Van Zyl and Roberts head to Gqeberha for the Marathon.
December 2, 2021  

The life of an athlete always has its ups and downs. From victories and accolades to injuries and dnf’s. If that’s not enough, the COVID19 pandemic is another obstacle and one currently placing another hurdle for Nedbank running club athletes Irvette Van Zyl and Chrizell Roberts.

With the more recent announcement of a new version of the Covid strain which South African scientists identified, the world went into panic mode and shut down South Africa from the rest of the world. This meant that getting to Valencia for the Valencia Marathon became impossibly difficult for Van Zyl and Roberts. The duo will be running in the PE City Marathon on Saturday 4 December 2021.

“We went through many different avenues for something to be done to get Irvette and Chrizell to Valencia but unfortunately with South Africa banned from travel it was not possible,” said Nedbank running club National team manager Nick Bester, who also coaches the pair. “Fortunately, the PE Marathon on Sunday is a flat and fast course, and they will both race for time.” 

Van Zyl was in the best shape of her life this year, running a new PB of 2:28:40 in Sienna, Italy, earlier this year, before an injury derailed her Olympic Marathon aspirations midway through the race. “Coming from the injury has been difficult but the training is the same that I did for Sienna and my training times now have actually been a little bit better,” said Van Zyl from her home in Pretoria. 

It was a bittersweet disappointment for Van Zyl to not be able to get to Valencia “I have wanted to run Valencia since 2018 but couldn’t get in and now that I have finally been accepted, for the travel ban to now be in place is devastating.”

Van Zyl will still tackle Sunday’s Marathon for a fast time. “My goal for the race will be to better by 2:28 from Italy. Anything better than that will put a huge smile on my face.”

Teammate Roberts equally shares her excitement ahead of the marathon. “I am not a position contender so for me it will just be about time and I would love to run under 2:50,” says Roberts. “The training has gone well for the race as I didn’t really follow anything specific for the Cape Town Marathon and I think it showed with my result, so this time Nick has given me structure and the body has responded very well to what we have thrown at it.” 

One hopes that Van Zyl and Roberts can pull off fast times in the friendly city and do what they do best. And that is to run. Normality finally seemed back on track with big races taking place again and the announcement of the Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50km returning in March 2022. 

“It’s so exciting to see races like the Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50km being announced for next year because we all need some normal back in our lives and the athletes are hungry to show what they are capable of,” said Roberts. This was evident at this year’s first edition of the Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50km where both the men’s and women’s 50km World records were broken. Van Zyl broke the women’s only World record with Nedbank RC teammate Ketema Negesa breaking the men’s World record.