Kenneth Mungara pulled away from defending champion Silah Limo and Evans Ruto over the last two kilometres to win the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (5).
The 41-year-old Kenyan, a barber in an earlier lifetime, reverted to type giving a close shave to the world M40 masters record, his winning time of 2:08:42 taking two seconds off the mark he set in Milan earlier this year.
But it was an old-fashioned short-back-and-sides for the race and Australian all-comers’ records set by Limo last year as Mungara slashed 32 seconds off those marks. After no improvement for 32 years on Robert de Castella’s 2:09:18 from the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games, the fastest on Australian soil has now been revised twice in two years.
Like rush-hour buses it seems, there can be a long wait for a record and then they come along two at a time.
Mungara breaks away late
The pace in the leading group in the men’s marathon was always ambitious, the leaders reaching half way in 1:03:48.
Mungara, Limo and Ruto were always with the lead pack which, at this stage, also included Eritrea’s Tewelde Hidru, Kenya’s Dominic Kimwetich and Tanzanian marathon debutant Alphonce Simbu.
Through to 35km it was always Hidru or then Ruto and Limo who showed in the lead, with Mungara dropping back on some of the surges but always in contact. Simbu and Kimwetich had fallen back.
Mungara said the leading group had worked hard together. “When you go alone early, you can’t make it.
“I was just waiting to make my move. I felt very comfortable I could get this time and was extremely relaxed. You have to focus on yourself, even if they’re pushing each other.”
Only nearing 40km, after the leaders had made the final turn and headed back to the finish at Southport, did Mungara show in the lead. At the 40km checkpoint (2:02:01) he had forged a mini-break of two seconds to Ruto with Limo a further second back. The margin grew to 12 seconds by the finish line, which Mungara reached clear in 2:08:42.
Mungara saw the clock coming to the finish line and knew his masters world record was within his reach. “I saw the time and thought ‘I have to get it’ and I kept going,” he said.
His first target had been the race record. “I was targeting the Gold Coast Airport Marathon record and the (weather) forecast and track helped.
“I know I can go faster again in the future and will keep training hard. When you run at this age, you have to plan ahead and keep working,” he said.
De Castella and Steve Moneghetti, Australia’s two fastest male marathon runners, were present to witness Mungara’s performance yesterday, as was Australia’s fastest female, Benita Willis. All three are ambassadors for the Gold Coast race, along with two other distinguished Australian performers in four-time Gold Coast winner Pat Carroll and Lee Troop.
The top three finishers bettered the previous Australian all-comers’ record set by Limo in last year’s race. In a neat statistical coincidence, 12 seconds was also the margin between de Castella and Tanzania’s Juma Ikangaa when they ran the fastest two times on Australian soil in the 1982 Commonwealth marathon.
In fourth place, Hidru was also under 2:10 with a personal best 2:09:33. Kimwetich was fifth in 2:11:51 and Hidru capped a fine debut with a 2:12:01.
Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, a Gold Coast favourite and the 2013 winner, finished eighth in 2:16:23.
The marathon also incorporated the Oceania title which went to Australia’s Jonathan Peters in 11th place in 2:21:14.
Takenaka leads Japanese sweep
Japanese athletes have dominated the women’s race in recent years, and that trend continued, but the top three finishers in the women’s race followed distinctly different paths to the podium.
Risa Takenaka was more than a minute clear of Manami Kamitanida at half way – 1:13:26 to 1:14:48 – with Keiko Nogami more than a minute further back in 1:16:19.
Nogami’s second-half split of 1:13:15 was the fastest half-marathon by any of the women in the race. But she had either left her run too late or sold herself short in the first part of the race. From 30km to the finish she gained almost two minutes on the winner.
Takenaka won in 2:28:25, more than a minute ahead of Nogami (2:29:34) and Kamitanida (2:33:43).
Takenaka said she had been focused on maintaining her break. “I knew in the last 10 kilometres I had a pretty good lead, but I didn’t want to back off for an easy finish.
“I wanted to keep running hard right until the finish; even if I could improve my current time by one second I wanted to do it.”
It was the fifth win by a Japanese woman in the past six years, that string only being interrupted by Ethiopia’s Goitetom Haftu Tesema in 2011, and the 13th in race history. Japanese women swept the top three spots for just the second time in the race’s history, following their first such feat in 2010.
Takenanka’s time was just 16 seconds outside her debut marathon performance in Nagoya earlier this year and little more than a minute slower than Yukiko Akaba’s race record of 2:27:17 set two years ago.
Japanese women finished in the first five places. New Zealand’s Victoria Beck took out the Oceania championship with a 2:45:48 finish in sixth.
Japan’s Takehiro Deki won the associated half marathon in 1:02:11, more than a minute clear of defending champion Liam Adams (1:03:29). Sydney-based Briton Ben Moreau was third (1:04:32).
Eloise Wellings made it three half-marathon wins from three starts with victory in the women’s race in 1:10:10, ahead of Sara Hall of the USA (1:10:49) and Australians Cassie Fien (1:11:28) and Jess Trengove (1:11:31).
Adams and Wellings won the associated Oceania half-marathon championships.
More than 27,000 participants competed in a range of events including the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and the Asics Half Marathon across the weekend of 4-5 July.
Len Johnson for the IAAF