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Csongei and Hodge the Australian Marathon Champions

Sunday, 16 September 2018 | Rob Cumbrae-Stewart



Beautiful conditions greeted the athletes this morning in the Australian Marathon Championships held in conjunction with the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, where runners get the unique experience of running over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Australian Men’s Marathon Championship was won by South Australian John Csongei in a time of 2:30:39, ahead of Wayne Spies (QLD) with 2:33:15, while local athlete Brendan Davies (NSW) was third clocking 2:34:10.

Australian Champion Csongei said the race was challenging but that he had a great run.

“It was a windy, hilly and solo run. A fairly solid start but I felt good, steadily overtaking a few Australians in the second half hour or so

“The last 10km wasn’t so great but I had opened up enough of a lead, and I ended up running a PB - so I’m stoked,” said Csongei.

For Brendan Davies, it was the second occasion he had finished on the podium in the national marathon championships, following his third place in the 2015 race.

A legend in ultra-trail running, Davies, a psychologist, runs between 120 and 200km a week.

The Australian Women’s Marathon Championship was taken out by Kerri Hodge (QLD) in a time of 2:49:08, in second was Gemma Jenkins (NSW) - 2:49:22  and in third was Erchana Murray-Bartlett (VIC) - 2:53:00.

In her second attempt at the race - Hodge ran a personal best and was stocked about the run on a challenging course.

“It was a very tough course. I ran it last year and although I ran faster this year, last year it felt a lot easier,” Hodge said.

For Jenkins, it was her second personal best this year following her 2:51.26 in Hobart in January. She has been a late comer to the sport.

“I was training by myself and didn’t know how to get a coach. I stumbled on to the Running Mums Australia group and I threw a post out there to ask if anyone in my area could do a run with me during the week. Anna Fitzgerld commented and I knew who she was. I contacted her and she recommended to train with Gary Howard.”

Howard along with Ben St Lawrence manage and coach one of Sydney’s most successful recreational running clubs, Run Crew.

The event hosted a record 37,291 entries in 2018. There were 4379 in the marathon, 9219 in the half, 15,234 in the 10km Bridge Run and 8,459 in the family fun run.

Elijah Kemboi of Kenya won his first Blackmores Sydney Marathon with a time of 2:13:37. He and Ugandan runner Thomas Ayeko stuck together for 40km of the 42km course until Kemboi made a break for it 2km from the Sydney Opera House finish line. Ayeko crossed the line just 2:14 minutes behind Kemboi with a finish time of 2:15:52, followed by Birhanu Addisie of Ethiopia in third place (2:16:25).

Kemboi said there was an advantage running with Ayeko.

“It was good to be together.  We were assisting and pushing each other for the whole race and 2km from the finish I decided to go,” said Kemboi.

“It’s a hard but beautiful course. It was also hard today due to the wind and it was cold.

“This is my first time in Australia and I would like to come back to race again.”

Mercy Kibarus of Kenya was the first woman to cross the marathon finish line with a time of 2:31:24. Second woman was Eunice Jeptoo, also of Kenya with a time of 2:32:22 and third place went to Zinash Debebe Getachew of Ethiopia (2:33:53).

“I’m very pleased with the win and I’m looking forward to coming back to Sydney next year,” said Kibarus.

In the Blackmores Sydney Wheelchair Marathon, Kurt Fearnley posted his 11th win in this event, a favourite on his competition calendar. Fearnley crossed the line with a time of 1:47:30. Jake Lappin of ACT was second (1:53:03) and Richard Colman of Victoria finished third (2:19:45).

Fearnley also found the wind and cold conditions challenging and stuck with Lappin for most of the race.

“I pushed with Jake for the first 30km and I actually felt better towards the end,” said Fearnley.

“I haven’t done a marathon since April (the Commonwealth Games) so it was nice to get have a hit out, and it’s nice to know I’ve still got some km’s in my arms!”

There were three support events in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival.

There was a sprint finish in the men’s half marathon with Sydney’s Ben St Lawrence out dipping Japan’s Tatsuya Sato 65:17 to 65:18. Local athlete Matt Hudson was third in 65:49. Former national 5000m champion, Belinda Martin won the women’s in 75:52, over two minutes ahead of second placed Hirono Shintate (JPN) with 78:04 while Sydney Striders athlete Fiona Yates was third in 81:18.

Central Coast-based Irish athlete, Kevin Batt won the Bridge Run 10km in a course record 30:14, ahead of Australia’s 2017 world championship representative Brad Milosevic in a time of 30:27. World junior cross country representative Kieren Tall was third (31:32). Commonwealth Games representative Celia Sullohern won the women’s 10km in 33:25 slicing more that a minute from Olympian Eloise Wellings’ race record. Sydney University athletes, Lara Hamilton and Beth Croft were second and third.

The full Australian race results can be seen here

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