Gerda Steyn is hoping for a good showing at the New York Marathon. Photo: BackpagePix
She is unlikely to add her name alongside those of Willie Mtolo and Hendrick Ramaala. But bet on Gerda Steyn having a smashing New York Marathon next Sunday.

The Comrades Marathon champion and Up Run record holder will be lining up for her second run of the world famous Big Apple race. And to say she is hyped up for the event would be an understatement.

I spent close on two hours watching Steyn finalise her training for the race and what I saw was impressive.

In the early hours of Monday, Steyn cut a lonely figure sprinting around the University of Johannesburg track out in Melville, Johannesburg. No coach. No training partner. Just Steyn by her lonesome.

Whereas many a sportsman - especially us runners - would cut corners when left unchecked during training, Steyn is a consummate professional who knows only too well that what you put in, is what you get out.

She completed her 800m repeats with the kind of high intensity you’d normally see in the Diamond League competition. It was beautiful to watch.

Here was an accomplished athlete who has had arguably the best year of her running career giving a 110% in a training session.

Her stunning Comrades win which saw her finish in the top 20 overall with that lightning fast 5:58:53 came hot on the heels of her equally blistering run at the Two Oceans Marathon where she narrowly missed the long-standing record by seconds.

Many runners would have wanted to just put up their feet and enjoy their success. And why not?

But since Comrades, Steyn has literally gone back to the basics to work on building up her speed. After all she has shown via Two Oceans and Comrades that she has endurance for days. Not that her speed is shabby.

Yet the ever-smiling lass from Bothaville in the Free State understands that to get to the top one has to keep working on their craft.

And so she focussed on improving her speed by competing in a number of 10km races such as the FNB CityRun in Johannesburg as well as a few overseas. She also had a good run in the Athletics South Africa (ASA) Half Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth.

All these were in preparation for next weekend’s assault on New York Marathon where her goal is to run an Olympic qualifying time.

Steyn has set her sights on representing the country in the marathon at Tokyo 2020 and she needs to get home in under 2:29:30. That is almost two minutes faster than the 2:31:04 she ran on her debut in the Abbott Major last year for a 13th place finish.

She came in a good eight minutes and a bit behind winner Mary Keitany, the race making Steyn appreciate just where she is with regards to the world elite marathoners.

No wonder then that she has invested a lot of time into working on her speed.

For next weekend, she would be pleased to crack the top 10 while a top five finish would see that enchanting smile of hers lighting up all of New York and beyond.

The goal for Gerda Steyn though is to qualify for the Olympics. And Ramaala - the second South African to win in New York (2004) after Mtolo’s 1992 triumph - had no doubt the Nedbank Running Club star would do well next weekend.

“New York is not a flat race. It is actually very tough. But Gerda has shown that the harder the race, the better she does. Her wins at Two Oceans which was run on the tougher course of Ou Kaapse Weg and the Comrades Up Run proved this much.”

I for one saw at the UJ track on Monday that Steyn is ready for a stellar run in New York.

@tshiliboy 


Sunday Independent