Women’s race record set and Mungara narrowly denied three-peat

Japan’s Takuya Noguchi spectacularly denied Kenyan Kenneth Mungara his third consecutive Gold Coast Airport Marathon victory while Ethiopia’s Abebech Bekele took the women’s event in equally sensational circumstances on Queensland’s Gold Coast this morning.

Bekele’s time of 2:25:34 slashed a massive one minute and six seconds off the race record previously set by Japan’s Misato Horie last year and netted her a cool AUD 30,000 for her efforts ($20,000 winner’s prizemoney and $10,000 time bonus).

In doing so she recorded the fourth fastest time for a women’s marathon run on Australian soil, only behind the times set by the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games placegetters.

The race favourite finished well ahead of Kenyan 33-year-old Mercy Kibarus (2:28:28) while 2015 women’s winner Risa Takenaka, who married Noguchi in April this year, finished third in 2:28:32.

A particularly notable Australian performance was the run of Victoria’s Virginia Moloney who clocked 2:29:14, the ninth fastest time for an Australian in a women’s marathon and one which qualified her for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Moloney also won the IAAF Oceania Area Marathon Championships for being the highest placed finisher from the Oceania region.

In the men’s event, and in scenes eerily reminiscent of 43-year-old Mungara’s battle over the final stages of last year’s race with Japanese ‘citizen runner’ and 2013 winner Yuki Kawauchi, the race record holder and Noguchi were inseparable and occasionally bumping in to each other over the final two kilometres.

But this time, when Mungara went to his now-characteristic lead inside the final 500m, Noguchi was having none of it and found a kick that rocketed him over the finish line in 2:08:59 on his 29th birthday.

Mungara finished five seconds behind in 2:09:04 while the perennial Kawauchi, who was in contention for all but the final stages, finished third in 2:09:18.

Today’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon field of almost 6,000 runners contributed to an overall participation of 24,902 over the weekend including more than 3,000 from overseas.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events Kate Jones said the Gold Coast Airport Marathon was an international drawcard for competitors and spectators from key markets in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the US, providing a boost to local tourism not only for the Gold Coast but also the state.

“This weekend’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon has been another great edition of this major event for Queensland, providing joy to tens of thousands of participants and supporters from many different countries and delivering on our commitment to secure events that generate the best tourism outcomes for our State,” Ms Jones said.

“I would like to acknowledge all of the stakeholders involved in the planning and delivery of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon including the 1,200 strong volunteer force, event organisers, medical team and sponsors.

“The Gold Coast Airport Marathon has been a wonderful showcase of the Gold Coast’s capability to deliver major events ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games.”

Top 10 Results

Men: Takuya Noguchi (JPN) 2h08m59s 1, Kenneth Mungara (KEN) 2h09m04s 2, Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) 2h09m18s 3, Ryo Hashimoto (JPN) 2h10m19s 4, Jonah Chesum (KEN) 2h10m47s 5, Shoya Osaki (JPN) 2h11m03s 6, Chiharu Takada (JPN) 2h11m25s 7, Tewelde Estifanos Hidru (ERI) 2h13m38s 8, Takafumi Kikuchi (JPN) 2h14m34s 9, Takuya Suzuki (JPN) 2h15m44s 10.

Women: Abebech Bekele (ETH) 2h25m34s 1, Mercy Kibarus (KEN) 2h28m28s 2, Risa Takenaka (JPN) 2h28m32s 3, Elizeba Cherono (NED) 2h29m7s 4, Virginia Moloney (VIC) 2h29m14s 5, Celia Sullohern (NSW) 2h34m38 6, Mary Davies (NZL) 2h36m19s 7, Marnie Ponton (NSW) 2h40m32s 8, Victoria Beck (QLD) 2h42m1s 9, Azusa Nogiri (JPN) 2h44m35s 10.

Flash Quotes

Men – 1st place – Takuya Noguchi (JPN)

On his race:

“It’s my time to win, I’m so happy and today is my birthday.”

On his preparation:

“My training has been very good this year. I got married in April and the support of my wife [Risa Takenaka – women’s third place] who is out there running right now really gave me that strength to get here today.”

