Friday, December 8, 2000
Honolulu MarathonThe women's field for Sunday's 28th Honolulu Marathon might be the deepest and fastest ever assembled by race organizers.
boasts a strong
Defending champion Irina
Bogacheva will be back to try
for her third title in four years
By Pat Bigold
Seven of the eight invited runners have time credentials of 2 hours, 29 minutes or faster and four have run in the 2:26 range this year.
"The women's race this year will be a war," said Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal. "If the weather holds like this we'll get a pretty fast time."
Five are Russians, one of whom will act as pace-setter, one is Chinese, one is Italian and another is from Kyrgystan.
It's the Kyrgystanian, 39-year-old Irina Bogacheva, who seeks to become only the third woman to win more than twice here.
Bogacheva won last year in 2:32:36, and in 2:33:27 in 1998.
She debuted here in 1997, finishing second in a heated battle with eventual winner, Svetlana (Vasilieva) Zakharova.
Few runners at Bogacheva's advanced marathoning age have enjoyed such success over a three-year period. During that stretch she has won seven marathons and set a dramatic personal best in a losing effort.
Bogacheva surprised everyone at the Boston Marathon in April by coming out of nowhere to overtake three-time Boston champion and Olympic gold medalist Fatuma Roba of Portugal for second place.
She barely outsprinted the stunned Roba in a photo finish. Both clocked 2:26:27.
"People were very friendly on the course and yelling my name and that helped me come back," said Bogacheva who had lost a lot of ground earlier in the race.
If she arrived last night in good health and well-rested, Italy's Franca Fiacconi will be the hottest contender in the field.
Fiacconi, who won the 1998 New York City Marathon, has run two sizzling times since September. But the question is, how much can a body take?
The 35-year-old Fiacconi ran 2:26:42 for second place in the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 10, and then clocked an even faster 2:26:03 for runner-up in the New York City Marathon just four weeks ago.
Barahal turned down Fiacconi's request to use a personal male pace-setter on the course.
After eight-time Honolulu winner Carla Beurskens, who is now 48 but will race, Bogacheva and Zakharova are the elite runners with the most experience on the course.
Zakharova actually beat Bogacheva at San Diego's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in June, finishing in second -- four places ahead of the defending Honolulu champ.
The 30-year-old, who has been second here three of the past four years, ran a strong 2:28:11 despite a 10th place finish at the London Marathon in April.
Her Rock 'n' Roll time was 2:29:24.
Her last marathon was New York City, a month ago, where she ran 12th in 2:32:35.
But the Russian with the best credential this year is Lyubov Morgunova, 29, making her Honolulu debut. Morgunova finished eighth in London in 2:26:32.
Ramila Burangulova, Honolulu's 1996 champion, is another Russian who knows the course pretty well. But the 39-year-old has not run here as often as Zakharova. Burangulova clocked in the 2:30 range in London and the Twin Cities marathons this year.
Lydia Grigroieva, a 26-year-old Russian whose specialty is not the marathon, also is making her Honolulu debut. She is the 2000 Russian cross-country champion.
Irina Suvarova, a rising 29-year-old Russian star, is yet another newcomer.
She set her personal best of 2:29:43, finishing second at Twin Cities this year.
But Suvarova, who ran a 10-kilometer time of 31:21.27 in Sydney in September, will be the designated "rabbit," or pace-setter, to get the women's field off to a fast start.
The runner who brings the best marathon time is China's Ren Xiujuan, who ran 2:25:32 in Jinan in April. She was 10th in Sydney in 2:27:55.
But the group leader with Ren's party said that the 26-year-old Liaoning Province native is suffering from a foot injury and has not been able to train as hard for Honolulu as she did for the Olympics.
FOOTNOTE: The latest count of entries for the 5 a.m. Sunday start is 25,021. There are 14,318 men and 10,702 women.