Silah Limo winning the 2014 Gold Coast Marathon (© organisers)
Marathon debutant Silah Limo of Kenya took down a strong field, the race record and Robert de Castella’s Australian all-comers' record all in one go when winning the 2014 Gold Coast Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in 2:09:14 on Sunday (6).
The Kenyan, who came into the race with a recorded history of just three half marathon performances, stole the show from just before the halfway point when he took a narrow lead after one of the race favourites, Japan’s defending champion Yuki Kawauchi, fell just before the halfway point, grazing his hip and knee.
Limo pressed harder as the kilometres went by, gradually stretching his lead. By the 30km mark, the race was his to lose; at the finish it was his to savour. Not just a win, but a course record and Australian all-comers record of 2:09:14.
No one quite knew who the quiet Kenyan was.
Commenting for the race’s livestream coverage, Steve Moneghetti said he assumed it was his first marathon as they could find no results for him at the distance.
Indeed, the only results shown for Limo on a reputed statistics site are three half marathons, two in Kigali, Rwanda in 2013 and 2014, and one in Wuzhong, China in 2013. His best is 1:01:41 in the Rwanda race last year.
So, to the rest of the world, truly an unknown, or at best little known, African runner.
For those with a historical bent there is a link to de Castella’s previous all-comers record of 2:09:18. On that day, in the days before the internet and widespread social media, Juma Ikangaa was first assumed to be the pacemaker for his Tanzanian teammate and defending Commonwealth marathon champion Gidamis Shahanga.
As Ikangaa hung in longer and longer and eventually broke away from Shahanga, it was evident he was no rabbit.
Cue another Moneghetti statement. If someone is there at 10km, don’t worry about them, he once said. If they’re still there at half-way, they can run a bit. If they’re still there at 30km, start worrying.
Limo was away by that point, the only question being how fast he would run. He had run from 15 to 30km in a little over 45 minutes.
Final kilometres the killer
At 35km he was still on track for a sub-2:08, but he faded a little over the final kilometres which are a bit more exposed to the elements.
“I feel so happy because I have run my best in my first race on the Gold Coast,” Limo said.
“I was aiming to run 2:10. That was my hope today. I tried to push and push.
“I felt that is great for my first time. But, if there were pace makers, I think I can go 2:06.”
De Castella, universally known as Deek, was on hand as a race ambassador but not disheartened at seeing his record go.
“It was time. It is significant for the Gold Coast, because now it is officially the fastest course in Australia. We always knew the course here was quick but now we have the time to prove it.
“But we should still be aiming to run 2:08 or 2:07 especially with the calibre of the African fields we are getting here.
“There is still work to do, but this is a great step. The record was 32 years old and was well overdue to be smashed.”
Limo collected $35,000 – $15,000 for the race win and an additional $20,000 for breaking the all-comers' record.
US runner Jeffrey Eggleston was second in 2:10:52, taking just over a minute off the personal best he set in Boston earlier in the year. Kawauchi dropped back to just inside the top 10 after the fall but came back to finish third in 2:11:27.
Japan’s Asami Kato produced a personal best of 2:28:51 to win the women’s race, a popular win at an event which has had strong Japanese links throughout its 35-year history.
Kato was followed home by her compatriot Rika Shintaku and Tsehay Desalegn of Ethiopia.
“This was my first time for this race and I am very happy because it was a PB for me,” said Kato, whose previous best had been a 2:29:08 in Nagoya earlier this year.
Shintaku also recorded a personal best, her 2:30:37 just over half a minute quicker than her 2:31:15 in Tokyo this year. Desalegn almost made it three for three in the personal best stakes, her 2:31:41 was just 16 seconds outside her previous best.
Len Johnson for the IAAF