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10 June 2020

South Africa’s golden girl of running and reigning Comrades Marathon Champion, Gerda Steyn will be racing the legends in the Comrades Marathon Association’s (CMA) upcoming ‘Race The Comrades Legends’ virtual race on Sunday (14 June 2020).
Steyn is one of a host of elite athletes and running legends who will be tackling the virtual race after the 2020 Comrades Marathon had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. The event has attracted both Comrades winners and recreational runners, with participants from around the world signing up for what promises to be the world’s most inclusive virtual race, hosted by the organisers of the world’s greatest ultramarathon. The virtual race has not only attracted Steyn, but also fellow reigning Comrades Marathon men’s Champions Edward Mothibi and other running legends such as 9 times winner Bruce Fordyce, and a number of other past winners such as 87-year-old Bernard Gomersall who won in 1965.
With the entry tally over 23,000 the CMA is ensuring that ‘Race the Comrades Legends’ is The Ultimate Virtual Race and with the significant difference of creating a sense of camaraderie for athletes within their social space, adding value to running clubs and the running scene; and helping raise funds for the charitable sector amid the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Run24 caught chatted to Steyn about her race on Sunday, training in in the time of COVID-19 and possible new goals on the horizon.
Q: So much has changed in the last couple of months. When it comes to specifically sport, many elite athletes like yourself have in essence lost so much: the joy of competing, financial losses, and of course in your case the loss of competing in a life changing event such as the Olympics. How have you managed to handle all these changes and how has your training changed?
Gerda: I have managed to stay fit during lockdown, even though we also had very strict rules. I used all kinds of methods to keep fit - mainly indoor cycling and home workouts. It has been a difficult time for everyone, so I am really enjoying the freedom of being able to run outside again.
Q: Without any big races on the horizon, what keeps you motivated to still get up in the morning and train?
Gerda: Running is my passion and even though there are no races at the moment I still crave that feeling of running and pushing myself. I miss races and the focused preparation leading up to important events, but there is a sense of freedom to be found in just running at no specific pace or set workout. 
Q: You are currently living in Dubai, how does the situation there compare to the one in South Africa, and what are your training conditions?
Gerda: We have had a hard lockdown period similar to South Africa but for the past few weeks regulations have gradually decreased. We are now allowed to go out to run in our own time and gyms have also opened up again which is really good because the summer heat in Dubai is very difficult to train in. It’s strangely enjoyable, but definitely a lot more challenging and by sunrise, air-conditioned areas are most welcomed.

Q: The cancellation of the 2020 Comrades Marathon was a huge disappointment to thousands of runners, although it was inevitable and expected by many. With the Olympics on your radar, was Comrades 2020 going to feature in your plan this year?
Gerda: Earlier this year I already had very little confidence in the Olympics taking place in 2020. This was long before the IOC made the announcement of the postponement, and therefore the Comrades Marathon was always on my radar. It would be difficult to run both the Comrades Marathon and the Olympics marathon; however, I don’t think that it would be impossible. But now that both the Comrades and Olympics 2020 have been cancelled, I can just focus on being in my best shape in order to prepare for races later this year. 
Q: Race the Comrades Legends has really taken off. With more than 23 000 entries and counting, it promises to be a huge success and a memorable event. What are your thoughts about this event?
Gerda: I am so excited to be a part of this event! Running is something that binds us together in difficult times and we are lucky to have technology and to be part of a virtual event. I hope to see thousands more runners signing up. Individuals will be able to see the times of Comrades legends and then ‘race against’ them and compete by uploading their own times. Thanks to our sponsor, Bavaria, runners also stand a chance to win free entries and even Garmin Sport watches by posting their Comrades Race the Legends pictures to Bavaria’s Social media pages @bavaria_za
We all miss racing and running with our friends, so why not have a bit of fun until we get back to normality by embracing this virtual event and all of these elements this year?
Q: What are your racing plans for the day? Are you racing, running socially, and who will you be sharing the event and day with?
Gerda: With severe heat conditions here in Dubai, I decided to run the 21km distance and I will be joined by some of my friends who will also be taking part in the Race the Legends Run. We will make sure to adhere to the current Covid-19 regulations which allows us to run in small groups. 
Q: What does this event mean to you?
Gerda: Instead of sitting at home thinking about how things should have been, let’s go out and make 14 June a whole lot of fun. It will be a celebration of being healthy and triumphing over obstacles.  Knowing that I will be one of thousands of runners on the roads on Sunday doing this virtual event all over the world will be a great experience.
Q: You have gained so many fantastic sponsors in your journey so far, how do you feel about their support?
Gerda: I am extremely grateful to my sponsors who have stood by me throughout this time and even though I was not able to deliver any results in the past few months, they have not given up on me. My team mates from the Nedbank Running Club have been so positive and joyful through this time - we have been doing all kinds of challenges to motivate one another. Everyone including Bavaria, Nike, Biogen, Future Life and the guys at Fury Ford have been nothing short of incredible and just so supportive.
Q: What advice can you give to other runners who are feeling a bit demotivated by not having big goals to train for?
Gerda: We are all in the same situation. Don’t let it ruin your love for running! Run for joy and for your health and use your mental strength (which EVERY runner has) to push through until we get back to normality.
Q: You are truly South Africa’s golden girl of running. How do you manage to stay grounded, motivated and positive?
Gerda: I made a promise to myself long ago that I would never allow results, whether they are good or bad to change who I am. I am privileged to have a running talent and I will work hard to make the most out of this and by doing this, I want every person to see how running can change your entire world for the better.
One of Gerda’s lucky SA based followers stands a chance to WIN a Bavaria hamper worth R2000 to celebrate Comrades week. The hamper includes 5 cases of Bavaria 0.0% non-alcoholic beverage and lovely Bavaria branded items. Race The Legends is the ultimate virtual race where you get to pick your distance, your route and then compete against the times of past Comrades champions. So, it’s time to challenge your favourite Comrades Legend on 14 June 2020.
It’s super easy to enter!

  1. Like our Facebook post (Run24coza)
  2. Tell us if you will be doing the virtual event and where you will be running your race
Good luck 
#Run24 #RaceTheLegends #Comrades #Bavaria #MadeForEasy #GerdaSteyn #NedbankRunningClub

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