When in doubt, switch to attack mode. This aggressive approach by Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank Running Club) enabled her to win the SPAR Women’s 10 km Race in Johannesburg.
It was the first time since 2012 that any athlete was able to repeat René Kalmer’s feat of winning four of the five SPAR women’s races in the same year. Needless to say, van Zyl’s dominance also led to her winning the SPAR Grand Prix series for a second time. She was also victorious in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Unfortunately she could not compete in Pretoria because of an injury.
She certainly caught everybody off guard when she attacked within the first kilometre to take the lead. Once in front, there was no stopping her. She increased her lead stride by stride to win in 34:58. Mapaseka Makhanya crossed the line in second place, 48 seconds adrift, followed by Rutendo Nyahora (van Zyl’s teammate) a further 14 seconds behind
In the buildup to the race van Zyl was certainly not brimming with confidence. In fact, she was quite doubtful about how she might perform because she was not sure whether she had recovered fully from the stress fracture that forced her to withdraw from the Olympic Marathon in Rio.
‘When we lined up at the start, I decided that I was going to run my own race and what will be will be. I gained quite a lot of confidence when I raced up the first hill and I could hear the laboured breathing of some of the other athletes behind me. The goal I set myself was to run a time faster than 35 minutes. This would mean that I would gain extra bonus points that would help me clinch the Grand Prix series.’
According to van Zyl there was only one time during the race when she had doubts about her aggressive tactics for a moment or two.
‘It was on the last climb, which was slightly longer than I remembered.’
‘I will admit that it felt special to win. It was a much-needed confidence booster for me, especially after my Olympic fiasco. It is still not easy for me to talk about what happened in Rio because I tend to become quite emotional when I talk about it.’
Van Zyl said she expects to compete in only one more race this season. It will possibly be in Soweto. Lindsey Parry (coach) and I still have to sit down and discuss the way forward. I think I will probably give up my plan to race on the track next year. Our aim will be to see how much quicker I can become over 10 and 21 kilometers.’