Kenneth Mungara wins the Gold Coast Marathon (© Organisers)
Long term rivals Kenneth Mungara of Kenya and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, who produced one of the closest finishes in the event’s 40-year history, will once again face each other at this IAAF Gold Label road race's 41st edition on 7 July.
Mungara edged out Kawauchi by just one second to win the 2016 edition in a finish that came down to the wire after a sprint between the pair in the finish chute.
Kawauchi, previously known for shunning sponsorship in favour of continuing his full-time job in administration at a high school near Tokyo while running marathons outside of work hours, has recently accepted sponsorship deals, including with ASICS.
“This coming Gold Coast Marathon is my first marathon as a professional runner so I’m coming into it having plenty time to focus on my training,” said Kawauchi, whose shock victory at the 2018 Boston Marathon flung him into the spotlight.
“I’m challenging myself to achieve my personal best and I’m confident I can place better than recent years. I am familiar with the course and I know how to manage my race.” The 32-year-old's best is 2:08:14, set at the 2013 Seoul Marathon.
While Kawauchi’s Boston run made waves internationally, it’s his prolific racing schedule - he’s run more than 80 sub-2:20 marathons in his career, a record - and a penchant for costume running that has also drawn attention, most notably for having run half marathons in a business suit and a panda costume.
This will be the fifth consecutive year the pair meet on Gold Coast soil, with Mungara winning three of his four appearances at the event while Kawauchi has been unable to add to his 2013 title since Mungara has been on the scene.
The ageless Mungara is also confident of breasting the tape despite the challenge from Kawauchi.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Yuki again," Mungara said. "It certainly won’t be an easy job defending my track record against him but the rivalry we have built up on the Gold Coast keeps me wanting to come back and have him challenge me."
While Mungara still holds the course and Australian all-comers record of 2:08:42 which he set in 2015, he will need to work hard to defend his title from Kawauchi who is in good shape this season after his recent hit out at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon last month.
Kawauchi’s time of 2:09:21 in Beppu bettered Mungara’s 2:12:47 in Hong Kong in February by 3 minutes and 26 seconds, albeit in slightly different conditions, indicating that this could be the year Kawauchi finally beats his long-standing rival.
However, a win won’t come easily against Mungara who holds world bests across four separate ages. The 45-year-old's fastest was at the 2011 Prague marathon where he clocked 2:07:36.
Organisers for the IAAF