This year’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon on 2 July will feature a rematch between Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, the two men who last year fought out the closest finish in the history of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Mungara will come to the Gold Coast in great form again after posting a 2:09:37 runner-up finish earlier this month at the Milan Marathon, the race that has become his traditional lead-up to the Gold Coast.
On the same day, Kawauchi notched his sixth marathon since last year's run on the Gold Coast and placed sixth at the Daegu International Marathon in 2:13:04. He will build up to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon by racing in May's Prague Marathon and June’s Stockholm Marathon.
“Last year’s dramatic finish between these two champions was one of the most memorable in the event's history and I’m thrilled to welcome both men back to the Gold Coast in July,” said Gold Coast Airport Marathon CEO Cameron Hart.
“These two great runners, along with the rest of the elite field which will be announced shortly, will put the race record under threat and vindicate our position as Australia’s fastest marathon.
Last year Mungara added to his 2015 victory when he won an epic showdown with Kawauchi by a single second, breaking the finish tape in 2:09:00.
The win put Mungara in illustrious company as he joined compatriot Fred Kiprop (1998/99) and Queensland running legend Pat Carroll (1984/85) as the only back-to-back winners of the men’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
If he can win again this year, it will be the first hat-trick by a man at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and would equal the feat set by Australia’s Margaret Reddan, who won the women’s race from 1984-86.
Mungara, the 43-year-old former barber, won his first Gold Coast Airport Marathon in 2015 in 2:08:42, a time that remains the fastest ever run on Australian roads.
“The course is good and the race is well organised and that is important, but it is also important to feel the excitement of the people,” said Mungara.
“I like the Gold Coast Airport Marathon course, the people and the post-event activities, such as seeing and interacting with the exotic Australian animals.”
With three months to go, Mungara is looking forward to clashing with Kawauchi and the other elite runners on the Gold Coast.
“Yuki is great,” Mungara said. “He competes and races all the time as well as works. He is a fantastic gentleman and I am looking forward to seeing him again.”
Mungara said he would love to win a third Gold Coast Airport Marathon and set another world M40 best.
“If pacemakers do the job and the weather cooperates, running fast on the Gold Coast is possible,” Mungara said. "I would love to set another marathon (masters) world record, that’s for sure.”
Kawauchi will be making his sixth consecutive appearance at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and gunning for his second victory.
The popular 30-year-old runner’s effort last year, along with his 2013 victory in 2:10:01, are two of the 10 fastest marathon times ever recorded in Australia.
This year’s race will have extra significance for Kawauchi as it will provide vital preparation for the IAAF World Championships London 2017 a month later when he will represent Japan.
“For me, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, as an IAAF Gold Label race, is a very important race every summer,” said Kawauchi, who qualified for the World Championships by placing third in December’s Fukuoka International Marathon in 2:09:11.
“This time (2017) it is very special for me as it will be my final race prior to the London World Championships.
“The Gold Coast Airport Marathon offers a very attractive race with no time difference, a flat course and good weather conditions, which are very good for a runner's body and health."
Both Mungara and Kawauchi came to prominence in global marathon circles in 2011 – Mungara placing second at the Prague Marathon in 2:07:36 and Kawauchi placing third at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:08:37.
These two runners will head a long list of elite runners to be confirmed during the coming months leading into this year’s race.
Organisers for the IAAF