You may not have been one of 42,000 sweat-soaked fanatics who ran through Sydney’s centre on Sunday, but you’re more than likely aware of the mega event that took over the city.
Something you might not know is the event played out before the watchful eyes of top athletics officials from Boston, Chicago, New York, Tokyo, London and Berlin.
Key figures from the six major marathons of the world, including five of the six race directors, had flown in to witness this year’s edition of the Sydney Marathon, which could become the seventh major in 2025.
Whether the Sydney Marathon takes on the prestigious status of a major will be decided by those six race directors.
As runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes trickled over the Opera House finish line, two of the visiting race directors — London Marathon boss Hugh Brasher and New York City Marathon counterpart Ted Metellus — gave the most promising indications yet that Australia’s leading marathon is on a trajectory to become the seventh major.
“The Sydney Marathon is epic, I would say,” Brasher told Wide World of Sports as the sun beamed down on the Opera House forecourt.
“Running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, finishing in front of the Opera House … It’s not my first time in this city, but it’s just an amazing city.
“Amazing course, crowd support, runners … To have 17,000 [marathoners] entering the event, biggest event in Oceania ever, is pretty incredible.
“We’re just delighted to be here.
“It’s all about bringing people and the community together.
“Sydney is on the road to being a major. Sydney, London, New York, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago — it sounds right. Sydney should be there.
“So I’m just delighted that Sydney is on the journey and doing such an amazing job.”
The race directors who travelled to Sydney spent time at the Milsons Point start line and Opera House finish line.
In the meantime, officials from the World Marathon Majors — a team based in Deer Park, Illinois — spread throughout the 42.195-kilometre route and watched the event play out, assessing crowd support, course activity, the course itself, water stations and the vibe of the city.
The Sydney Marathon will become a major in 2025 if it nailed a 104-point criteria this year and does so again next year. In fact, Sydney Marathon race director Wayne Larden has told Wide World of Sports that even if the 104-point criteria is not met, the event is a hot chance of becoming a major because of the rapid progress it’s making.
Ted Metellus, the New York City Marathon boss, backed up the promising words of the London Marathon race director.
“This is my first time to Sydney, this is my first time to this event, I’ve been in the event space for 25 years, I’ve seen my fair share and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything this iconic as a finish,” Metellus told Wide World of Sports.
“They [the Sydney Marathon organisers] are on their way to making the event a major, they’re on the road. Similarly to the athletes that are participating to get their six stars [awarded to those who complete all six majors], Sydney is on its way to get its star.
“There’s obviously some work that goes into it … When you’re thinking about races that have had decades of legacy to get to a point of scale and size, Sydney is doing all the right things: learning from the other races, taking tips, going to those races, having representatives come to this event and share and give some takeaways, as well.
“So, they are on the track and working hard to get there.”
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It should be noted that the event did not run perfectly, which the winner of the men’s wheelchair race can attest to. Canada’s Josh Cassidy was led to take a wrong turn and, after getting back on the right path, was slowed up by people clogging the course, leaving the eventual winner firing off expletives.
But not even the majors are immune to messy situations.
At the London Marathon of 2013, Cassidy and Ethiopian runner Tiki Gelana collided at a drinks station, ruining both of their races and prompting Cassidy to spray event organisers.
And at the Boston Marathon of 2021, Swiss wheelchair champion Marcel Hug was directed to take a wrong turn, robbing him of about 20 seconds and costing him $34,000 in bonus money.
Huge queues for portaloos at the start line also irked some participants.
Although not perfect, this year’s Sydney Marathon was magnificent, in the eyes of Brasher and Metellus, as well as record-breaking; the 17,000-strong marathon field more than doubled the record number of entrants for any marathon ever staged in Australia.
Sinead Diver, an Olympic marathoner and the Australian women’s record-holder, was the first Australian woman home.
The 46-year-old has contested the London Marathon three times and the New York City Marathon once, so she has a pretty good idea of how the Sydney Marathon stacks up against the majors.
“I noticed the crowds more today [than in London and New York City]. I don’t know if that’s because more of them were saying, ‘Go Sinead, go Sinead’ … [I heard] loads of, ‘Go Sineads’,” Diver told Wide World of Sports.
“I noticed the DJ at 30 kilometres and all the little things along the course. That was cool.
“I honestly felt like there was heaps of support all along the run. It was phenomenal.
“You’ve got a downhill finish [toward the Opera House on College Street] so you’re feeling much better then. You’ve got 400 metres to go and you see the waves of the Opera House. It’s probably the best finish in the world. That was my favourite part of the course,” she added with a laugh.
“It’s going to be a huge thing for Sydney to become a marathon major, so to be part of that and to be able to show support was really special.”