by Brett Larner
The Gold Coast Airport Marathon saw the expected surpassing of Rob de Castella's 1982 Australian all-comers' record of 2:09:18 to commemorate its graduation to the rank of an IAAF gold label race, but despite having the course, the weather, the goal and the field it was close, and little else about the race went as expected.
None of the pre-race favorites factored up front, 2:06 men Nicholas Manza (Kenya) and Gebretsadik Adihana (Ethiopia) dropping out and the hoped-for duel between defending champion Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) never materializing after Fujiwara lost contact early in the second half with cramping.
Instead, virtual unknown Silah Kipkemboi Limo (Kenya), debuting off a 1:01:26 half marathon best last year in Singapore, went to the front near 20 km with pacer Isaac Macharia (Kenya) and went it alone at 25 to shake off his Kenyan competition and front-running Japanese man Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon). From 10 km to 30 km he ran each successive 5 km faster, smooth and strong, peaking at 15:00 from 25 to 30 km before starting the inevitable fade. At 40 km he had just under 7 minutes to go to break de Castella's mark after his slowest split of the race, 15:47, but with a merciful lack of the wind that battered last year's race in the final 5 km he rallied to squeeze under the record in 2:09:14.
American Jeffrey Eggleston was another of the race's big surprises. Before the race he told JRN that having just run a PB 2:11:57 in Boston in April he planned to run for experience with the leaders until 30 km and then decide whether he would back off or try to keep rolling. Relaxing in the pack until the move after 25 km, he took his time working back into contact. Finding himself in 2nd at 30 km with close competition from Kenyans Stephen Kipkemei Tum and Stephen Kibiwot, Eggleston pushed on and dropped both. Arms flailing and head lolling as he gutted out the last few km he crossed the line in a surprising 2:10:52, more than a minute better than his Boston PB and one of the best American marathon performances in recent years.
Kawauchi was another surprise. Looking strong and determined to get both the win and de Castella's record, he abruptly disappeared before 20 km. Runners in front of him in the tight pack had bumped a traffic cone on an especially narrow section of the course, and unluckily the cone fell over right in front of Kawauchi. He went down hard, hitting his right knee and scraping his right hip badly, and initially struggling to get back on his feet. Seemingly out of the race, Kawauchi jumped back into it and clawed his way back toward the front. In 7th at 35 km, he finished in 3rd in 2:11:27 after closing in 6:31 from 40 km to the finish, 2:58 per km, as usual the fastest in the field by a wide margin. "Bad luck!" he laughed just after finishing. "Next year I won't fall!"
The surprise in the women's race came as the decently-sized pack of 2:25-26 Africans abdicated their places to the Japanese women. Running her third marathon, a very emaciated-looking Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) took control of the race virtually from the beginning, pushing on course record 2:26 pace with nobody in tow almost to the last turnaround point just before 37 km before falling off pace. Struggling over the last 5.5 km section of the course, she held on to win in a PB 2:28:51, the second-fastest winning time in Gold Coast history and the best so far this year by a Japanese woman outside Japan.
Behind her, Rika Shintaku (Team Shimamura) did the heavy lifting in a trio with Ethiopians Tsehay Desalegn Adhana and Yebrgual Melese Arage after losing contact with Kato at 10 km. Applying steady pressure just at sub-2:30 pace, she cracked both rivals at the turnaround and closed 22 seconds faster than Kato to take 2nd in a PB 2:30:37. "I came here thinking I had a chance to win, so I'm disappointed with 2nd," she told JRN post-race. "But a PB is a good step forward so I can still walk away from this happy." Tsehay ended up over a minute behind in 2:31:41 for 3rd. Japan's best amateur woman, Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC), was a decent 5th in 2:34:41.
Altogether the men's and women's race delivered despite the deviations from the script. July's only world-class marathon, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon's progress in quality this year makes it an overdue and welcome addition to the ranks of the world's best races. Kawauchi in particular was very happy about Limo's new record. "2:09:14 is perfect," he said. "This way I get to come back and break it next year."
2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon
Gold Coast, Australia, 7/6/14
click here for complete results
1. Silah Kipkemboi Limo (Kenya) - 2:09:14 - ACR, debut
2. Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A.) - 2:10:52 - PB
3. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:11:27
4. Stephen Kipkemei Tum (Kenya) - 2:12:10
5. Samuel Woldeamanuel (Ethiopia) - 2:13:08
6. Chiharu Takada (Japan/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:36
7. Stephen Kibiwot (Kenya) - 2:14:57
8. Cyrus Gichobi Njui (Kenya) - 2:17:48
9. Kenta Kawasaki (Japan) - 2:18:01
10. Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Team Konica Minolta) - 2:19:12
13. Hiroki Sugawa (Japan/DeNA RC) - 2:24:14 - debut
15. Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:25:11
18. Lee Troop (Australia) - 2:27:23
26. Hironori Arai (Japan/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:35:50
DNF - Nicholas Manza (Kenya)
DNF - Gebretsadik Adihana (Ethiopia)
DNF - Haile Gemeda (Ethiopia)
DNF - Ahmed Baday (Morocco)
DNF - Erick Mose (Kenya)
DNF - Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe)
1. Asami Kato (Japan/Team Panasonic) - 2:28:51 - PB
2. Rika Shintaku (Japan/Team Shimamura) - 2:30:37 - PB
3. Tsehay Desalegn Adhana (Ethiopia) - 2:31:41
4. Yebrgual Melese Arage (Ethiopia) - 2:32:49
5. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:34:41
6. Goitetom Haftu Tesema (Ethiopia) - 2:40:19
7. Chihiro Tanaka (Japan/Athlec AC) - 2:42:27
8. Tarli Bird (Australia) - 2:43:58 - debut
9. Eiko Ueno (Japan) - 2:45:08
10. Alexandra Williams (New Zealand) - 2:45:21
DNF - Emily Samoei (Kenya)
DNF - Pamela Chepchumba (Kenya)
DNF - Lamei Sun (China)
text and photo (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved