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Olympic glow adds lure to star-studded Gold Coast Marathon fields


Video: 2019 Elite Athlete Announcement

Photo: Milly Clark wins the 2014 Gold Coast Half Marathon

AN Olympic glow on the horizon has cemented top-class fields across the men’s and women’s contingents for the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, to be held on Sunday 7 July.

The elite fields for both events, released today, Global Running Day, confirm a strong international showing, especially from the traditional powerhouses of Kenya and Japan.

Runners from across the globe are targeting the Gold Coast Marathon as their launching pad to potential Olympic glory in Tokyo 2020.

Closer to home, the timing is perfect for Tasmanian marathoner Milly Clark. First Australian home in the women’s marathon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Clark was forced to sit on the sidelines for 18 months recuperating from foot stress fractures.

Gold Coast 2019 is her chance to tick three significant boxes – a PB, a podium finish and a ticket to Tokyo.

“It would be great to get those three birds with the one stone,” the 30-year-old said.

“I had such a good experience in Rio and I want to do it again. Although the Olympics are four years apart, they sneak up on you so quickly.

“The fact that I get the chance to do an Olympic qualifying time (2:29:30) on the Gold Coast is fantastic because I love this race. It is one of the highlights of the year for me.

“This will be my first marathon there. I have done the 10km and the half marathon on the Gold Coast, but I have only ever watched the marathon before.”

To make the podium Clark, who has a PB of 2:29:07, faces a tough road.

Her biggest competition is likely to come from a group of Kenyan sub-2:30 runners led by the 2017 second placegetter, Mercy Kibarus, who has a PB of 2:26:52.

Also from Kenya with sub 2:30 PBs are Rodah Jepkorir (PB 2:27:38), Truphena Chepchirchir (PB 2:27:52) and Alice Kibor (PB 2:28:19).

Among the top seeds for this race is Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu (PB 2:29:48), who set that time placing second in the Beirut Marathon in November last year.

The men’s marathon field is packed with international punching power, with six Kenyans and three Japanese making up the top nine seeds.

The biggest talking point in this race is the showdown between Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi. Mungara is a three-time winner as well as race record-holder and Kawauchi, victorious in 2013, has only recently adopted a full-time approach to professional running.

The pair turn the Gold Coast race into their annual one-on-one duel, however there are plenty of others, especially their own countrymen, who are more than capable of stealing the limelight in 2019.

These include Kenyans Ezekiel Chebii and Philip Sanga, who both have the same PB – 2:06:07, Douglas Chebii (PB 2:08:43), Barnabas Kiptum (PB 2:09:19) and Brimin Misoi (PB 2:09:31).

Among Kawauchi’s compatriots is ex-national marathon record holder and current national half marathon record holder,  Yuta Shitara (PB 2:06:11). 

The 27-year-old Shitara competed in the 10,000m at the Rio Olympics and will be making his Gold Coast debut. He ran his first marathon in Tokyo in 2017 (2:09:27) before backing up later that year with a 2:09:03 in the Berlin Marathon. 

He then stepped out last year and recorded his 2:06:11 personal best in Tokyo, breaking the long-standing 2:06:16 Japanese marathon record (which has since been broken again by Suguru Osako who ran 2:05:50 in Chicago last October) and he is also Japan’s half marathon national record holder (1:00:17). 

New Zealander Zane Robertson, may be attempting to complete his first marathon on the streets of the Gold Coast, but does not lack confidence coming into the event. 

“First and foremost, I always target the win. I want to run as fast as the pacemakers allow and once they step off the road anything is possible. Perhaps a new Oceania record?” said the 29-year-old, who has been based in Kenya and Ethiopia with his twin Jake since they were 17 in a bid to scale the heights of international distance running.

The top two Aussie seeds are Rio Olympic marathoners Scott Westcott (PB 2:11:36) and Liam Adams (PB 2:12:52). Adams has been in sensational form since finishing fifth in last year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Marathon in April. He went on to win the Melbourne Marathon in October, was second in Japan’s Kobe marathon in November and this year has won both the Canberra and Sydney half marathons.

Adams has his eyes firmly set on a PB here as well as a cash splash. There is a $40,000 prize pool on offer for any Australian male who runs a sub 2:10 and any Aussie female who can get below 2:25.

Another athlete eyeing off a PB on the Gold Coast is US Olympic track star Bernard ‘Kip’ Lagat, who is looking to improve on his 2:17:20 in New York in November in preparation for February’s US Olympic marathon trials in Atlanta.

The new International Association of Athletes Federations (IAAF) world rankings system has also generated more interest in the Gold Coast Marathon, which is also host of the IAAF Oceania Area Marathon Championships, offering elite athletes based in this region the ideal opportunity to boost their performance score to enhance their chances of a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Gold Coast Marathon is the first in Australia to hold an IAAF Road Race Gold Label and is expecting over 28,000 participants in eight races over two days, 6-7 July.

The event will feature the Gold Coast Marathon, Wheelchair Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Wheelchair 15km, Southern Cross University 10km Run, Gold Coast Airport Fun Run, Garmin 4km Junior Dash and Garmin 2km Junior Dash.

The elite fields for the Wheelchair Marathon, the ASICS Half Marathon and the Southern Cross University 10km Run will be released during event week.

The Gold Coast Marathon elite athlete field can be viewed here. 

Photo: Bernard Lagat will be a top contender in this year’s Gold Coast Marathon. Photo credit: Nike

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