Beautiful conditions on the Sunshine Coast saw the Australian Half Marathon Championships run as a part of the 7 Sunshine Coast Marathon event.
Over 6000 people competed on the day with Jack Rayner (VIC) winning the men’s Australian Half Marathon Championship in a time of 1:04.02, and Sinead Diver (VIC) won the women’s title in 1:09.20.
In a close battle for the men’s title Collis Birmingham (VIC) was second in 1:04.13 and Nic Harman (WA) third in 1:04.16. Marnie Ponton (NSW) in 1:13.26 and Casey Wood (SA) in 1:15.49 rounded out the women’s podium.
The men’s Australian all-comers record is the sensational time of 1:01:11 set way back in 1994 by Pat Carroll in Sydney. Rayner said that he thought about the record but ensuring he got the win was his focus.
“I was aware of the record but 61 min is a little bit out of reach for me at the moment, maybe a few years down the track I will target the time,” 22-year-old Rayner said.
“We weren’t on the pace right from the start, so we knew we weren’t going to get that time.”
Rayner who led in the front pack with Birmingham, Harman, Kenyan William Chebon Chebor and Kevin Batt said the pack helped with the conditions.
“There was a bunch of us up the front that helped with blocking the wind which made it a little bit easier,” Rayner said.
Birmingham said his tactics leading into the race was beating his time from the Gold Coast Marathon on 1 July.
“I ran faster than I did there and it felt a lot more comfortable so I’m happy,” dual Olympian Birmingham said.
“I probably led a bit too long given the race here was so tactical, I led for the first 14 kms pretty much and then tucked in.
“In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have done that but it gave me the opportunity for the race to be somewhat honest, but yeah Jack was just too good, so a big congrats to him.”
Diver ran superbly and finished just 22 seconds outside of the Australian all-comers record of 1:09.00 set by Lisa Weightman in 2010 on the Gold Coast.
“I actually wasn’t aiming for the record but now that I know I was only 22 seconds off, I’m thinking surely I could have found a second a kilometre,” 42-year-old Diver said.
“But I’m really happy with the time, I was aiming for sub 70, so that time is a PB for me – so I’m absolutely delighted.”
Diver did come away with a record for her outstanding run. She claimed the world record for masters (40 years plus), a mark of 69:37 held by American Deena Kastor who won marathon bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Ponton who finished second behind Diver was delighted with her run and improvement by almost five minutes on her previous best of 1:18.10 set in Canberra in April..
“It felt really good and I’m just super happy with my time,” 34-year-old Ponton said.
“I’ve never actually done that well in a half, so my aim was to just go out there and feel really comfortable and hold onto the pace, I didn’t have any preconceived times – so to finish where I did was awesome.”
In the State-based teams event, Victoria led by Rayner, Birmingham & Tim Logan finished on top, with Queensland – Peter Bracken, Pat Nispel and Paul Tierney - in second and New South Wales – Dylan McCuiag-Walton, Andrew Heyden and Seth Healey - third.
For the women’s team event, Queensland finished on top with Melanie Panayiotou, Samantha Phillips and Kerri Hodge, Victoria in second with Diver, Nadine Bainbridge and Austin Tracey, and Tasmania finished in third with Kylie Smith, Francesca Smith and Kerrie Royals.
See the full results for the Australian Half Marathon Championships here >>
Rob Cumbrae-Stewart for Athletics Australia