Gerda Steyn. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY/GALLO IMAGES
Gerda Steyn. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY/GALLO IMAGES

It did not take long for Gerda Steyn to shake off the Comrades Marathon bridesmaid tag after her second-place finish in 2018.

The manner in which she did when she shattered Elena Nurgalieva’s 13-year-old up run record of 6.09.24 was nothing short of amazing.

While the work has been put in through the years‚ where back-to-back Two Oceans Marathon titles were the earlier positive by-products‚ the real goal was the Comrades.

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Such is the impact and significance of Steyn’s sub-six hour run‚ she is the first woman since Russia’s Tatyana Zhirkova (2005 down run, 5.58.51) to finish a Comrades Marathon in less than six hours.

Even when the Nurgalieva twins were in their prime and taking turns to win the race‚ finishing in under six hours was far beyond them.

Steyn joins Frith van der Merwe as the only two SA women who have run sub-six hour Comrades.

With this decade coming to a close‚ Steyn has left an indelible mark‚ but the 29-year-old from Bothaville in the Free State just wanted to enjoy the race and let everything fall into place.

“I learnt a hard lesson last year. I was so focused on running to a plan‚ focused on hitting my goals at certain spots‚ going up a hill at a certain pace and things like that.

“This year‚ we decided to go on and feel and trust my ability.

“In the first half‚ I just took the race in and enjoyed it. When I got to the half-way mark‚ I realised I was on the course record, that my race was starting,"  she recalled.

The win meant a lot for Steyn‚ who admitted to being under pressure going into the race.

Having seen off contenders in the Two Oceans‚ it was only a matter of time before the temperament question came up.

She displayed admirable mental strength to finish second in 2018. However, the trek up to Pietermaritzburg requires a different mental skill-set.

“There was talk that I may have blown my Comrades chances by winning Two Oceans. In my heart‚ I knew it wasn’t the case. I wanted to win the race. I came here to win. I went to the start line visualising a win‚” Steyn said.

“We’ll have to reasses my goals for the future. This was a big goal for me and a dream come true.”