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23-yr-old Yuki Nakamura Breaks Gold Coast Marathon Course Record

23-year-old Yuki Nakamura broke through to the upper levels of Japanese women's marathoning, taking over 6 minutes off her PB to win Australia's Gold Coast Marathon in a course record 2:24:22. Coming into the race with a best of only 2:30:31 from Nagoya in March, the night before the race Nakamura's coaching staff told JRN that her goal was to clear 2:26 and that she'd go with the lead group on 2:24 pace and see what she could do. Helped by a large group of men to break the wind, the pack of five soon shook down to just Nakamura, favorite Visiline Jepkesho of Kenya and 2:26 Ethiopian Sichala Kumeshi. Nakamura looked comfortable and under control, even like she was holding back, through the first 2/3 of the race. A move from Jepkesho before 30 km opened a 10 m gap between the two Africans and Nakamura, but Nakamura worked the small hill just after 31 km to catch back up and even go to the front.

From there Nakamura threw in a series of surges, first breaking Kumeshi and then Jepkesho. From before the 36.6 km turnaround she was on her own, and even though she had to fight a headwind over the last 5 km and a dark moment between 39 and 41 km, Nakamura dug deep to take 21 seconds off American Lindsay Flanagan's CR from two years ago, becoming the first Japanese woman to win the Gold Coast Marathon since Misato Horie in 2016.

Jepkesho tanked after getting dropped, with Kumeshi running her down for 2nd in a PB of 2:25:25 to Jepkesho's 2:26:17. The fastest Japanese woman in the race before it started, Rie Kawauchi was 9th in 2:36:57, with the last Japanese woman to make the top 3 at Gold Coast, Shiho Kaneshige, 13th in 2:43:50 after an emergency mid-race toilet stop, and Horie 22nd in 2:52:38.

The men's pace trio struggled to hit its target of 3:01/km for CR pace, managing more in the 3:02-03 range before all three stopped between 23 and 25 km. Ethiopian Belay Tilahun and Kenyans Timothy Kipkorir Kattam and Felix Kandie were still in the lead group at the point along with over a half dozen Japanese men. Naoki Aiba made the first move to break things up after the pacers stopped, and soon it was down to just him, the three Africans, and fellow 2:08 marathoners Kiyoshi Koga and Mizuki Higashi. Up to 35 km Higashi was the only one who didn't go to the front, but when the ekiden specialist Koga threw in a big surge coming up to the 36.6 km turnaround it immediately killed off Kandie and Higashi.

Koga opened a small lead, but at the turnaround point the others caught back up. Aiba dropped, and over the next 3 km it was a three-way race until Koga lost touch. Kattam did most of the leading from there, gesturing for Tilahun to pull up next to him in the last km. But in the same style seen in a lot of past years at Gold Coast, he kicked on the corner with 400 m to go and pulled away to win in 2:08:52, Tilahun falling 6 seconds back for 2nd in 2:08:58, a PB by almost 3 minutes. Koga faded to 3rd in 2:09:22, making it the first time since 2015 that a Japanese man hasn't made top 2 at Gold Coast.

Aiba and Kandie held on for 4th and 5th in 2:10:26 and 2:10:47, but Higashi was run down by Akihiro Kaneko for 6th, Kaneko getting under 2:11 for the first time with a new 2:10:58 PB. Expected to be the main Japanese contender, 2:07 man Yuta Koyama was 12th in 2:14:53. Post-race he told JRN, "I just felt like I was out of gas after about 27 or 28 km." 2013 winner Yuki Kawauchi was 145th among men and 157th overall in 2:42:23, the latest in a steep decline in his performances this year.

44th Gold Coast Marathon

Gold Coast, Australia, 7 July 2024

1. Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:24:22 - CR, PB
2. Sichala Kumeshi (Ethiopia) - 2:25:25 - PB
3. Visiline Jepkesho (Kenya) - 2:26:17
4. Irene Jerobon (Kenya) - 2:31:47
5. Sarah Klein (Australia) - 2:31:55
6. Abigail Nordberg (Australia) - 2:34:54 - debut
7. Milly Clark (Australia) - 2:36:44
8. Riine Ringi (Australia) - 2:36:51 - PB
9. Rie Kawauchi (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:36:57
10. Ai Ikemoto (Japan/unattached) - 2:39:46
13. Shiho Kaneshige (Japan/GRlab Yamaguchi) - 2:43:50
22. Misato Horie (Japan/Sysmex) - 2:52:38
35. Aoi Makara (Japan/unattached) - 2:58:30

1. Timothy Kipkorir Kattam (Kenya) - 2:08:52
2. Belay Tilahun (Ethiopia) - 2:08:58 - PB
3. Kiyoshi Koga (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:09:22
4. Naoki Aiba (Japan/Chudenko) - 2:10:26
5. Felix Kandie (Kenya) - 2:10:47
6. Akihiro Kaneko (Japan/Comodi Iida) - 2:10:58 - PB
7. Mizuki Higashi (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 2:11:21
8. Liam Boudin (Australia) - 2:13:56 - debut
9. Kenji Yamamoto (Japan/Mazda) - 2:14:23
10. Keisuke Yokota (Japan/unattached) - 2:14:29
12. Yuta Koyama (Japan/Toenec) - 2:14:53
15. Yudai Fukuda (Japan/unattached) - 2:15:56
16. Masaki Tsuda (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:16:05
17. Tomohiro Kaijo (Japan/unattached) - 2:16:44
20. Takemaru Yamasaki (Japan/unattached) - 2:19:11
21. Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 2:20:22
23. Daiji Kawai (Japan/Toenec) - 2:20:51
25. Rintaro Takeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:21:59
145. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/ANDS) - 2:42:23

 © 2024 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Great race day commentary from yourself and the panel! Yuki Nakamura's run was a total surprise. Very pleased for her as this was a great break through performance. I was very worried with around 2km to go. Her cadence had slowed considerably but she dug deep and finished well. What an amazing PB, course record and victory! It's so difficult these days to get a victory in these big races so huge congratulations to her. Amazing!

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