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Ultramarathoner Gerda Steyn

Gerda Steyn is a rising star in the world of ultra-running. She grew up in the Free State and only started taking running seriously two years ago, after finishing her first Comrades Marathon.

“With the help of Nedbank Running Club, I managed to improve significantly as a runner, and decided to pursue my dream of becoming a professional. I’m a qualified quantity surveyor and worked in Johannesburg and Dubai before making the career change. Looking back, it was the best decision I could have made and  I have not regretted it for a day. This year I placed fourth at the Comrades Marathon, and believe that this could be the start to a brand new journey in my life.”

Sports discipline: Ultramarathon Runner

Age: 27

Resides: Johannesburg, South Africa

Achievements:

  • 2017 Comrades Marathon – 4th
  • 2016 Wadi Bih 70km Ultra Marathon – 1st
  • 2016 Two Oceans Marathon – 14th 
  • 2016 Dublin Marathon – 14th  

Give us a brief outline of your in-season training routine.

I’m coached by Nick Bester, the manager of Nedbank Running Club. We work closely together during in-season training – he advises me on how to train and recover. It’s important to set goal races and work towards them. Each and every season is different. This year in particular, my Comrades training routine was interrupted by a stress fracture, which prevented me from any running during

February and March, so we had to make the best of the time we had left to prepare for the race.

Are there big differences in your in- and off-season nutrition?

I’m generally more careful about my nutrition during the season, but still maintain a healthy diet throughout the year to keep my body in the best shape possible. I had to make many changes, both to my diet and lifestyle after deciding to take running seriously, but it becomes a habit very quickly and I know now what it takes to be fit and healthy.

What advice would you give to a woman who wants to pursue a sport like yours?

Never doubt yourself and what you’re capable of. You might not be the best version of yourself yet, but it doesn’t mean that you have to settle for anything less than what you really want. It is never too late or too early to start!

What are your thoughts on female equality in your sport? Have you seen growth in participants over the past few years?

I believe that a lot is being done to promote and improve the representation of women in the sport. In South Africa we have many bodies that support us, and women who can be role models to many others. Female running has come a long since 1967, when a woman ran a marathon for the first time. There is always room for improvement, though, but it’s wonderful to see the numbers of women who are signing up for all types of running races around the world.

Is there something you wish you knew when you started?

That there will be many, many disappointments as a professional runner. You have to be strong enough to handle them and take whatever lessons you can from the experiences. Things will not always go to plan – both in racing and in training. And when times get tough, you just have to keep showing up and never let the bad days overshadow the good, because when things work out, it will change your life!

Follow Gerda on Instagram.

Photos by Jetline Action Photo

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