Nedbank running club green dream team athlete Gerda Steyn yesterday produced one of the races of her life, finishing 7th in the London Marathon in 2:26:51, and narrowly missing the 14 years old South African record of 2:26:35 run by Colleen De Reuck in the 1996 Berlin Marathon.
On a day that saw many athletes struggle, and winning times in excess of up to 4 minutes slower than what was anticipated, Steyn used her ultra-marathon background and strength to move through the field, which ultimately resulted in her 7th place finish in what is one of the most competitive races in the World.
Each year, the magnitude of the London Marathon stands above any other marathon in the world, where the world’s best including World Champions, world record holders, Olympic champions and some of the fastest runners in the World on the international scene run London, in which this year was by invitation only.
In the women’s race, the pace up front was fast as Kenyan’s Brigid Kosgei the World record holder and Ruth Chepngetich the World champion went out on a pace to break the women’s only World record of 2:17:01. As the weather got worse, their pace was slowed dramatically before Kosgei made a bold move with 10km to go. After covering 19 laps of St James ark, Kosgei crossed the line in 2:18:58 with American Sara Hall storming through from 4th with 2km to go to 2nd in 2:22:01, a scant four seconds ahead of Chepngetitch in 3rd. Such was the weather, that most athletes ran much slower than normal. That alone, makes Steyn’s performance even more remarkable.
“Tough, but so worth it!” stated Steyn after the race. With the race being run in a secure biosphere due to the Covid19 pandemic, no spectators were allowed at the event which saw the athletes navigate 19 laps of St James Park.
“I’m so grateful for the support from around the world. What we missed in the crowds of London today, I carried with me in my heart and it was all of you that made for a roaring day.” Her time eclipsed her previous best of 2:27:48 from last years New York Marathon, an event which saw her qualify for the Olympic Games which has now been postponed to next year.
In the men’s race, World record holder and Olympic Champion Eliud Kipchoge was looking for a 5th London title. The Kenyan who last year became the first person to run a marathon in under 2 hours with his 1:59:40 had come into the event having won 11 out of his 12 official marathons, with the lone defeat coming in Berlin where the winner on the day, Wilson Kipsang, had to run a new World record.
With 5km to go, there was still a group of 8 athletes in contention but for the first time since 2013, the sight of Kipchoge being left behind emerged. Coming down to a three-way sprint, Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata emerged victorious in 2:05:41, just 1 second ahead of Vincent Kipchumba with Sissay Lemma taking. Kipchoge finished 8th in 2:06:49, his slowest marathon time outside of the Olympic Games.
Steyn will now need to asses her plans for 2021 which could see a clash between the Olympic Games and the Comrades Marathon, roughly 1 month apart. “I am already on my way again out of London and I will spend my travel time to rethink everything.”
On just missing the South African record, Steyn showed her true character and smiled. “I am getting good at just missing records now by a few seconds, but I will leave here feeling proud that I put it all out there from the start.” The reference to just missing records comes from last years Two Oceans Marathon where Steyn narrowly missed out on the 21 years old course record of Frith Van Der Merwe’s.
Records will always be broken, but titles remain forever. The Nedbank running club congratulates Gerda and her coach, Nick Bester, our National team manager on a fantastic performance in the wet and windy streets of London.
1. Brigid Kosgei (KEN) — 2:18:58
2. Sara Hall (USA) — 2:22:01
3. Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) — 2:22:05
4. Ashete Bekele (ETH) — 2:22:51
5. Alemu Megertu (ETH) — 2:24:23
6. Molly Seidel (USA) — 2:25:13
7. Gerda Steyn (RSA) — 2:26:51
8. Sinead Diver (AUS) — 2:27:07
9. Darya Mykhaylova (UKR) — 2:27:29
10. Valary Jemeli (KEN) — 2:28:18
1. Shura Kitata (ETH) — 2:05:41
2. Vincent Kipchumba (KEN) — 2:05:42
3. Sisay Lemma (ETH) — 2:05:45
4. Mosinet Geremew (ETH) — 2:06:04
5. Mule Wasihun (ETH) — 2:06:08
6. Tamirat Tola (ETH) — 2:06:41
7. Benson Kipruto (KEN) — 2:06:42
8. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) — 2:06:49
9. Sondre Moen (NOR) — 2:09:01
10. Marius Kipserem (KEN) — 2:09:25