After waiting more than 30 years to see Robert de Castella’s Australian all-comers record taken down, the Gold Coast Airport marathon on Sunday (5) could see the fastest men’s time ever run on Australian soil for the second successive year.
Organisers of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race have assembled the highest quality men’s field ever to race in Australia outside the 1956 and 2000 Olympic races. No fewer than nine men with personal bests faster than 2:10 will toe the line on Sunday morning, all but one with an equal or faster performance to their name than the record of 2:09:14 set by Silah Limo in winning last year’s race.
By contrast, only one woman, Ethiopia’s Makda Harun, has a personal best faster than the Gold Coast record of 2:27:17 set by Yukiko Akaba of Japan two years ago. Harun ran 2:26:46 in Paris in 2012 but her recent best puts her in a close contest with the Japanese trio of Risa Takenaka, Keiko Nogami and Manami Kamitanida.
Takenaka (2:28:09) and Nogami (2:28:19) both ran their fastest times in this year’s Nagoya marathon.
The 2014 Gold Coast race was a memorable marathon debut for Limo, who is back to defend his title this year. The 23-year-old Kenyan has run only one marathon since, a creditable 2:10:37 in finishing fifth in Houston at the beginning of this year.
Just as last year, Limo does not have the fastest performance going into the 2015 race. The fastest man in the field is Ethiopia’s Berhanu Shiferaw, second at the 2013 Dubai Marathon in 2:04:48. Kenya’s Albert Matebor, with a personal best of 2:05:25, is next fastest.
Others have more recent form in the Gold Coast race. Jeffrey Eggleston of the USA surprised last year with a significant breakthrough to take second place in 2:10:52. He returns this year, though it is understood he is back to participate rather than to race all-out.
Yuki Kawauchi, on the other hand, knows no other way to race than all-out. The Japanese runner has become something of a cult figure with his ability to race marathons often, but also to pull out his best race on the big occasions.
Kawauchi, the 2013 winner of the Gold Coast Marathon, has been hampered by a lingering ankle injury this year so he may employ the same come-through tactics that took him into third place last year. Then, his problems were caused by a mid-race fall, but he was still able to run 2:11:27.
Others in the mix include three more Kenyans in Kenneth Mungara, who set a world M40 masters record of 2:08:44 in Milan earlier this year, 2014 Mumbai Marathon winner Evans Ruto, who has a best of 2:07:49, and 2014 Brighton Marathon runner-up Dominic Kimwetich, whose PB is 2:09:36.
Japan’s 2012 Olympic representative Ryo Yamamoto has a best of 2:08:44 from 2012, but nothing of recent form commensurate with that time.
The race will also double as the Oceania Championship. Jeff Hunt, at 2:11:00, is the fastest entrant in the field. Two other Australians, Rowan Walker and last year’s Oceania champion Jonathan Peters, look to be his closest rivals.
Takenaka’s 2:28:09 in Nagoya, where she finished fifth, was her marathon debut. Anything quicker could see her challenge both the race record and be highly competitive with Harun. Harun’s best this year is 2:33:39 in Lodz in April.
Others with some sort of chance on times are Ethiopia’s Zebenay Gebre Moges, though her best of 2:31:14 is looking a little dated as it was set back in 2009, and Japan’s Shoko Shimizu, with a best of 2:32:43. But it is hard to see anyone upsetting the favourites.
The race for the Oceania Championship looks tight, with just two seconds separating Australia’s Kirsten Molloy and New Zealand’s Victoria Beck on times.
The associated Asics Gold Coast Half Marathon also has Oceania titles at stake and is more likely to produce Oceania winners.
Japan’s Remi Nakazato leads the way on times in the women’s field, but her 1:10:03 was run before she survived a battle with cervical cancer last year. This is her most serious race since so it might be too much to expect her to run up to top form just yet.
If that proves to be the case, the battle for the win could be between USA’s Sara Hall and the Australian pair of Eloise Wellings, winner of the Marugame Half Marathon earlier this year, and Jess Trengove, who finished second, one place ahead of Hall, at the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in San Diego at the end of May.
Japan’s Takehiro Deki does not have the fastest official time in the men’s race, but a 58:51 for 20km and a 1:03:11 half-way marathon split are both superior to the best time of Australia’s Liam Adams (1:03:28). In any case, Adams leads the Oceania entrants on times, with next fastest being Australian residents New Zealand’s Benjamin Ashkettle and Britain’s Ben Moreau.
Len Johnson for the IAAF