Road to London: Irvette van Blerk

2012-05-04 11:05

Cape Town - In the seventh in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to SA marathoner, Irvette van Blerk.

Road to London: Bridgette Hartley

Road to London: Kate Woods

Road to London: Cameron van der Burgh
Road to London: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi

Road to London: Gideon Sam

Road to London: Marcus Retief

Road to London: Freedon Chiya

GRAEME JOFFE: Fresh from the London marathon and having qualified for the Olympic Games, Irvette van Blerk. You’re at the airport again, where are you going now?
IRVETTE VAN BLERK: I am actually on my way back to Jo’burg. I was in Cape Town for the day for an Adidas launch. It’s been quite hectic since I got back from London. 

JOFFE: Congratulations, first run in the London marathon you finished 18th in 2.33.41, the Olympic standard is 2.37:00 – so well within the Olympic qualifying time - what a fantastic performance.

VAN BLERK: Thank you, that was what I was working for and it was really exciting to have accomplished that. I am honoured that I have made the SA Olympic team, so it is quite an exciting time right now.

JOFFE: The London marathon experience from  beginning to the end, were you comfortable throughout?
VAN BLERK: Yes, the first 10km’s were a bit tough to hold back  especially with the leaders going out strong. But I had a plan and from the start, I stuck to it, through every mile. The crowds were amazing and everywhere there were people shouting. At stages, I couldn’t even hear myself breathing, that is how hard everybody was screaming and going on. It was really an amazing experience and I am glad I did it. 

JOFFE: You’ve been dominant in South Africa over the 10km distance - how difficult was it with the mindset that you’ve got 42km to run and not 10km?
VAN BLERK: Ja, you have to talk to yourself the whole time, it is really tough. Those first 10 km’s, I was kicking my calves and I felt that I was going so slow but I knew I had to maintain the pace and there is still a lot of kilometres to go. You can't mess it up in the first half of the race because then the whole game plan is gone and I may not qualify. The main goal was to just qualify and I didn’t want to risk anything, especially not in the first half going out too hard and then blowing up.  I went out moderate the first half, then had a bad patch after missing one of my drink stations. But luckily I managed to pick it up again from 35 km’s, was still on the qualifying mark and felt good towards the end. 

JOFFE: So, the Olympic marathon now but was running the 10 000m at the Olympics, not a thought for you perhaps?
VAN BLERK: That was the plan B if I didn’t make it, if I didn’t make the qualifying standard in the marathon. So, that was definitely an option but now that I did the marathon, I really like the distance. I still want to do a 10 000m still, but I think for this year, I will just go for the marathon and next year I will try the 10 0000 again. I am not moving away from the track, I think the marathon just makes any run after that much easier. So, I think I am ready for better things to come right now.

JOFFE: Your preparations between now and the London Olympics?
VAN BLERK: It is now just a case of training and I have got one or two 10km Spar ladies races in-between. Just going to train really hard and hope for the best and run a PB at the Olympics.

JOFFE: The SA ladies marathon team for the London Olympics,  Rene Kalmer, Tanith Maxwell and yourself - do you guys ever train together and spend some time chatting about strategies etc?
VAN BLERK: Rene and I  trained with the same coach and used to train together before I moved to Pretoria. We still talk a lot about running and especially with the Olympic marathon coming up, we will maybe be going for a training camp just before that, so there is a lot of planning that goes into that.  I have heard that it is the first time that South Africa is sending a whole ladies marathon team to the Olympics, so I think that will definitely assist us in working together and  running on the day.

JOFFE: Not sure if you were engaged when we last spoke, congratulations on your engagement to SA’s 400m hurdle world championship bronze medallist, L J van Zyl. How are his preparations coming along for the Olympics?
VAN BLERK: He is doing good. I was now away a lot of the time, so now when I am back, he is going away, so it is a bit tough, but the relationship is going strong. His preparation is going well, we know our goals this year and it was the main thing to go to the Olympics together and now we both have qualified so it takes the stress out. I was the last one to qualify and we only had until the end of April, so I am very glad I wasn’t the one disappointing.  I am going, but yes his preparation and mine, I think we help each other with everything that we can, and it is a good supportive team that we have together.

JOFFE: Will you guys be able to share a room at the Olympic Village in London?
VAN BLERK: (laughter) I don’t think that will be possible. I think it is better that we have separate rooms. Better for the stress (laughter).

JOFFE: Irvette, really great chatting to you, many thanks for your time. Wishing you and LJ all the best for London and your future together.
VAN BLERK: Thank you very much.

Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy