From running 8:16 at Comrades 2015 in her first year of running, to being in the lead pack 15km into the 2018 New York City Marathon, the rise of NRC athlete Gerda Steyn continues to soar.
After winning the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in April last year, Steyn received an email inviting her to run New York as part of the elite women’s field. “I was still in Cape Town after the race when I got this email and I really thought it was someone playing a joke with me,” Steyn laughed. “I was very humbled by it and excited, but it was hard not to tell anyone as we had to keep it a secret due to the organizers only announcing their elite field 2 months before the race day.”
Coached by NRC National manager Nick Bester, the plan in New York was to go for a 2:33 and hopefully a top 10 finish if the time allowed. On a crisp New York morning and standing alongside the best women athletes in the World, Steyn set off and found herself in front of the lead bunch a few times as they went through 5km in 18:50, much slower than her anticipated pace but all the women were watching each other. As the km’s ticked by the pace ever so slightly began to rise. The 10km mark went by in 37:05 which equated to a 2:38 finish, somewhat slower than Steyn’s 2:37:22 PB from Valencia the year before.
Around the hour mark just after 16km into the race, Kenya’s Mary Keitany threw in a blistering surge splitting the group into two with Steyn leading the 2nd bunch. Going through halfway in 76:35, Steyn showed how much quicker that section was as she just focussed on keeping her pace consistent whilst not trying to overdo it. Showing the amazing form that she currently is in, after 30km when the race started to reach the more tougher sections of the course including the rolling hills of Central Park, Steyn not only maintained her pace but sped up as each 5km segment showed she was now moving towards 2:32:00 as a projected finish time. With a smile on her face, Steyn ran a great last 5km to cross the line in an amazing 2:31:04, knocking 6:18 off her previous PB. It’s a time which on any course such as London or Berlin, is equivalent to a sub 2:30. Finishing 13th amongst the best women in the World at a World Marathon major is a huge achievement considering 10th place was a mere 18 seconds in front of Steyn. This was the quickest marathon time by a South African woman since 2014 when Rene Kalmer ran 2:29:27 in the much quicker Berlin Marathon.
“Today was a dream come true!! Thank you each and every one who believed in me and supported my short but amazing running career until now! 2:31:04 in the New York Marathon. It was magic!” posted an elated Steyn to all her followers on social media.