There was a strong African presence at the 2013 Gold Coast Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on 7 July.
If Africa had the numbers, though, Japan had the numbers that mattered, Yuki Kawauchi equalling the race record in taking the men’s Marathon and Yukiko Akaba smashing the previous record in winning the women’s race.
Kawauchi did not take control of the race until the final turnaround point at Runaway Bay, just over five kilometres from the finish. He quickly put the result beyond doubt, however, racing back to the finish line at Southport to win in 2:10:01. That equalled the record set by Kenya’s Nicholas Manza two years ago.
It was the sixth marathon of the year for the seemingly-indefatigable Kawauchi, and his fifth win following earlier victories in Luxor (Egypt), Beppu, Nagano and Chitose. His only non-winning performance is a 2:08:14 personal best for fourth in the Seoul International Marathon in March.
Kawauchi said he was more intent on winning than on breaking the race record. His next marathon will be at the World championships in Moscow and he admitted he had ignored advice not to run another Marathon so close to that race.
“I’m glad I didn’t listen to those people,” said Kawauchi who, unlike most Japanese marathoners, is not part of the corporate team system and works full-time.
Eriko Asai of Japan set the women’s record of 2:29:29 20 years ago in 1993, but it has been on borrowed time for the past few years. Two years ago, Goitetom Tesema of Ethiopia ran 2:30:08; last year Kaori Yoshida of Japan won in 2:30:36.
With a fifth place in the Daegu 2011 World championships and third in London this year, Akaba is arguably the best-credentialed marathoner to have run the Gold Coast race. She lived up to her reputation.
Kenyan pair Alice Ngerchi and Hellen Mugo led early, but it was Akaba all the way when the racing got more serious. She crossed the line in 2:27:17, more than two minutes under the previous record and more than two minutes ahead of Ngerechi (2:29:48). Veteran Russian performer Alevtina Ivanova took third in 2:32:01.
“My aim was to beat the course record so I’m very happy because I beat it by far,” Akaba said.
“At the turning point I saw Yuki Kawauchi in the lead so that gave me the encouragement to keep going.”
The Marathon was run in clear and sunny conditions with the temperature picking up to around 20°C by the time the elite runners reached the finish. There was also a freshening breeze once the field left the relative shelter of the high-rise buildings in the Gold Coast proper and got into the more exposed parts of the course.
A significant slice of Australian Marathon history was also present. Steve Moneghetti and Lisa Ondieki were on hand to do commentary for the live webcast; Rob de Castella was there with runners from his Indigenous Marathon Project. De Castella’s 2:09:18 to beat Juma Ikangaa (2:09:30) in the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games Marathon was, and remains, the fastest ever run in Australia.
The main pack was always on record pace and it was Girmay Birhanu Gebru who made the first real attack just past the 30km mark. He made a decisive break as the leaders ran down and up a significant dip near the start-finish point at Southport, a 10-metre gap quickly growing to 50.
Japan’s Taiga Ito was first to take up the chase, pulling Kawauchi clear of the rest with him. The Japanese pair caught Gebru near the final turnaround and Kawauchi pulled away soon afterwards.
Ito hung on for second in 2:11:52, with Tewelde Hidru of Eritrea third in 2:13:09. Gebru was next with the race’s fastest entrant, 2:07:43 performer Jairus Chanchima of Kenya, fifth.
Three of Australia’s World championships marathoners continued their preparations by running the associated Half-marathon. Martin Dent won the men’s race in 1:03:56 ahead of last year’s third place-finisher Shinichi Yamashita (1:03:57) and Ben Moreau of Great Britain (1:03:59).
Lee Troop, who will bring his Marathon career to a close in New York later in the year, was 12th in 1:07:56.
Nikki Chapple won the women’s race in 1:11:00 from Moscow teammate Jess Trengove (1:11:51).
Four-time Olympic representative Craig Mottram defeated Michael Shelley in the 10km, 29:38 to 29:45. Mottram, who is now working full-time and has just become a father, still says he has a championship Marathon in his future.
Moscow-bound Lara Tamsett won the women’s race in 33:05. She has been selected for the 10,000m at the World championships.
Len Johnson for the IAAF