Skip to main content

Chala and Biru a Threat to Gold Coast Airport Marathon Course Record, Kawauchi Hopes to Get Some Too

by Brett Larner

The southern hemisphere's only IAAF gold label race, Australia's Gold Coast Airport Marathon returns this weekend with solid fields in both the men's and races.  Nine men and four women come to the race with gold label credentials, times under 2:10 for men and 2:28 for women, within the last three years, and with good weather forecast for Sunday morning more than a few could replicate those times on Australian soil.

Japanese women have dominated Gold Coast in recent years, winning the last four years straight and sweeping the top five last year.  They'll have a tougher time of it this year.  Ethiopians Gulume Chala, last year's Frankfurt Marathon winner in 2:23:12, and Meseret Biru, last year's Paris Marathon winner in 2:23:26, lead the way, with Kenyan Leah Kiprono, winner of this year's Zhengzhou Marathon in 2:27:39, taking the third spot in the pre-race rankings.  Misato Horie (Noritz) is the only Japanese woman with a gold label to her name, just, with a 2:27:57 at the 2014 Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Her 2:28:20 for 2nd in Osaka in January puts her within about two minutes of the top three's best recent times, but if they push it toward the 2:27:17 course record Horie will need to bring her best to compete.  "It's a tough field, but at the same time there's nobody here who I definitely can't beat," Horie told JRN.  "If all goes well I want to PB."

2014 Gold Coast 2nd-placer Rika Takenaka (Shimamura), no relation to 2015 winner Risa Takenaka, is back, but with the race having picked up steam since she was last here it seems likely that she would be hoping for top three at best.  Likewise for former Japanese national record holder Yoko Shibui (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), still powering on 15 years after her then-debut world record in Osaka in 2001 but with just a 2:31:06 last November at the Saitama International Marathon to show for herself now.  "My training has been OK," Shibui said.  "My minimum goal is sub-2:30."

With a 2:05:38 best in Paris 2013 Peter Some (Kenya) is the top man in the field, 2:07 in Tokyo in both 2014 and 2015 but just 2:10:01 in Seoul earlier this year.  Beraki Zerea (Eritrea) is the next-fastest on paper with a 2:08:27 in Hengshui two years ago, but with only a 2:16:43 in Vienna last year followed up with a DNF at the Beijing World Championships he would need to bring back his A-game.  Tougher competition comes from defending champion and masters world record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya), with 3 wins and 5 top 3 placings in his last 6 marathons including another masters record of 2:08:38 in Milan earlier this year.  "A lot depends on the pacers," Mungara said.  "If they do a good job, I can beat my time from last year."

Mungara, Kawauchi and NZ's Paul Martelletti talk to Steve Moneghetti at the pre-race press conference. 

Lesser-known Milton Rotich (Kenya) and Birhanu Achamie (Ethiopia) also look dangerous, Rotich with wins in two of his last three marathons including a 2:08:55 in Casablanca 2013 and 2:09:27 man Achamie getting into the top 2 in 4 of his 5 career marathons to date.  A potential dark horse is John Cheruiyot (Kenya), just 2 marathons to his name but trending in the right direction with a 2:10:59 debut for 2nd in Rabat last year followed by a 2:08:56 in Frankfurt.  Japan-based Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (NTN) leads the non-African challenge, a 2:08:50 for 3rd in Fukuoka 2014 to his name but a wildly uneven performance history making his aggressive racing style the only predictable thing about him.

Following the withdrawal earlier this week of Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) with a minor injury, 2013 Gold Coast Airport Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is the top Japanese contender.  Kawauchi hasn't run sub-2:10 since before a December, 2014 ankle sprain that mutated into a long-lasting series of injuries, but a 2:12:04 win in sleet and freezing rain in Zurich this year and a 50 km national record two weeks ago suggest he's back to near peak form.  Kawauchi has yet to join the exclusive 5-member club of Japanese men to have won overseas marathons sub-2:10, and with big goals ahead of him this fall he hopes that Sunday will be his day.  Like Mungara, Kawauchi was positive about the number of pacers in the race, including sub-2:10 man Koji Gokaya (JR Higashi Nihon).  "I'm definitely ready for sub-2:10," he told JRN.  "If that's enough for the win then I'll go for it."

The Gold Coast Airport Marathon also features high-level 10 km and half marathon divisions on Saturday and Sunday.  The marathon itself starts at 7:20 a.m. local time Sunday, with the entire race streamed live on the race website.  For the third year in a row JRN's Brett Larner will be sitting in on the broadcast as a guest commentator.  Look for more coverage throughout race weekend.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon
Gold Coast, Australia, 7/3/16
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Peter Some (Kenya) - 2:07:05 (Tokyo 2014)
Beraki Zerea (Eritrea) - 2:08:27 (Hengshui 2014)
Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) - 2:08:38 (Milano 2016)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:08:50 (Fukuoka 2014)
Milton Rotich (Kenya) - 2:08:55 (Casablanca 2013)
John Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 2:08:56 (Frankfurt 2015)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) - 2:09:05 (Fukuoka 2013)
Birhanu Achamie (Ethiopia) - 2:09:27 (Rome 2016)
Willy Kotile (Kenya) - 2:09:58 (Milano 2015)
Chiharu Takada (Japan) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka 2014)
Abragaw Misganaw (Ethiopia) - 2:10:22 (Dubai 2014)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Abdelhadi El Hachimi (Belgium) - 2:12:45 (Berlin 2014)
Saeki Makino (Japan) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)

Gulume Chala (Ethiopia) - 2:23:12 (Frankfurt 2015)
Meseret Biru (Ethiopia) - 2:23:26 (Paris 2015)
Leah Kiprono (Kenya) - 2:27:39 (Zhengzhou 2016)
Misato Horie (Japan) - 2:27:57 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Rika Takenaka (Japan) - 2:29:27 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Agnes Mutune (Kenya) - 2:30:13 (Frankfurt 2015)
Yoko Shibui (Japan) - 2:31:06 (Saitama 2015)
Hitomi Nakamura (Japan) - 2:33:23 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Wei Wei Sun (China) - 2:36:29 (Seoul 2016)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

Japan Names Asian Games Marathon Team

On Mar. 16 the JAAF announced the Japanese marathon team for this August's Jakarta Asian Games. Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) and Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) make up the men's squad, with Keiko Nogami (Juhachi Ginko) and Hanae Tanaka (Shiseido) named to the women's team.

A member of the Japanese national team for last summer's London World Championships, Inoue ran an all-time Japanese #4 time of 2:06:54 at February's Tokyo Marathon, the 2nd-placing Japnaese man behind national record setter Yuta Shitara (Honda). Sonoda ran a PB of 2:09:34 to finish in the top Japanese position at 2nd overall earlier in February at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.

The silver medalist at November's Asian Championships marathon, Nogami was 5th earlier this month at the Nagoya Women's Marathon in a PB of 2:26:33. Tanaka was next behind her in Nagoya in 6th in 2:27:40, the only member of the Asian Games team not to have yet qualified for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials race. A meda…