For its 40th anniversary running Australia's Gold Coast Marathon has brought in a woman capable of giving the event a course record worthy of its gold label status, and maybe of taking a swing at the fastest marathon ever run on Australian soil, Naoko Takahashi's 2:23:14 gold medal run at the Sydney Olympics. Runner-up at last year's Paris Marathon in 2:20:59, Kenyan Agnes Jeruto Barsosio is the class of the field, almost five minutes faster than her strongest competition, fellow Kenyan Ruth Chebitok. Despite a scarcity of results this year it's Barsosio's race to lose.
That said, the long travel to Australia often takes a toll on the top competitors, leaving the top of the podium accessible to women in the 2:25-2:27 range. Along with Chebitok, Australia's Jessica Trengove and Japan's Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) and Miharu Shimokado (Nitori) are positioned at exactly that level and should contend for top three at the worst. The 2015 Melbourne Marathon winner, Trengove set her PB of 2:27:01 while finishing 10th at last year's London Marathon before doubling back to take 9th in the London World Championships marathon. Gold Coast hasn't had an Australian winner male or female since Lauren Shelley in 2009, but Trengove looks like its best chance of breaking that dry spell.
Japanese women have won six of the last eight years at Gold Coast. Coached by former half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato, Fujimoto's 2:27:08 breakthrough in Tokyo at age 19 last year marked her as one of the country's highest-potential young athletes. Shimokado has gone through coaching changes since her 2:27:54 best in Nagoya last year but if she is back on track should be up with Trengove, Fujimoto and the others. Australia's Celia Sullohern rounds out the subgroup of sub-2:30 women on the entry list.
Fujimoto, Shimokado and the other Japanese women in the race will also be chasing qualifying for marks for the MGC Race, Japan's new 2020 Olympic trials event to be held in the fall of 2019. The sub-2:24 auto-qualifier is probably out of range at Gold Coast, but a decent time would count toward the two-race sub-2:28 average route to qualification. Mao Uesugi (Starts) is the only woman there who already has one mark on the books counting toward MGC qualification, her 2:31:49 in Tokyo this year necessitating a 2:24:11 to make the trials.
Also running in the half marathon division are Japan's Hanae Tanaka (Shiseido), 6th in March's Nagoya Women's Marathon, and Misaki Hayashida (Toyota Jidoshokki), Rie Fujita (Kyocera) and Anna Matsuda (Kyocera), the 3rd through 5th-placers February's National Corporate Half Marathon Championships. $6000 is the prize for 1st place, sweet pickings for a race that has only gone under 70 minutes three times in its history.
Look for the men's field listing on Monday. JRN will be on-site at the Gold Coast Marathon throughout race weekend and will once again be doing race commentary on the official webcast. Check back for more closer to race date.
40th Gold Coast Marathon Elite Women's Field HighlightsGold Coast, Australia, July 1, 2018
times listed are best within last three years except where noted
Agnes Jeruto Barsosio (Kenya) - 2:20:59 (Paris 2017)
Ruth Chebitok (Kenya) - 2:25:49 (Barcelona 2018)
Jessica Trengove (Australia) - 2:27:01 (London 2017)
Ayaka Fujimoto (Japan) - 2:27:08 (Tokyo 2017)
Miharu Shimokado (Japan) - 2:27:54 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Celia Sullohern (Australia) - 2:29:27 (Melbourne 2017)
Mao Uesugi (Japan) - 2:31:49 (Tokyo 2018)
Yukari Abe (Japan) - 2:35:47 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved