Kenneth Mungara takes victory at the 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon (© Organisers)
Achievements came in multiples at the Gold Coast Marathon on Sunday (1).
Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara took his third win in four appearances at the IAAF Gold Label race, and Ruth Chebitok not only garnered the first win by a Kenyan woman but also took down the race record.
Having won in 2015 and 2016 (the former in an Australian all-comers’ record of 2:08:42), Mungara was denied a hat-trick last year when Japan’s Takuya Noguchi sped by late in the race to win by five seconds.
A final spurt from another Japanese runner, Kenta Murayama, almost thwarted the 44-year-old Mungara again this year, but this time he held off the desperate late charge to win by a second in 2:09:49.
Murayama’s 2:09:50 was a personal best by more than seven minutes and a performance more in line with his 27:39 and 1:00:50 credentials for the 10,000m and half-marathon respectively.
Denied the win this year, Japanese runners took the next three places. Behind Murayama came another big improver in Jo Fukuda, whose 2:09:52 was more than five minutes faster than his previous best, while defending champion Noguchi finished fourth in 2:10:15.
Despite several strong contenders in recent years, no Kenyan woman had won on the Gold Coast in the previous 39 editions of the race. That seemed likely to change on paper this year, the two fastest in the field being Agnes Jeruto Kiprotich (also known as Agnes Barsosio) at 2:20:59 and Chebitok at 2:25:47.
It proved to be the case on the road, too, as the two Kenyans and Australia’s Jess Trengove led from the start, racing through half way in 1:12:17 and still together approaching 25 kilometres, where Trengove dropped off a few seconds.
Chebitok sustained her pace pretty well all the way to the finish, crossing the line in 2:24:49, taking 45 seconds off the race record set by Abelech Afework last year. It was the third race record in as many years as the elite women’s field continues to be strengthened race on race.
Trengove took second place in 2:26:31, a 30-second improvement on the personal best 2:27:01 she ran in the 2017 London Marathon. Barsosio, second at 30 kilometres, lost three minutes to the winner from that point, struggling home in third place in 2:27:46.
The marathon and the associated half-marathon incorporated the Oceania Road Championships. Trengove won the women’s marathon championship from Celia Sullohern (fifth in 2:30:19) and Alice Mason (10th, 2:43:47).
Australia’s 2017 World Championships representative Jack Colreavy won the men’s Oceania title with a personal best of 2:17:48 from New Zealand’s Nick Horspool and David Criniti of Australia.
Jack Rayner was both overall winner and Oceania champion in the half marathon with his winning time of 1:03:12 while another World Championships marathon representative, Sinead Diver, took the half marathon title with a personal best of 1:09:53 behind US runner Sara Hall’s 1:09:27.
Mungara prevails in three-man sprint
Once again, the Gold Coast course produced a close finish in the men’s race. Mungara won by 12 seconds in his race record year of 2015, beat Yuki Kawauchi by just one second the following year and lost by five seconds to Noguchi last year.
Mungara and Murayama had dashed 19 seconds clear of Fukuda and Noguchi at 35 kilometres, but Fukuda had clawed his way back to the two leaders by 40 kilometres. There was little change as they dashed south along the Gold Coast Highway to the finish, Mungara establishing a break, albeit not a decisive one.
Turning into the parkland finish, Mungara was clear and he held off Murayma’s late charge to take the win, 2:09:49 to 2:09:50. The gallant Fukuda was two seconds further back in third place.
Crowd favourite Kawauchi, making his seventh straight appearance in the Gold Coast race, was off the leading pace by 15 kilometres and finished ninth in 2:14:51. He has a first, a second, two thirds and a fourth in the race.
After a first five kilometres in just on 15 minutes, the pace slowed a little as the leading pack went through half way in 1:04:20. The pace slowed again to 35 kilometres and the 35 to 40-kilometre split was the slowest of the race.
Chebitok slowed at the same point in the women’s race (17:07 30 to 35 kilometres and 17:29 35-40), but by that point she had the win in her keeping, with a margin of 1:26 to Trengove who, in turn, was almost 50 seconds ahead of Kiprotich.
The winning time was a personal best for the 27-year-old Chebitok, who won the Barcelona Marathon earlier this year in her previous best of 2:25:49.
After dropping back at 25 kilometres, Trengove fought back to catch Kiprotich just before 35 kilometres and the top three places did not change from that point on.
In recent years, the nine fastest marathons run on Australian soil have all come on the Gold Coast. Now it is the women who are re-writing the all-comers’ list.
Chebitok’s 2:24:49 replaced Afework’s previous race record as the fourth-fastest women’s marathon ever run on Australian soil. The only faster marathon remains the Sydney Olympic race won by Japan’s Naoko Takahashi in 2:23:14, from Lidia Simon of Romania, 2:23:22, and Kenya’s Joyce Chepchumba, 2:24:45.
Len Johnson for the IAAF