After days of heavy rains and high winds which left large patches of sticky mud and huge puddles in the streets near Waikiki Beach, the organizers of the Honolulu Marathon thought they were getting a break in the weather yesterday morning (14). As the fireworks display lit up the sky for the 5:00 a.m. start, only a light mist accompanied by a slight breeze could be detected.
But minutes into the 36th edition of the world's largest tropical marathon, the rains resumed and were soon heavy again, posing yet another challenge for the 23,000 runners who had registered for the race, 60% of whom had flown all the way from Japan.
MEN - Ivuti returns from injury
"I've never run in such conditions of rain," said Kenya's Patrick Ivuti, the 2007 Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion. "I ran in conditions of hotness, but not conditions like this."
Ivuti, 30, was a relatively late entrant to the elite field, unable to defend his Chicago title last October because of an injury. A top athlete with an World Cross Country Championships silver medal and a 2:07:46 marathon personal best, he faced the unique challenge of running this humid and hilly marathon for the first time while also trying to beat his brother-in-law, six-time champion Jimmy Muindi.
Ivuti and pacemaker Samuel Mwangi Gichohi pulled the lead pack of nine men up the race's infamous hill in the 12th kilometer on Diamond Head Avenue, quickly whittling the field down to six. An early casualty was 2005 Boston Marathon champion Hailu Negussie of Ethiopia, who quickly fell off the back. He would finish tenth.
"For the first half-marathon the course was not easy," said Ivuti who was trying to make time early on because the final 5 km of this course is so slow. "I was trying to push, to push, to push to recover the time at the end."
Muindi was still in the lead pack as the leaders hit half-way in 66:06, water splashing with every stride. Ivuti decided the time was right to break up the race, and he and Gichohi spurted away. For a short time, Joseph Mutiso Wambua was able to follow, but he, like Muindi, quickly fell back. Gichohi stayed with Ivuti until 27 km, before falling off the pace, leaving the soft-spoken Kamba tribesman to run alone against the rain and the clock. The race was in the bag, but Ivuti still wasn't sure until 10 km later.
"At 40K I tried to look behind," he recalled, adding, "I didn't see anybody behind me."
Nor would he. Despite slowing in the final kilometres, Ivuti's lead was never threatened. He cruised into the long homestretch in Kapiolani Park to win by more than three minutes in 2:14:35, locking up a $42,000 payday, including time bonuses. Stephen Njoroge Kinyanjui and Pius Muasa Mutuku, two of Muindi's training partners, finished second and third in 2:17:41 and 2:17:51, respectively. Muindi had an off day, finishing fifth in 2:21:41.
WOMEN - Japanese dominate
Japan's Kiyoko Shimahara and Kaori Yoshida, part of the Second Wind AC team, didn't prepare for this marathon in some far-away place at high altitude. Instead, according to their coach Manabu Kawagoe, they ran in the parks of Tokyo. It was apparently a very solid strategy as the tiny teammates finished 1-2 in their first Honolulu Marathon.
Yoshida was actually entered as a pacemaker and was trying to help Shimahara get through the first half. She did, but Kenya's Alice Timbilili came along for the ride. Accompanied by a group of men, the threesome hit the half-way point in 1:16:29. Then Timbilili, who had to scratch her participation in the ING New York City Marathon last month because of a thigh injury, turned the aggressor.
"Timbilili started picking up the pace after half-way," said Shimahara through her manager, Brendan Reilly, who translated for her. "She opened up a lead of about ten meters, but I fought back and by 22 kilometres I was back along side of her."
Shimahara, 31, who was fighting stomach and intestinal distress throughout the race, ran with Timbilili through 30 km (1:48:31), leaving Yoshida 30 seconds behind. Shimahara then took off, covering the next 10 km --which includes the 2 km climb up Diamond Head Avenue-- in 34:24. That put three minutes on the two-time Olympian at 10,000m and decided the race.
"I felt this was a good time to make a move," Shimahara said of the 30 km mark.
It was clear, if wet, sailing for Shimahara to the finish line. The little athlete with the big smile became only the second Japanese athlete --male of female-- to win in Honolulu. She was clocked at 2:32:36, earning a $43,000 payday, including time bonuses. Yoshida decided to stay in the race, and made up a 31 second deficit on Timbilili from 40 km to the finish, to bag second in 2:34:35. Timbilili, who later complained of neck pain, faded badly but held on to finish third in 2:37:31.
Defending champion Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia, who finished second at both Boston and Chicago this year, was never a factor in the race. She was nearly three minutes behind at half-way, and went on to finish a distant fifth in 2:45:06.
Mercifully, the rain stopped about two hours and 30 minutes into the race, giving the rest of the field a little time to soak up some Hawaiian sunshine and dry out before getting to the finish. Honolulu has an open finish line with no maximum time limit, so organizers expect athletes to be coming in until darkness falls.
David Monti - Race Results Weekly - for the IAAF
1. Patrick Ivuti, KEN, 2:14:35
2. Stephen Njoroge Kinyanjui, KEN, 2:17:41
3. Pius Muasa Mutuku, KEN, 2:17:51
4. Joseph Mutiso Wambua, KEN, 2:19:38
5. Jimmy Muindi, KEN, 2:21:43
6. Andrew Letherby, AUS, 2:25:32
8. Samuel Mwangi Gichohi, KEN, 2:28:09
10. Hailu Negussie, ETH, 2:30:32
Laban Moiben, KEN, DNF
1. Kiyoko Shimahara, JPN, 2:32:36
2. Kaori Yoshida, JPN, 2:34:35
3. Alice Timbilili, KEN, 2:37:31
4. Olesya Nurgalieva, RUS, 2:39:13
5. Alevtina Biktimirova, RUS, 2:45:06
6. Elena Nurgalieva, RUS, 2:48:15
7. Sayaka Maeda, JPN, 2:54:55
8. Megumi Oshima, JPN, 2:57:44
Lyubov Morgunova, RUS, DNF
Olga Romanova, RUS, DNF (pace/1:16:38 at half)