Japan reigns supreme at the 35th Gold Coast Airport Marathon
The Land of the Rising Sun dawned brightly again at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon today. Japanese runners won both the men's and women's marathons in course record times, while taking the top two spots in the men's race.
School teacher Yuki Kawauchi, 26, took out the men's race in a course record-equalling 2:10:01 with countryman Taiga Ito (2:11:52) second and Eritrea's Tewelde Hidru (2:13:10) third.
However the highlight of the day was Japan's Yukiko Akaba, 33, who smashed a 20-year-old record when she stormed home to win the women's marathon in 2:27:17, easily eclipsing the old mark of 2:29:29, set back in 1993 by another Japanese runner Eriko Asai.
Akaba finished ahead of Kenya's Alice Ngerechi (2:29:48) with Russia's Alevtina Ivanova (2:32:01) third.
The Japanese double in the men's and women's events of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon is the first since 2007. And the resurgence of the Japanese runners will be welcomed by those who remember the halcyon days of the early 90s when Japan delivered three men's winners in the four years between 1991 and 1994 and the Toyokazu Yoshimura – Kazuo Ietani double of 2007 and 2008.
Akaba dominated the women's event and was a deserved winner.
"I'm very happy to win," she said.
"My aim was to beat the course record so I'm very happy about the result because I beat it by far.
"I've always wanted to get a personal best overseas.
"At the turning point, I saw Yuki Kawauchi in the lead so that gave me the encouragement to keep going.
"My pace was actually pretty good throughout so I felt confident that I could beat the course record."
For Kawauchi it was a triumphant return to the Gold Coast after finishing fourth in this race last year. The 26-year-old is popular in Japan, where he is known as the ‘Citizen Runner' because he works fulltime as a teacher and trains in his time off.
In fact he will be jetting home tonight after picking up his $15,000 winner's cheque to be back at work tomorrow.
Kawauchi said he was more intent on overcoming the African contingent, who pressured him over the first 30km, than breaking the course record.
"I was trying to beat the other runner (Hidru) and I wasn't really concentrating on the time,'' he said.
"I just wanted to prove that non-African runners can beat them (the Africans).
"I pushed myself to the limit. I really had to push myself.
"The course was great, nice and flat with a beautiful view and great spectators who were kind enough to give me a cheer. I will come back to beat the 2:10 mark the next time."
Kawauchi said he had been advised not to enter the Gold Coast race because it was considered too close to the world championships in Moscow next month.
"I am glad I didn't listen to those people,'' he said.
"I achieved this result today because of the great job the of the pacemakers."
The marathon also doubled as the Oceania Area Marathon Championships with the ACT's Rowan Walker taking out the men's title in 2:23:50 from NZ's Tony Payne (2:27:25) and Victoria's John Dutton (2:27:40) third.
Kiwis took the top two places in the women's Oceania Championships with Alexandra Williams (2:42:30) taking that title from Sally Gibbs (2:42:59) and Wollongong's Anita Keem (2:45:39).
Canberra's Martin Dent, 34, had the perfect lead-in to the upcoming Moscow world marathon championships when he out-sprinted Japan's Shinichi Yamashita to win the ASICS Half Marathon in 1:03:56.
Third in the race, which also doubled as the national half marathon championships, was British Olympic marathoner Ben Moreau (1:03:59).
"I have the world champs in six weeks and this is my last run before then so it was a real confidence booster,'' Dent said.
"After the win here I feel confident that I can run as well as ever there.
"It's nine years since I won a half marathon and the Australian title, so that is pretty nice. And it's great to do it on the Gold Coast.
"I started to step it up today with about five (km) to go and got a bit of a gap, but they kept closing.
"Ben did a lot of work out in front so he did really well to hang on for third. But pretty much I just went hard the whole way. I'm wrecked – there's not much else left in the tank.
"It is great to win. It is my second here in about seven attempts."
In the women's half marathon Melbourne's Nikki Chapple cruised to a comfortable win (1:11:00) over Adelaide's Jessica Trengove (1:11:51) with Melbourne's Abigail Bayley (1:14:23) third.
For Chapple her planned post-run celebrations were simple.
"I'm going to celebrate tonight by having something to eat, having a sleep and then eating again," she laughed.
"I never expect to win. You always have to assume someone is close behind you so that keep you going.
"But I was hoping to run a bit quicker. I never really run this early in the morning. It's weird starting out in the dark.
"I have one really big run before Moscow (world champs), but I don't really change my training routine up too much. If the conditions are nice in Moscow I'm hoping I'll get a personal best."
Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and Commonwealth Games, Jann Stuckey, said the Gold Coast Airport Marathon continued to see great success as a major event on the Gold Coast.
"Congratulations to the 27,638 participants in this weekend's 35th Gold Coast Airport Marathon and to the 1,100 volunteers who have made this event memorable for everyone."
"Of the 27,638 runners this year, more than 9400 travelled from interstate and overseas to experience Queensland's beautiful Gold Coast.
"It's great to see the collaborative marketing efforts of Tourism and Events Queensland and Gold Coast Tourism resulting in significant international and domestic interest in this year's event.
"This is a fantastic result for tourism on the Gold Coast and Queensland in general, with participants bringing friends and family to stay on for some fun after the run."
For the year ended March 2013, the Gold Coast welcomed 4.4 million overnight visitors who spent 22.1 million nights in the region and spent $4 billion during their visit.
The Minister said the marathon had cemented itself as a winter highlight on Queensland's major sporting event calendar.
"The Newman Government recognises that tourism and events are intrinsically linked, supporting major international events like the Gold Coast Airport Marathon as part of our commitment to increase annual overnight visitor expenditure in Queensland to $30 billion by 2020.
"As we look toward for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the continuing success of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon is a great example of our ability to host high-calibre international sporting events."
"I would also like to thank the participants in this year's marathon who have raised more than $470,000 for a variety of charities, including the event's official charity, Cancer Council Queensland," she said.
Events Queensland Gold Coast Chairman Kerry Watson said the Gold Coast Airport Marathon had again provided a vital economic boost for the city.
"This is the signature event for the Gold Coast in terms of return on investment," Mr Watson said.
"Events are the mainstay of the economy of the Gold Coast. You only have to ask around. Restaurants, cab drivers, accommodation houses, they are saying ‘thank God for events like this for the city'.
"The interesting thing for us is that we have significantly grown our interstate and overseas visitors and that is what we are really delighted with."
Mr Watson said the annual success of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon had played a significant role in the Gold Coast's successful bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
"When it came down to garnering the vote of the African nations, they were most impressed with the way we undertook the Gold Coast Marathon.
"We have already shown the world how we can run a major event.
"And participants in this year's Gold Coast Airport Marathon were the first to experience some of the early infrastructure for the Games, with the finish chute part of the Games work being carried out at the aquatic centre redevelopment."
Mr Watson said he had no doubt the Gold Coast Airport Marathon would continue to blossom and grow.
"A major reason for this is the marathon staff,'' he said.
"I would like the thank the staff of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon who do an incredible job every year to deliver such a great event for the city."
The teams category at this year's Gold Coast Airport Marathon attracted solid support with 121 teams taking part - 32 corporate teams, 25 fitness teams and 64 social teams
Visit www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au for more information.
The Gold Coast Airport Marathon is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland as part of a growing calendar of sporting, cultural and regional events throughout the state.
Discover more great events in Queensland at www.queensland.com