It’s always difficult to predict the winner of a marathon, which is, of course, a major part of the race’s appeal.
Fans of that unpredictability are bound to enjoy the Sydney Marathon on Sunday (21) which, for the first time in the race’s history, has IAAF Silver Label Road Race status. Both the men’s and women’s fields are stacked with runners of roughly similar credentials.
The men’s field boasts three 2:06 runners, though the personal bests of Seboka Tola (2:06:17), Sisay Jisa (2:06:27) and Benjamin Kiptoo (2:06:31) date back to 2011 and 2012.
Two further entrants have sub-2:10s to their name. Another boasts strong track performances.
Steve Moneghetti, who will be doing race commentary, says he is looking forward to an exciting race.
“The quality of the field is outstanding and I am looking forward to a great race with lots of very competitive guys with times under 2:10,” said Moneghetti.
On the women’s side, the form is even closer and a little more current. Little more than a minute covers the top four runners on personal bests.
“The group of women athletes also looks top class and I expect there to be three or four athletes in both packs which will make for some exciting racing on Sunday,” said Moneghetti.
So, little will separate the top runners as they toe the line in north Sydney on Sunday morning and prepare to head off over the iconic Harbour Bridge. If they are all as close together again at the finish line – outside the equally-iconic Sydney Opera House – spectators are in for a morning to savour.
If the racing turns out to be as close as the entry statistics indicate, the race records of Yuki Kawauchi (2:11:52 in 2012) and Beruktait Degefa (2:32:46 in 2013), will be endangered. The weather for Sunday morning is expected to be fine, with a predicted maximum for the day of 19°C.
Ethiopia’s Tola is fastest in the men’s field. He ran his personal best in Dubai in 2012, the same year as compatriot Jisa ran 2:06:27 in Paris. Benjamin Kiptoo also has Paris to thank for his personal best, too – he ran it in winning the race in 2011.
Weldu Negash of Eritrea is also sub-2:10 with his 2:09:14 personal best coming in Rotterdam earlier this year. Perhaps the most interesting of the elite, however, is Japan’s Tsuyoshi Ugachi. He has a best of ‘only’ 2:13:41 from his debut marathon in Dubai earlier this year, but has good track credentials – 13:29 and 27:40 for 5000m and 10,000m respectively – and a half-marathon best of 1:00:58.
Course record-holder Degefa is back to defend her title in the women’s race. She ran a personal best of 2:26:22 in Houston earlier this year, but in Kawauchi style will be contesting her fifth marathon for the year in Sydney. Her compatriot, Sechale Delasa, has a best of 2:26:27 and has been consistent in the 2:26-2:27 level over the past three years.
Karolina Jarzynska loses nothing to the Ethiopian duo on personal bests, particularly as her 2:26:31 was run in the more competitive environment of the Osaka Women’s Marathon in January this year.
Fantu Jimma of Ethiopia rounds out the sub-2:30 entrants with a best of 2:27:31 set in Prague this year.
Japan’s Yuka Yano trails the top four on times this year – 2:31:02 – but that performance represented a 10-minute personal best which suggests there could be more to come. Kenya’s Jane Kiptoo (2:31:21) is in the same category. Her 1:09:53 for the half marathon suggests she may have the potential to go faster on Sunday.
The 14th Sydney Marathon will set off from Milsons Point at 7:20am. The course will take runners over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, through the northern end of the Central Business District, through Hyde Park, out to Moore Park and around Centennial Park.
The course then returns to the CBD, through The Rocks, along Hickson Road and out to Darling Harbour, then back to Circular Quay and along the Harbour Foreshore to finish at the Sydney Opera House; a marathon tourist’s delight, to be sure.
If the racing turns out as close as the times suggest, however, the main protagonists may be too busy watching each other to take in the views of one of the world’s most scenic harbours.
Len Johnson for the IAAF