The Way I See It
LOOK at the countdown board at www.honolulumarathon.org today and you'll see that the 2000 Honolulu Marathon is only one week and four days away.
your breath away
Even though the Wahine volleyball team might have punched my ticket to the NCAA final four by then, I won't be skipping the chance to get up at 2 a.m. on Dec. 10. That's the safest time to set the alarm so I don't miss the elite runners' bus that leaves from the Outrigger Reef Hotel at 3:30 a.m. for the starting line on Ala Moana Boulevard.
Crazy, you say.
Sure am, I say.
But there's something rather breathtaking about being there for the 5 a.m. start of one of the world's largest marathons. It's an event with front-runners on the men's and women's sides who truly come to race.
Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal makes sure of that because he won't renew the invitation of any top pro who takes the money and doesn't run.
Bravo to Barahal.
I think we all know some heavyweight boxing promoters who should adopt that philosophy.
I like the atmosphere of this race with the eerie predawn darkness and the knowledge that almost everyone else in the city is smart enough to still be asleep.
While about 25,000 entries from 45 countries stretch like a restless boa constrictor of humanity from Atkinson Drive to Ward Center, I board a very silent charter bus where I'm surrounded by a select group of male and female marathoners.
These are incredibly fit athletes from Africa and Europe who make their living competing over uneven 26.2-mile courses at speeds that would send the average person into cardiac arrest.
The silence on the ride to the Ala Moana Boulevard start is deafeningly serious. The elite of their sport, the runners sit stoically wondering about the elements and their rivals.
There are a million variables in a marathon. Every course is different. No one is ever a sure bet to win, no matter how fast he or she ran in Rotterdam, Berlin or Boston.
The marathon cuts superstars down to size time and again.
No one can lean back on his or her credentials.
AMERICA doesn't produce top marathoners anymore so the Honolulu Marathon enriches its front ranks with an international field.
While African men have dominated the race since 1985, runners from the former Soviet Union have taken over the women's field. There will be five Russians and two-time defending champion Irina Bogacheva of Kyrgyzstan among the elite group this time.
Between 1985 and 1994, Holland's Carla Beurskens won Honolulu eight times.
But since her last victory in 1994, there have been four winners and no one's ever a prohibitive favorite these days.
Since Kenya's Ibrahim Hussein ended a three-year reign in 1987, there have been eight different men's winners.
Everyone was glad to see Kenyan Jimmy Muindi, a notoriously punishing pacesetter, finally break through to win Honolulu in his sixth try last year.
And how did he do it? By sprinting, yes sprinting, past defending champion Mbarak Hussein (also Kenyan) in the last 20 meters at Kapiolani Park.
I give Barahal credit for finding a way to achieve competitive balance in the men's and women's elite fields.
It gives the Honolulu Marathon an appeal to both genders and makes it worth covering from both angles.
Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.
Email Pat: email@example.com