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Akaba and Kawauchi Aiming for Course Records at Gold Coast Airport Marathon


by Brett Larner

In its 35th edition the Gold Coast Airport Marathon makes its debut as an IAAF bronze label event, the first Australian race to earn an IAAF label.  Both the women's and men's races feature fields worthy of an even higher level, and on both sides course records look likely.

The clear favorite in the women's race is this year's London Marathon 3rd-placer Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren).  Having been left off the Japanese World Championships team in favor of two empty seats, Akaba told JRN that she came to Gold Coast to go for the 20 year-old 2:29:29 course record in a moderate mid-summer effort ahead of an ambitious fall. Speaking later at the press conference she commented, "The field is a lot better than I expected and so getting the win will be a challenge, but I'll be going for the course record either way and hopefully that will put me up front."  Asked whether the $20,000 bonus for clearing Naoko Takahashi's 2:23:14 Australian all-comers' record is on her radar Akaba laughed and said, "That would be pretty tough."

Her biggest challenge may come from 2:26:08 athlete Eri Okubo, making her debut with sponsorship from Miki House, the same children's clothing company that sponsors London Olympian Arata Fujiwara, after having abruptly quit the Second Wind AC club team this spring.  The question will be whether Okubo has made a smooth transition in coaching and training environments in time to run 100% on Sunday.  Despite not having arrived as of Friday evening, Goitetom Tesema (Ethiopia) should be another strong contender with a 2:26:21 best at the 2011 Rome Marathon.  Helen Mugo (Kenya) rounds out the list of top-level favorites with a 2:27:16 best at the 2010 Carpi Marathon.  Whoever crosses the line first, the course record is sure to go.

The men will have a tougher time of clearing the record, but the current 2:10:01 mark is in range of at least the top six.  With a 2:07:43 best from last year's Seoul International Marathon Jairus Chanchima (Kenya) is the favorite, with the as-of-this-writing-still-in-transit Girmay Birhanu Gebru (Ethiopia) close behind with a 2:08:11 mark at March's Rome Marathon.

The other big contender is #3-seed, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), 4th at last year's Gold Coast Airport Marathon and running this year as part of a quest to get the course records at Australia's three largest marathons despite being on the Japanese team for the World Championships next month.  "I won't be setting a PB, but I am here to break the course record," he commented.  "I am complete focused on running sub-2:10 here."  The main question for Kawauchi will be to what extent he will feel the lingering effects of heat-related problems he faced in winning the Okinoshima 50 km ultra three weeks ago.

Kenyans Samson Barmao and Jacob Wanjuki round out the top bracket, Barmao with a 2:08:52 best last year in Rome and Wanjuki, based in Japan where he runs for the Aichi Seiko corporate team, making his marathon debut off a 1:00:32 half marathon best.  With such a quality group lined up, pacers in the men's race due to go out at 2:09:00 pace and favorable weather forecast, Rob De Castella's Australian all-comers' record of 2:09:18 may well fall to the tune of a $20,000 bonus.

Speaking of half marathons, Gold Coast will also incude elite-level half marathon and 10 km events featuring a large number of top Australia's top distance runners, many of who will be in Moscow next month for the World Championships.  London Olympian Martin Dent looks like the favorite in the men's race with a 1:02:16 best on the same course in 2009, while 2010 Marugame International Half Marathon winner Nikki Chapple is the class of the women's field with her 1:08:37 time from Marugame nearly four minutes better than her closest competition.  Both races also feature elite-level Japanese athletes.

The men's 10 km looks like a showdown between London Olympians Craig Mottram and Michael Shelley, while #1-ranked woman Lara Tamsett looks set to be going it alone in search of an improvement on her 32:27 road best.  Mottram caused a stir in the audience by saying that he plans to make a serious marathon "within the next twelve months."

The half marathon and full marathon will be webcast live on the Gold Coast Airport Marathon site, the half marathon going off at 6:00 a.m. local time and the full at 7:20 a.m.  Live results will also be available here.  Check back for original coverage from JRN as the weekend progresses.

2013 Gold Coast Airport Marathon Elite Field
Gold Coast, Australia, 7/7/13

Marathon - Men
1. Jairus Chanchima (Kenya) - 2:07:43 (Seoul, 2012)
2. Girmay Birhanu Gebru (Ethiopia)  2:08:11 (Rome, 2013)
3. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul, 2013)
4. Samson Barmao (Kenya) - 2:08:52 (Rome, 2012)
5. Robert Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:10:04 (Prague, 2011)
6. Edwin Kiprop Korir (Kenya) - 2:10:26 (Zurich, 2013)
7. Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:15 (Tokyo, 2013)
8. Kensuke Takahashi (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Tokyo, 2009)
9. Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - debut (1:00:32, Nagoya Half, 2010)

Marathon - Women
51. Yukiko Akaba (Japan/Team Hokuren) - 2:24:09 (London, 2011)
53. Eri Okubo (Japan/Miki House) - 2:26:08 (Tokyo, 2012)
55. Goitetom Tesema (Ethiopia) - 2:26:21 (Rome, 2011)
56. Alice Ngerechi (Kenya) - 2:26:36 (Milan, 2001)
57. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:26:38 (Nagano, 2008)
58. Helen Mugo (Kenya) - 2:27:16 (Carpi, 2010)
59. Yui Ouchi (Japan/Team Noritz) - 2:39:06 (Ohtawara, 2011)

Half Marathon - Men
1. Liam Adams (Australia) - 1:03:28 (Gold Coast, 2012)
2. Lee Troop (Australia) - 1:01:00 (Tokyo, 1999)
3. Martin Dent (Australia) - 1:02:16 (Gold Coast, 2009)
6. Shinichi Yamashita (Japan) - 1:03:36
7. Ben Moreau (U.K.) - 1:04:27

Half Marathon - Women
51. Nikki Chapple (Australia) - 1:08:37 (Marugame, 2010)
52. Jessica Tengrova (Australia) - 1:12:28 (Gold Coast, 2011)
53. Danielle Ingram-Trevis (New Zealand) - 1:13:08 (Auckland, 2010)
54. Abi Bayley (Australia) - 1:13:40 (Gold Coast, 2011)
55. Miki Oka (Japan) - 1:14:00 (Miyazaki Women's, 2009)
58. Yuki Sakata (Japan) - 1:13:14
76. Eri Ueno (Japan) - debut

10 km - Men - June 6
1. Michael Shelley (Australia) - 28:44 (Launceston, 2012)
2. Craig Mottram (Australia) - 27:54 (Manchester, 2004)
3. Jackson Elliott (Australia) - 29:43 (Launceston, 2011)

10 km - Women - June 6
51. Lara Tamsett (Australia) - 32:27 (Sydney, 2011)
52. Sophie Barker (Australia) - 34:19 (Launceston, 2012)
87. Tara Palm (Australia) - 33:08

text and photos (c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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