Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, the favourite for Sunday’s Medibank Melbourne Marathon, will defy the normal preparation rules when he arrives in Australia just hours before the race.
Kawauchi, revered in Japan because he combines his work at a local school with his international running career, could not afford to take leave so will arrive on Saturday morning and return home on Monday morning.
But despite the rushed trip, he still plans to break Robert de Castella’s Australian all-comers record of 2:09.18 for the fastest marathon ever run in Australia.
De Castella set the record in winning the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and it is a measure of just how strong the 1983 world champion was that it still stands today.
But the growth in marathons in the past few years combined with the strongest ever men’s field means for our race means it will be under attack.
Event director Greg Hooton has also provided an extra bonus for any runner that eclipses Deek’s time meaning that if it goes, the winner will take home $40,000 all up for just over two hours work.
But Kawauchi, who ran 2:10.01 to win the Gold Coast Marathon in July and who has a best of 2:08.14 in Seoul in March, will have plenty of Kenyans up front with him.
The field includes last year’s winner Jonathan Chesoo and 2010 and 2011 winner Japhet Kipkorir, who holds the race record of 2:11.04.
The fastest man in the field based on PBs is Peter Kamais, a 37-year-old who ran 2:07.37 to win the 2012 Xiamen Marathon in China.
Another Kenyan Dominic Ondoro is trained by former world champion Yobes Ondieki and won the Tiberius Marathon in Israel in 2:08.00 this year.
Then there’s Jairus Chanchaima, who boasts a sub 60min half marathon PB and ran 2:07.43 in Seoul last year.
Compatriots Samson Barmao and Dominic Kimwetich also have strong form, with the later winning the Brighton Marathon in the UK in March.
Justin Mogire, the husband of 2011 feamle winner Irene Mogaka, is also coming and is expected to set the pace at around 64.30.
Australia’s male contingent is led by Newcastle’s Scott Westcott, who forsook the world titles in Berlin for another shot at our race. Westcott was third in 2:16.00 last year and has signed up ACT’s London Olympian Martin Dent to help pace him.
Moonee Ponds star Liam Adams, 27, will also be making his debut and the world cross country representative is capable of a fast time having run 63.28 for the half on the Gold Coast last year.
All are aware of major prize money and incentives on offer in this year’s race for fast times.
For the 26-year-old Kawauchi, who has already run five marathons this year and was seventh in the recent Great North Run in England, this is just another weekend road trip.
“I want to show that you can compete at the world level even if you have a job like I do," Kawauchi said before the world titles in Moscow, where he finished 18th.