On racing in his first Gold Coast Airport Marathon:

“We couldn’t just have one Gold Coast Airport winner in the family [Risa Takenaka won the women’s race in 2015].”

On his wife saying in the pre-race press conference that she would beat her husband:

“I am glad I am the one who is going to have the better result today.”

On overhauling Kenneth Mungara in the run to the finish line:

“The last five kilometres was really hard, I knew Kenneth and if you come this far you are all in and I just went for the win.

“I knew that was the move, the big move and it was pretty scary.

“I just had to knuckle down and do it and I came back.”

On whether his style was suited to the course:

“I knew it was a flat course and the results in the past have been conducive to what my goals are and for breaking my PB. It is very beautiful and so nice.”

Men – 2nd place – Kenneth Mungara (KEN)

On what he was thinking in the final straight as a similar finish to last year unfolded:

“It was a good finish. I enjoyed it. I did see it coming. This was very nice. I enjoyed it.”

On any difference in preparation he made from GCAM 2016:

“I increased my work in preparation for this year. Next time I will try hard to finish, finishing was very hard. My finishing was very bad, very poor.”

On why his finish was bad:

“Because somebody came from behind and won.”

On what he will do to celebrate:

“First of all, relax; then I will drink after. I got some celebration back home.”

On his race time:

“The time is good. This was a very good time.”

On the strength of the field:

“They are very good. Everyone was pushing and we stayed there together. This was a very nice finish.”

Men – 3rd place – Yuki Kawauchi (JPN)

On finishing third:

“I couldn’t reach my target. I was going for first place so it’s a bit disappointing but overall I am happy with the race.”

On how the race unfolded:

“I wanted to reach at least third place but at 30 kilometres I changed my mind and wanted the first. But after the 36 kilometres I decided my best tactic was to just target my time.

“I couldn’t win the race and I was second among the Japanese runners, but I managed to reach my goal to go under 2:10 and make a top three finish, so I think I had a good race towards London [the world championships in August].

“[After 30 kilometres] I could go to the top just for a while, but Noguchi was leading the pack. Noguchi was going very well and strong today.

“He is newly married man so he had a special power from the marriage, I guess.”

On his plans for after the Gold Coast Airport Marathon:

“My next race is at the world championships, so I needed to hit my target today.”

On this year compared to last year when he finished a close second:

“I’m not really satisfied with this race but I’m happy and I did enjoy the race and will definitely come back again next year.”

Women – 1st place – Abebech Bekele (ETH)

On her race build-up:

“I prepared myself really well to win this race and I’m really happy and glad with the win today.”

On how she felt during the race:

“I thought I could win at about 20 kilometres and the conditions were good. But I had done a lot of training and hard work to make it happen.”

On the event:

“I am so grateful to the Gold Coast organisers for the race and thank you for everything. I am strong and felt good for the whole race.”

On what’s next:

“Next up I will continue to train hard for the rest of the year and I’m looking to break around two hours and 20 to 21 minutes in the future.”

Women – 2nd place – Mercy Kibarus (KEN)

On her target for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon:

“I came to the Gold Coast hoping to beat the course record, but I just missed out which is a big disappointment after going so close.”

On her preparation:

“I have mainly been training for the half marathon over the last three months, so my preparation has not been perfect for coming to Australia.”

On whether she will return:

“I am pleased to be here and I always enjoy racing on this course. I will just have to come back next year and try to break the record then instead.”

Women – 3rd place – Risa Takenaka (JPN)

On the build-up to the race:

“My preparation wasn’t perfect, I didn’t come here with the best training behind me, I tried to run at a controlled pace and then move up over the second half of the race.”

On what she expected to achieve:

“There were a lot of things I was worried about before the start, like getting to the starting line in one piece. So not being completely confident at the start and still making the podium makes me very happy.”

On the race:

“I never really felt like I had a chance to win today, but I absolutely love this race, the town and the area, so I was very, very happy to be back.

On the future:

“Going forward I will be doing work on the track for a little while and in the fall (autumn) it’s road-relay season and that will be the focus for the rest of the year.”

Visit goldcoastmarathon.com.au