Five Takeaways From Race Day

Melbourne Marathon historian Chris Muirden picks out five takeaways from the 2022 Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival.

RECORD FEST

Kenya’s Timothy Ronoh, a 29-year-old from Baringo in the Rift Valley, picked up a $20,000 bonus on top of his $20,000 first place prizemoney after smashing Dominic Ondoro’s race record by 91 seconds on Sunday.

It was a cool 8 degrees when the race started at 7am and a lead group of six that included Kenyans Ronoh, Cornelius Kiplagat, Erastus Mutua, Epworh Health physio Reece Edwards, Adelaide’s Riley Cocks and Kenyan pacer Nelson Chelimo, who trains with both Ronoh and Kiplagat in Eldoret.

That group went through 5km in 15.43, but soon after Cocks decided the pace was a little too hot and conserved energy which ultimately proved a wise decision for him as a he finished strongly for fourth in a personal best 2:16.56.

Mutua dropped off just before 10km, but the remaining four hit half way in 65.32, which was the wrong side of Ondoro’s 2:10.47 mark from 2013.

”The first 20km I was comfortable, but they were talking a bit so they were ridiculously comfortable,” recalled Edwards. “When they saw the time at halfway, they immediately stepped the pace up.”

As with Cocks, Edwards decided to back off and finished third in 2:14.41, just over a minute off his PB from Rotterdam last year.

Chelimo’s pacemaking duties ended at around 25km and he was picked up by St John’s Ambulance staff near the shrine with a saw hip. But after monitoring a race-induced irregular heartbeat he spent the night in Alfred Hospital which caused much consternation for his colleagues, who struggled to track him down until later that night.

“When I picked him up, he was in tears because in Africa when you go to hospital, you generally go in there to die,” said the race’s elite athlete manager Tim Crosbie.

But there were no such problems for Ronoh, who broke clear of his younger teammate on his way back from the shrine, and won in 2:09.12.

While Ronoh’s command of English is understandably not exceptional, there was no mistaking the warm smile he greeted everyone with, nor the number of times he proclaimed “I’m very happy” to those assembled.

He did manage to make it clear that he would be back to defend his title next year.

Ironically on Sunday in England, last year’s Melbourne winner Brett Robinson became just the sixth Australian to break 2:10 in London with a super 2:09.52 run.

IZZI’S SILVER LINING

Beatrice Cheptoo became the third Kenyan female to win Melbourne when she crossed the line in 2:27.58, but had the race been another kilometre, South Australian debutant Izzi Batt Doyle would most likely have caught her.

Batt Doyle flew in from Adelaide with around 60 runners from her Victoria Park Run as One coaching group and took the race right up to the two race favourites – Cheptoo and Ethiopian Yeneabeba Ejigu.

The Africans surged constantly and Batt Doyle was dropped just before 30km, but helped along by SA colleague Bryn Nicholls, who easily won the over 40 category, she finished with a bit of a flurry passing Ejigu in Flinders St and almost catching Cheptoo.

She missed by 12 seconds and her 2:28.10 time was 10 seconds off a world championship qualifier, but some consolation came when advised she was the fastest debutant ever by an Australian in the marathon. At just 26, she also has a long future in the marathon with Nagoya or London in April next year her likely next marathon targets.

Batt-Doyle had represented Australia in the 5km and 10km at the Comm Games in Birmingham and picked up Covid overseas, but wanted to see how her body held up to the extra distance.

“I only decided to do the marathon five weeks ago and it was really just a test to see how I’d fare. About 40km I knew I was still feeling good and just so strong that I started to cry. I just couldn’t believe that I was going to finish the marathon,” Batt-Doyle said.

Her partner Cocks was elated.

“We’re really excited. She’s just made for the marathon,” he said.

SHOE BIZ

It was hard keeping count of the number of runners sporting carbon fibre racing shoes with the Kenyans and Reece Edwards all in  Nike Vapour Fly’s and SA duo Izzi Batt Doyle and half marathon winner Jess Stenson among those in Asics MetaSpeed sky range.

The improved spring that assists stride length may have been a factor in the Melbourne Marathon recording the most sub 3hr times in a marathon since 1985 with 459 runners crossing the line under the magical 3-hour barrier.

Of the 459, 26 were females, also a race record.

“I’d love to have been able to see what Deek (Robert de Castella) and Mona (Steve Moneghetti) could have run in these shoes, I reckon they run at least 2:05,” Reece Edwards said.

CLASS AND A HALF

Commonwealth Games marathon champion Jess Stenson opted for the half marathon as she prepares for her next major marathon in New York next month and was in a class of her own, running close to 3min/km pace early before finishing  in 72.22.

Victorian Jack Rayner was also in good form winning in 62.16, while Steve Moneghetti celebrated his recent 60th birthday with an amazing time of 74.24 in the half, which was just six seconds off the world over-60 record.

VETERAN AFFAIRS

Midday Milers founder Charles Harcoan was more interested in track running back in 1978, but he has run nearly every Melbourne Marathon since and on Sunday finally broke a race record.

Chas, now 82, clocked a superb 5hrs 29min 26secs for the marathon to take nearly nine minutes off Antony Martin’s over 80s race record.

The three remaining Spartan Legends – Wayne Thompson, John Dobson and David Foskey – all finished full of running and ready for their 45th race next year.

Thompson even was first over 65 in the race, clocking 3:30.35.

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