Going the distance: Lebogang Phalula, left, will be pushing Irvette van Zyl in Sunday’s Cape Town Marathon. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Going the distance: Lebogang Phalula, left, will be pushing Irvette van Zyl in Sunday’s Cape Town Marathon. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Irvette van Zyl’s name looms large in the women’s elite field gearing up to challenge for line honours in the Cape Town Marathon on Sunday.

While the former Olympian is better known for her exploits over shorter distances, the added mileage should not prove to be an obstacle for the 30-year-old Johannesburg resident.

She need just reproduce her form on marathon debut in 2012 at the London Marathon when she placed a credible 20th in a respectable 2hr 33min 41sec to come into the reckoning.

Factor in another top-class effort in the London Marathon the following year and she must be seen to be a possible threat in a world-class field gathered to mix it in Africa’s first Gold Label Status event.

Backing her to go close is SA’s legendary long-distance athlete Elana Meyer, who won gold at the World Half Marathon World Championships in 1993 as well as being a two-time world-record holder over the distance, not to mention winning silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the 10,000m.

"Irvette has the pedigree to make a race of it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she crossed the finishing line in first place," said Meyer, who is one of two ambassadors for Sunday’s race.

"Yes, she’s only been a marathoner for six years, but having said that, I feel she has the strength, stamina and required speed to more than hold her own.

"So many things have to fall into place, and from her side, things seem to have aligned themselves nicely.

"So, now, it’s a matter of her staying healthy and ... come the starter’s gun, executing her game plan as best she can ... and let the outcome take care of itself." Van Zyl was born to run.

Back in 2002, aged 15, she won her first major race when she saw off the rest to win the high-profile Zevenheuvelenloop 15km race while on holiday in the Netherlands, a sign of what was to come.

A champion through the age groups over varying distances up to 21km, now is her time to shine and show she can hold court with the finest marathon runners on the planet.

Victory on Sunday would rubber stamp that.

"I’m ready to go," Van Zyl said. "My preparations have been minus any headaches, that’s always a big plus.

"As for the field assembled, it is one out of the top drawer.

"As for the racing part, being aided by pacesetters for the first time could see a time posted close to two-and-a-half hours."

Isabella Ochichi’s 2:30:20 set in 2015 is the race record.

"I think things will only start developing once we are past the halfway mark.

"I would need to be among the lead group to stand any chance of gunning for glory."

Standing in her way is reigning champion Tish Jones of Britain, while Germany’s Lisa Hahner and local hopes Lebogang Phalula (third in 2016), Zintle Xiniwe and Cornelia Joubert cannot be ruled out.

Ethiopia’s Asefa Negewo defends his men’s crown won in a record time of 2:08:41.

Reigning Two Oceans champion Lungile Gongqa will be eyeing a Cape double, but the likes of Elroy Gelant — Meyer fancies his chances on marathon debut — Michael Mazibuko, Lucky Mohale, Xolisa Tyali and Mbongeni Ngxazozo are all possible winners on what is predicted to be a fine day for racing in the Mother City.

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