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Kenya's Kenneth Mungara Leaves it Late To Retain Title at Gold Coast Marathon

Less than 12 hours after going to bed not knowing who would form government after an inconclusive national election, Australians – or at least the running fans amongst them – found themselves in a similar state of confusion about the men’s winner of the Gold Coast marathon on Sunday (3), an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Japan’s globetrotting marathon man Yuki Kawauchi had galloped into the lead before the 30km point, a surge which was swiftly countered by defending champion Kenneth Mungara of Kenya. The pair then settled down to battle out the final 15 kilometres of the race.

It was Mungara who delivered the decisive late swing, however, edging away from Kawauchi with a final sprint that delivered a one-second victory, 2:09:00 to 2:09:01. Australia’s political elite could only have envied such a clear, albeit narrow, result.

After winning last year in a record 2:08:42, Mungara admitted that he was “asleep” when the first decisive moves were made late in the men's race.

When race ambassador Steve Moneghetti asked him whether he was awake when Kawauchi surged to the front this year, Mungara replied: “I had one eye open this time.”

Once Mungara had reeled the tireless Kawauchi in, it was the Kenyan who did most of the leading as the two broke well clear off the chasing pack. But he had not broken him as the race entered the closing stages and it came down to a final sprint.

“I saw Yuki going alone,” Mungara said of the surge, “so I had to work with him to chase him. I realised I could do something.”

He admitted the pressure of leading in the closing stages was sometimes “a headache”, but added: “You can’t think about who is behind you because there’s no point. They’ll always be behind you.

“If you think like that, it will get to you.”

By the narrowest of margins, it did not “get to” Mungara. His 2:09:00 was the second-fastest winning time in Gold Coast marathon history, bettered only by his own 2:08:42 last year. The finish was the closest in the 38 runnings of the marathon.

The late-race duel evoked memories of the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games race in which Robert de Castella defeated Juma Ikangaa, 2:09:18 to 2:09:30. De Castella's time stood as the Australian all-comers’ record until Silah Limu and then Mungara improved it in the past two Gold Coast races.

Despite his narrow loss, Kawauchi finished with the satisfaction of breaking 2:10 for the first time in 18 months after a series of injuries put a check on his frequent high-level marathoning. It came just two weeks after he set a Japanese national record at 50km.

Kawauchi admitted he was hanging on in the last stages and had nothing extra to produce.

“I was really hurting those last few kilometres, it really hurt," he said. “If I had anything left I would have had the last kick to win it, but I am 100 percent satisfied with what I did today.”

Abdelhadi El Hachimi of Belgium was third in 2:10:35, a performance which may earn him Olympic selection. Fastest man on paper at 2:05:38, Kenya’s Peter Some, was seventh in 2:15:09.

Tags:Kenya's Kenneth Mungara Leaves it Late To Retain Title at Gold Coast Marathon
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