1 January 2022 started out as a great day for Nedbank RC athletes Ketema Negassa and Irvette Van Zyl. Scrolling through their athlete bios on the World Athletics website, written in bold letters, states the following: 1 x Current World Record holder – 50km road and 1 x World records in career. This, after World Athletics officially recognized the 50km distance and its fastest times ever as of 1 January 2022.
It was certainly a day to remember last year when the first ever running of the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km event took place on 23 May in Gqeberha. The aim of the event was to break the existing World records and not only did that happen in both the men’s and women’s races, but multiple age group best times were set in the process.
With the elite only men’s and women’s races starting separately, it was a shock for many as Van Zyl in her green Nedbank RC kit and Nike vaporfly’s on foot crossed the line with her arms in the air in a quick 3:04:24. Why was it a shock? Just a month prior, Van Zyl set a lifetime marathon best of 2:28:40 and was in the Nedbank event as a pacemaker, instructed to go up to 30km and then pull out. “The conditions were good on the day and when I got to 30km, I looked at Nick (Nedbank running club national team manager Nick Bester) and he gave me a thumbs up, so I pushed through,” said Van Zyl after the race.
In the men’s race, it was a sprint finish to the line for Nedbank RC Ethiopia’s Ketema Negassa. A 2:11 marathon runner at his best, Negassa stepped up in distance in what was his first ever ultra-marathon he was competing in. His time of 2:42:07 set a new men’s World record.
The Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50km returns this year to the same venue in Gqeberha on 6 March 2022, where the aim of breaking the existing World records will once again be the main objective of the event. Another World first see’s this year’s event being awarded a label by World Athletics, the first ultra-marathon in the World to officially receive a label from the governing body. The label identifies the event as one of the premier events in the World, a massive feat considering this year marks only the 2nd running of the event.
Stay tuned to the Nedbank running club website and social media pages over the coming weeks as more information is released on this year’s event.