Gerda Steyn cemented her status as the darling of South African road running by spectacularly claiming a record-breaking third consecutive Two Oceans Marathon title in Cape Town on a sunny Sunday morning.
The 32-year-old becomes the first athlete in 22 years to claim a hat-trick of victories in the ultra marathon.
But the highlight of her achievement was that she became the first woman to break 3-and-a-half hour barrier in the race with a magnificent time of 3:29:42, obliterating Frith van der Merwe’s previous course record of 3:30:36.
Steyn had been focusing on her marathon prowess over the past two years as Covid-19 limited ultra-marathon events, but she showed little signs of rust in galloping to the finishing line.
“The record stays home. I’m really proud and humbled by that,” she said afterwards.
“It was very tactical. I’ve been focusing on marathons over the past few years so I didn’t always feel so strong, but it worked out.”
Irvette van Zyl, who led for a chunk of the race, ensured a South African one-two by finishing in a time of 03:30:31, which ironically would’ve also beaten Van der Merwe’s record.
Meanwhile, there was heartache in a thrilling men’s race for Nkosikhona Mhlakwana, who agonisingly missed out on a maiden title in battle with Ethiopia’s Edndale Belachew.
The man from Howick tried to build enough of a buffer in the last km to keep his opponent at bay, but Belachew’s superior oomph with the finish line in sight was decisive.
He finished in a time of 3:09:05, just a mere three seconds ahead of Mhlakawana’s 3:09:08.
After a thrilling 2KM shoulder-to-shoulder chase to the finish line, it was Belachew who CONQUERED THE CURRENT after 56 km in the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon 2022! #TTOM2022 pic.twitter.com/UAkVMaPD0E
— Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon (@2OceansMarathon) April 17, 2022