Running out of the predawn darkness and against the toughest men's marathon field ever assembled here, Kenya's Patrick Ivuti blasted through the heart of Waikiki this morning as if he were running in the Rotterdam Marathon, instead. Tempted by the unusually cool and windless conditions, the early pace at today's 37th Honolulu Marathon was high.
"What is going on here?" asked Honolulu Marathon Association president Dr. Jim Barahal as he watched Ivuti, the defending champion, and seven other Kenyan athletes go through the 10 km mark in 30:07. If sustained, that pace would deliver the winner to the finish line in Kapiolani Park in 2 hours and 7 minutes, fully four minutes below Jimmy Muindi's 2004 course record of 2:11:12.
"We were trying to push to see if we could better the time," Ivuti would tell reporters, later.
Muindi, who has won this marathon six times and is Ivuti's brother-in-law, saw foolishness from his position running on the left side of the pack.
"That is Chicago pace!" he exclaimed after the race. "In Honolulu, never think about 2:08 here."
But Ivuti, 31, who won the Volkswagen Prague Marathon in a course record 2:07:48 last May, was undeterred. He covered the one mile climb up Diamond Head Avenue, which gains 100 feet (31m), in 4 minutes and 57 seconds, leaving only Ivuti, Nicholas Chelimo and pacemaker Gilbert Chepkwony at the front of the race. Muindi caught up on the ensuing downhill to the 15 km mark, and it was clear that today's champion would come from this group.
"Jimmy looks like he did when he had good days here," Barahal commented as the foursome pushed through halfway in 1:04:21, still well under course record pace.
Just past the halfway point, Ivuti surged, giving Chepkwony his queue to drop off the pace. Chelimo covered Ivuti's move, but Muindi fell back, and out of contention (he would eventually finish fourth). Ivuti wasn't done, and surged again just ahead of the 25 km fluid station, dropping Chelimo.
"At 25-K, I was trying to run my race," Ivuti explained, thinking that Chelimo would come with him. "We were trying to run together."
Ivuti quickly put 7 seconds on Chelimo, and by 30 kilometres (1:31:40) had a 36-second lead. Although his pace had slowed somewhat from those fast early kilometres, he was still on target to break 2:09. But his left knee was starting to bother him, and his record attempt --and the potential payment of $81,000 in prize money and bonuses-- was now in doubt.
"Around 25 kilometres, that's when I started to feel my left knee," he told reporters. "Although I did my best, I think I could do more (if the knee wasn't hurting)."
At 38 km (23.5 miles), Ivuti prepared himself to go over Diamond Head for the second time. His form had clearly deteriorated, and he began to look behind him. From 30 to 35 km he had run a sluggish 16 minutes and 8 seconds, but his pace collapsed to 17:17 for the mostly uphill 35 to 40 km segment. It was all about holding on now, and the one minute cushion he had built up over Chelimo would prove more than sufficient. Ivuti got to the finish line alone in 2:12:14, clinching his second victory here and picking up $46,000 in prize money and time bonuses.
"After coming back and winning here I am happy," he said, seemingly unperturbed about missing the record. "Why should I not be?"
Chelimo held on for second in 2:13:10, and William Chebon Chebor, who had drawn even with Muindi by 30 km, got third in 2:14:59. Muindi clocked 2:17:17, his 16th finish at Honolulu.
With strong second half, Zakharova defeats Shimahara
In the women's contest here, the race got off to a choppy start. Pacemaker Yuko Manabe only lasted 5 km, leaving the key contenders, Kenya's Margaret Okayo and Pamela Chepchumba, Japan's Kiyoko Shimahara and Kaori Yoshida, and Russia's Svetlana Zakharova, to go it alone.
Okayo, the most accomplished marathoner in the field, fell two and one-half minutes behind the leaders by 10 km, and was never a factor in the race. She dropped out after 30 km, her third consecutive marathon DNF since 2007.
With Okayo out of the picture and a small group of men surrounding them, defending champion Shimahara, Zakharova and Chepchumba got to half-way point in a not-too-fast 1:14:44 (Yoshida was 5 seconds back). Zakharova, who had won here twice before in 1997 and 2002, was happy with the pace.
"The race actually went as I planned," she said through an interpreter, explaining that she was trying to protect a sore knee. "I had a small problem coming in to this race. I had a problem with my knee but it was not major."
Chepchumba fell back, leaving only Shimahara and Zakharova in contention for the win at 30 km (1:46:04). Zakharova, 39, was stronger than Shimahara coming back over Diamond Head, and by 40 km she had over a one minute lead. She ran easily to the finish line in 2:28:34. It was her third marathon of the year, and she was looking to get back home to Cheboksary to see her three year-old daughter, Kseniya, before starting her preparations for next April's Virgin London Marathon.
"I will take one month (of rest) and be with my daughter," she said.
Like Ivuti, she earned $46,000 in prize money and time bonuses.
Shimahara, who stopped the clock in 2:29:53, was also looking forward to some time off. Honolulu was her fourth marathon of the year, and her second in one month (she was second at Yokohama last month).
"I just had a marathon one month ago so I knew it was a challenge," she said through her manager, Brendan Reilly.
Chepchumba came home third in her Honolulu debut in 2:32:41. Yoshida, who was second last year, was fourth in 2:35:46
Today's race had 23,469 entrants, up slightly from 2008 (62% percent of the field was from Japan). Another 3350 people entered the companion 10-K walk.
David Monti – Race Results Weekly – for the IAAF
1. Patrick Ivuti, KEN, 2:12:14
2. Nicholas Chelimo, KEN, 2:13:10
3. William Chebon Chebor, KEN, 2:14:59
4. Jimmy Muindi, KEN, 2:17:17
5. Gilbert Chepkwony, KEN, 2:18:48
(no others sub-2:25:41)
1. Svetlana Zakharova, RUS, 2:28:34
2. Kiyoko Shimahara, JPN, 2:29:53
3. Pamela Chepchumba, KEN, 2:32:41
4. Kaori Yoshida, JPN, 2:35:46
5. Eri Hayakawa, JPN, 2:44:33
6. Satoko Uetani, JPN, 2:45:19
7. Akemi Ozaki, JPN, 2:48:24
8. Mina Ogawa, JPN, 2:50:20