Record-breaking Comrades champion Gerda Steyn happy to shake off the bridesmaid tag
It didn't take long for Gerda Steyn to shake off the Comrades Marathon bridesmaid tag after her second-place finish last year.
The manner in which she did when she shattered Elena Nurgalieva's 13-year-old up run record of 6.09.24 was nothing short of amazing.
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While the work has been put in through the years‚ where back-to-back Two Oceans Marathon titles were the earlier positive by-products‚ the real goal was the Comrades.
Such is the impact and significance of Steyn's sub-six hour run‚ she's the first woman since Russia's Tatyana Zhirkova (2005 down run – 5.58.51) to finish a Comrades Marathon in less than six hours.
Even when the Nurgalieva twins were in their prime and taking turns to win the race‚ finishing the race in less than six hours was far beyond them.
The company that Steyn has joined is exalted as she's part of a select duo that includes Frith van der Merwe as the only two South African women who have finished the Comrades in less than six hours.
With this decade coming to a close‚ Steyn's left an indelible mark‚ but the 29-year-old from Bothaville in the Free State just wanted to enjoy the race and let everything fall into place.
“I learnt a hard lesson last year.
"I was so focused on running to a plan‚ focused on hitting my goals at certain spots‚ going up a hill at a certain pace and things like that.
"This year‚ we decided to go on and feel and trust my ability.
"In the first half‚ I just took the race in and enjoyed it.
"When I got to the half-way mark‚ I realised I was on the course record.
"That's when I realised that that's when my race is starting‚" an exuberant Steyn said.
The win meant a lot for Steyn‚ who admitted to being under pressure going into the race.
Having seen off contenders in the Two Oceans Marathon‚ it was only a matter of time before the temperament question came up.
She displayed admirable mental strength to finish second last year.
The trek up to Pietermaritzburg requires a different mental skill-set.
That seemed to be very easy for the bubbly Steyn‚ who beamed throughout while second-placed Alexandra Morozova and third-placed Caitriona Jennings were content with their morning's work.
They were well and truly beaten by Steyn.
"There was talk that I may have blown my Comrades chances by winning the Two Oceans Marathon.
"In my heart‚ I knew it wasn't the case and I know I had a lot to give for this race.
"I was grateful for last year's second place but I wanted to win the race. I came here to win the race. I went to the start line visualising a win‚" Steyn said.
"We'll have to reassess my goals for the future.
"This was a big goal for me and a dream come true.
"Camille Herron said in the press conference that when you achieve your life goal‚ what's next?
"I've got a lot of other goals‚ but after this race‚ I think there's more to give into this race."