The fastest Japanese men to run the Gold Coast Airport Marathon will return in July to set up a mouth watering head-to-head battle.
Taiga Ito holds bragging rights with the 2:13:16 he set in 2011, but compatriot Yuki Kawauchi was just ten seconds behind that time when he finished fourth on the course last year in 2:13:26.
They have personal bests of 2:11:15 and 2:08:14 respectively, so the potential is there to not only better their previous Gold Coast efforts, but launch a serious assault on Kenyan Nicholas Manza’s 2011 race record of 2:10:01.
They’ll be joined by another confirmed front row starter in Kobe Marathon course record holder Kensuke Takahasi (pb 2:11:25).
The 42.195km Gold Coast Airport Marathon on Sunday 7 July will be Kawauchi’s last competitive run before the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.
And in another coup for the event, 2013 London Marathon women’s third placegetter Yukiko Akaba will be out to lower Eriko Asai’s stubborn twenty-year-old Gold Coast course record of 2:29:29.
Redemption will be in the air for Akaba after she was passed over for Moscow, despite running a slick 2:24:43 in London.
She and the women’s course record can expect a challenge from countrywoman Eri Okubo who set her best of 2:26:08 at last year’s Tokyo Marathon.
A Japanese men’s and women’s Gold Coast double would be the first since 2007.
A resurgence would 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.
Ten Japanese women have won the Gold Coast full distance event from the previous 34 editions with six occupying top ten fastest time positions.
But watch out for the Africans…
Two sub-2:10 runners from Africa are among the early elite entries for the 2013 Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
Ethiopia’s Girmay Birhanu Gebru is in dazzling form after posting a personal best time of 2:08:11 to take second place at the 2013 Rome Marathon in March.
Kenyan speedster Robert Matu Mwangi, who ran second in last year’s Gold Coast event, has a 2:10:04 personal best from the 2011 Prague Marathon.
Both runners will be hungry for wins, with those in the know tipping their best marathons to be still in front of them.
And age won’t be a factor amongst the early men’s favourites with Kawauchi, Gebru and Mwangi all born within two months of each other in 1987.
The Gold Coast Airport Marathon is a major highlight on Queensland’s event calendar, attracting people from more than 30 countries and showcasing the Gold Coast as a premier sporting event destination.
Last year the Marathon attracted a record 28,224 participants with 73 per cent of those from outside the Gold Coast region.
This year’s race program will feature the full 42.195km Gold Coast Airport Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Southern Cross University 10km Run, Suncorp Bank 5.7km Challenge and 4km and 2km Junior Dash races.
Runners and walkers also have the opportunity to dedicate their run and raise funds for the official charity Cancer Council Queensland or for a charity of their choice.
Entries for the 35th Gold Coast Airport Marathon are open.
For more information or to enter www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au.