Irvette Van Zyl first female runner to cross finish line in women's race in Gqeberha

23 May 2021 - 15:06
By vuyokazi nkanjeni AND Vuyokazi Nkanjeni
Irvette van Zyl says she felt really good for the entire race and never even thought of stopping.
Image: Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images Irvette van Zyl says she felt really good for the entire race and never even thought of stopping.

South African athlete Irvette Van Zyl was the first female runner to cross the finish line in the women's race in the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km in Gqeberha on Sunday‚ smashing the world record.

She crossed the line in a time of three hours‚ four minutes 3 hours 04 minutes and 23 seconds‚ cutting almost three minutes off the previous mark.

The men’s record 2:43:20‚ which has been held by Thompson Mangawana for over 30 years‚ was broken by Ethiopian Ketema Negasa in 2:42:06.

Van Zyl was supposed to play the pacing role‚ along with her teammate Gerda Steyn‚ but when Steyn pulled out at the 30km mark‚ she just kept going.

“At 28km I spoke to Gerda (Steyn) and I told her I was running too lekker to stop‚” the 33-year-old Nedbank Running Club runner said.

“I told her I am going to go until 35km and then just before 35km I saw Nick Bester and I showed him the thumbs up for a go‚ and he told me I could go.

“I felt great today and I just didn’t feel like stopping yet. Those days are really little so I would rather just enjoy it and take the moment in.

“If you are not over exerting yourself‚ why not just finish?” she added.

Van Zyl said Sunday's victory would come as a confidence-booster for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games marathon.

“It was really a nice run today‚ I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the route.

"There were a lot of up and downs‚ but I liked the laps and so I got used to them because I was training in laps a lot of time.

“I like laps from the get-go as opposed to running on tracks.

“I feel great about the win. It would have been better if Gerda could have finished today‚ but she felt like she just wanted to do the pacing duties.

“She would also have continued because I think we both were feeling great today.

"On the 25th of May it will mark a year since I had a really serious knee operation that basically saved my running career.

“The win will really give me a confidence boost because it feels like all the training that we have done is in the right direction.”

In her debut ultra-marathon‚ Kenyan long-distance runner Lillian Chemweno‚ who was breathing down Van Zyl's neck‚ took second place after crossing the finish line in 3:05:00‚ also bettering the previous world mark.

Jonas Makhele of Waterfall and Entsika's Ntsindiso Mphakathi finished second and third respectively in the men's race‚ while three-time Comrades Marathon champion Bongmusa Mthembu was fifth.

Top three men finishers :

Kentema Negasa 2.42.06

Jonas Makhele 2.42.13

Ntsindiso Mphakathi 2.42.27

Top three female finishers :

Irvette Van Zyl 3.04.23

Lilian Chemwene 3.05.00

Dominika Stelmach 3.10.26 ​