Tuesday, December 5, 2000
Relentless runnerIf at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try and try again.
It took Jimmy Muindi of
Kenya seven times before
he was able to win the
By Pat Bigold
It took Jimmy Muindi, 28, seven consecutive attempts to win the Honolulu Marathon, a feat he finally achieved last year.
The 5-foot-9, 130-pound Kamba tribesman wouldn't mind doing it again Sunday morning so he could earn another $15,000 for his family back in Tala, Kenya.
He'd buy more cattle, more land and plant more vegetables for his farm, about 45 miles southeast of Nairobi.
Muindi could buy more clothes for his 6-year-old daughter, Stella, and 20-month-old son, Kevin. Maybe he'd go shopping at Ala Moana and pick up a Christmas surprise for his wife, Lucy.
"I've never seen him waste a penny," said Zane Branson, his agent of eight years.
"He takes it all home to his family. As a person, I like Jimmy very much."
It took a dead sprint last December for Muindi to beat two-time Honolulu champion (1996, 1997) Erick Kimaiyo and 1998 champion Mbarak Hussein, both Kenyans, in the final 20 meters inside Kapiolani Park.
It was Muindi's first marathon win anywhere in a decade of running.
"It's a new start for me," he said at the finish.
It used to be that if it came down to a sprint, Muindi didn't have a snowball's chance on Waikiki Beach.
In 1998, Hussein and Kimaiyo were with him in a similar situation, battling together through the 26th mile into Kapiolani Park.
Where Coconut Avenue intersects with the bottom of Diamond Head Road, Muindi jumped briefly ahead of Hussein and Kimaiyo. But by Poni Moi Road, he began to vomit and fell off. Hussein beat Kimaiyo by less than a second in the closest finish in the race's history.
Last year, Muindi timed his break just right in the home stretch and wound up outkicking runner-up Kimaiyo by two seconds.
"That's why Jimmy did a regional cross-country race (Nov. 12) in Kenya before coming here -- to help his speed," Branson said. "He knows he lost previous races because he didn't have the leg turnover."
Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal turns down a lot of runners seeking to enter the elite Honolulu field because they don't have marathon personal bests of 2 hours, 10 minutes or faster.
Over the 15 years he's operated the marathon as a world-class competition, Barahal has found that slower marathoners on flatter courses can't hope to compete with a good field over Honolulu's uneven terrain in high humidity.
Muindi's best marathon time was 2:11:33 in Prague last year. But Barahal has never hesitated to invite him back over the years because he makes up for his relatively slow personal best with unrelenting aggression.
"He's been great for the race because even when he hasn't won he's been up in the lead pack and he's helped keep the pace honest," Barahal said.
No one else in Sunday's elite field has run as many Honolulu Marathons as Muindi. Hussein, who has been in six races here, might be his top competition.
The rest of what's expected to comprise the lead pack is also Kenyan.
Three-time Boston Marathon winner Cosmas Ndeti is back after a long absence, but he's no longer at his peak. Philip Taurus, Eliud Keirin and Reuben Chebutich have solid credentials and will push the pace from the start. But none has ever run here.
The Honolulu Marathon starts at 5 a.m. and three-quarters of the elite men's race is run in the dark.