Many of Australia's best road runners from this domestic season line up in the Real Insurance Sydney Harbour 10km this Sunday. The race features a showdown between Australia’s two leading domestic road runners Jack Rayner (VIC) and Jordan Gusman (NSW), while in the women’s Sinead Diver (VIC), who has been in record-breaking form, is the hot favourite.
Men's 10km Road race
After a record-breaking blitz in the past two months, Jack Rayner and Jordan Gusman will face off over the 10k road distance, starting in the Sydney Rocks precinct. Setting a course record of 28:33 in Launceston, the third fastest 10km road time in Australia in the past 15 years, Rayner goes in as race favourite but there is no doubt Gusman will be gunning for Rayner's scalp. It was just four weeks ago that Gusman claimed a new course record of 28:42 at the Gold Coast Marathon 10k, shaving 11 seconds off Michael Shelley's former mark. He has also been without peer in the NSW championships this year on the roads and over cross country.
Not to be outdone on the Gold Coast, Rayner took victory in the Half Marathon before going on to shatter the course record at Athletics Victoria's Lakeside:10 three weeks later and claim a $2500 bonus for being the first man to break 29 minutes on the Albert Park course. The Rayner v Gusman clash promises to be one of the highlights of the winter racing season in Australia.
Australian 10,000m track record holder Ben St Lawrence (NSW) will also line up. This season he has been on a mini-comeback after a few low-key years and his season has included a win in the Sydney 10. Commonwealth Games steeplechaser James Nipperess (NSW) and defending champion Central Coast-based Irish international Kevin Batt bolster the depth of this race.
Women's 10km Road race
Arguably Australia's leading road racer of 2018, Sinead Diver (VIC) will look to continue her recent run of excellent performances. Just as Jack Rayner rewrote the record books at the Tasmanian Running Festival in Launceston, Diver created her own piece of history by taking an extraordinary 34 seconds off the existing race record at an event where a who's who of distance runners have performed in the past decade. Her time of 31:59 was the fastest by an Australian woman on the road since 2006 and the best performance in Australia since Benita Willis ran 31:47 in Burnie in 2002.
And similar to Rayner, Diver next raced at the Gold Coast where she became only the third Australian woman to break 70 minutes for the Half Marathon on Australian soil, moving to eighth on the Australian all-time list. A three-time world championship representative in the marathon and half marathon, Diver will have one eye on the clock as she nears the finish of Sunday's race, with Lisa Weightman's 32:13 course record under threat.
Likely to challenge Diver will be Marnie Ponton (NSW). Running 33:12 at the Gold Coast Marathon 10k in late June and now under the watchful eye of coach Dick Telford, Ponton has once again started to reach the form that saw her as one of Australia's leading steeplechase runners a decade ago. Similar to Diver, Ponton is a mother of two and proving that juggling the responsibilities of family and elite level performance is no barrier to success.
Over 6,000 participants are expected to hit the streets of Sydney this weekend in one of the premier running events on the Australian calendar.
David Tarbotton and Tim Crosbie for Athletics Australia