DURBAN - A week before the Durban leg of the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge in June, Irvette van Zyl had an injury that nearly made her quit road running.
“I got a pain in my butt. We thought it was a minor injury and the doctor said we must do an MRN (Magnetic Resonance Neurography - a direct imaging of nerves in the body) the day before the race. We found out that I had a stretched muscle in my butt. It was shocking news because I just came back from bronchitis. It was really a huge shock," Van Zyl said.
The Nedbank Club member decided to run the Durban race to see if she could run through the pain.
“It was a dumb decision to make. I can run through pain, but certain pains I can’t, and this was one of those. I had to quit the race at 4km," she said.
The mother of one was put on a bed rest for three weeks and in those weeks she couldn’t do two of the things she loves the most - picking up her son, and cross training.
“I told the doctor that it’s quite difficult not to pick up my son for three weeks. LJ (her husband who is a 400m hurdler) was overseas at that time but I had some help ... I’m a mother first and running comes second, so that was a bit challenging”, the Johannesburg-born athlete said.
“Being injured like that, I couldn’t even walk. It was quite bad," she added.
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At that time van Zyl was ready to throw in the towel on a career that started when she was15.
“I thought maybe running wasn’t for me anymore. I just wanted to quit," the 30-year-old said.
After weeks of sitting at home, Van Zyl missed the sport that she loved.
“I got better after four weeks and said to myself ‘I just can’t quit. I am not a quitter’. So I began training and my fitness started picking up gradually," said the elite runner.
After the enforced break, Van Zyl went on to win the Spar women’s 10km Challenge in Pretoria, as well as the Totalsport women’s race, and she finished third in Sunday’s fifth leg of the 10km Challenge in Pietermaritzburg.
What motivates her?
“I think knowing I couldn’t pick up my son for three weeks motivated me. In Pretoria, I wanted to win that race because my boy and my husband were there, so that was an extra motivation. Also, I want to reach my 10km and half marathon goals. It takes time," said van Zyl.
She added that her next race will be the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon on 17 September.
“I’ve been cross training a lot. The running isn’t where it should be, but I’ve committed to Cape Town. I can’t pull out of it. I’m going to do my best. I’m not going to put myself under unnecessary pressure with times, but I’ll go with how my body feels. I hope I’ll be the first South African to finish," she concluded.
With injuries and health scares, Van Zyl feels this was a bad year for her, but based on what she’s achieved after recovery, it seems like she’s kicking the pain in the butt.