JOHANNESBURG – Gerda Steyn’s cheerful disposition is not an alter ego the road running star puts out in public only to go and be a different person in private.
It is who she is. Even in times of frustration, the Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon champion remains bubbly.
With this year meant to be one where she cements her standing as a South African superstar via numerous big events, Steyn has seen her dream season turn into a nightmare thanks to the coronavirus outbreak.
The plan was for her to go for a third consecutive Two Oceans victory and to do so in record time. That has fallen through with ‘the world’s most beautiful marathon’ cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Yes, it is somewhat frustrating due to the fact that I feel like I am in the best shape I have ever been and because I have already gone on a training camp in preparation for Two Oceans,” she said.
“But at this time I am still staying optimistic and focusing on the bigger picture which is way bigger than just my own view on this. I think that cancellation or delaying events such as sporting, entertainment, concerts, etc is the right thing to do. This is a worldwide problem and not a single person in this world will not be affected by this in one way or another.”
For someone whose livelihood is solely dependent on racing, her outlook is sober.
“Yes, I rely on prize money for an income and that is not possible at the moment, but I also run for my own joy and no one can take that away.”
Instead of moping while waiting to hear when the next race would be, Steyn has taken to uplifting other runners.
“You might have seen that I have decided to share tips with the running community so that everyone can stay focused and motivated in the coming days/weeks. I think as an athlete I need to keep an open mind with regards to the rest of the year.”
She had a good start to 2020, Steyn winning the 10km race at the Dubai Marathon and then clocking an impressive PB of 70:55 – fifth fastest time by a South African – in the RAK Half Marathon.
She was a part of Team South Africa that was to compete at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland this month. But that was cancelled.
Whether she will get the chance to complete the Comrades Marathon double by adding the Down Run title to the Up Run one from last year, when she smashed the long-standing record with an incredible 5.58:53 run, remains up in the air. The KwaZulu-Natal ultra remains scheduled for June 14, dependent on the state of affairs when the country and Athletics South Africa review the stance of cancelling all sports until after the second week of April.
And then there is the big one, the Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled for late July to early August
“As things stand, the Olympics are still due to take place as planned and I will focus on being best prepared until the IOC inform us otherwise.”
Steyn qualified for the Games with a fantastic top 20 run at the New York Marathon late last year.
While renowned as an ultra athlete, she has shown she has the speed to compete in the shorter distances, and should the Games go on she could be among the dark horses for a medal.
As the world crosses all crossables and sends prayers to all sorts of deities that the pandemic is swiftly dealt with, Steyn remains her usual optimistic and cheerful self amidst the doom and gloom brought about by the ban on athletics events.