In winning the 2014 British Commonwealth Games men’s marathon in Glasgow, Australian Michael Shelley proved that the African domination at the distance is not insurmountable and the mere presence of athletes from the that continent should not spread fear into the remainder of a competitive field.
For too long now, African athletes have tended to monopolise the big city marathons and those in games for which they are allowed to compete. The Sunday marathon in Glasgow contained athletes from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but not quite the true elite competitors especially from Kenya. Nevertheless, the Africans set the early pace and appeared destined to occupy the three medal winning positions.
Shelley and fellow Australian Liam Adams seemed to be troubled by the frequent accelerations at the front of the field but they never lost contact with the leaders at any stage. As the race reached the 30km distance, the race noticeably quickened with Kenyan Stephen Chemlany appearing the likely winner, but Shelley was content to run at his own pace and gradually close any gaps.
With the knowledge that he had secured the silver medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games marathon in Delhi, the confidence in Shelley seemed to grow as he realised that his fellow leaders were unable to sustain their sharp bursts of acceleration. After consuming a gel with a drink during the later stages of the race, Shelley was suddenly emerging as the strongest runner in the field and gradually built a winning lead.
As Shelley crossed the line in victory in a time of 2:11:15, he emulated the performances of fellow Aussie’s Rob De Castella and Steve Moneghetty in winning this race, but also demonstrated a lack of fear in running against talented African athletes.
For the home competitors, Scotsman Derek Hawkins finished ninth while the lack of depth in English marathon was exposed when the likeable Steve Way was first of his compatriots to complete the course in just over two hours and fifteen minutes and he is 40 years of age.
In the Ladies race which started just after the men’s contest a Kenyan one-two determined gold and silver positions with Flomena Cheyech Daniel prevailing ahead of Caroline Kilel. After British athletes set the early pace, the African athletes dominated proceedings thereafter as the Scottish and English challenge faded.
To complete a memorable day for the Australians, Jess Trengove judged her race pace far better than most of her competitors by producing an effective late surge to secure the bronze medal, and like Mike Shelley, she was able to claim a personal best for the marathon.
The Australians can be proud of their displays in the Commonwealth Games marathons, but they also proved to the rest of the World that the African athletes are not unbeatable at the distance.