon in a time of three hours 39 minutes and 26 seconds (3:39.26) in Cape Town on Saturday.
Poland’s Dominika Stelmach was second in 3:41.54, with SA’s Charné Bosman third in 3:45:08.
The 28-year-old Steyn, fourth at the 2017 Comrades Marathon, timed her pace to perfection as she surged through the top-five in the second half of the race.
The 2:37-marathoner looked comfortable all the way, and especially after she moved into the lead.
The defining moment of the race came when Steyn passed Poland’s Dominika Stelmach just on the three-hour mark.
Stelmach and Steyn exchanged a few words, and with that, the title seemed destined to be held in the hands of a local winner.
Steyn continued to smile all the way to the finish to complete a stunning breakthrough victory.
Earlier, American Lindsey Scherf led the women’s race in the early stages, setting the pace at 79 minutes for the half-marathon mark.
At that point she enjoyed a 30-second gap at the front, although she was surrounded by men running alongside her.
At the 28km mark, Scherf went through in 1:46.49 and her lead virtually gone. Ethiopia’s Chelitu Asefa and Stelmach were both just two seconds behind.
There was a bit of a gap to fourth place, with Renee Metivier 32 seconds adrift and Steyn a further minute behind. Bosman was sixth, 2.21 behind.
Stelmach soon took the lead on her own, and Steyn moved her way into second some 90 seconds behind.
By the 42.2km mark, Stelmach went through in 2:43.29, with Steyn having closed the gap to 30 seconds.
Late in the race, 2017 Two Oceans Marathon runner-up Jenna Challenor had to withdraw after suffering with a stomach bug.
Kenya’s Justin Kemboi won the men’s race in 3:09.21.
The 2014 champion Lebenya Nkoka of Lesotho was not far behind in 3:10.29 to take second, and 2016 Comrades winner David Gatebe of South Africa was third in 3:11.12.
The men went through the marathon mark in just over 2:18 with Nkoka and Kemboi running together at the front.
Shortly thereafter, there was a timing mat in a narrow lane which the athletes had to run over which Kemboi darted towards.
Nkoka missed the mat on the right hand side of the road, and suddenly Kemboi had opened a gap amid the confusion.
That proved to be the decisive move which determined the title, as Kemboi extended the gap in the final stages of the race before striding to a comfortable victory at the finish at University of Cape Town.
In the men’s half-marathon, David Manja claimed first place in 64:07, Lesotho’s Namakoe Nkhasi was second in 64:14 and Kenyan Bernard Kipkemoi ended third in 64:17.
In the women’s half, Nolene Conrad continued her good form in recent weeks with a win in 76:17.
Zimbabwe’s Betha Chikanga was some way behind in second in a time of 76:42, with Kenyan Susy Chemaimak (77:01) taking third.
African News Agency (ANA)