Saturday, December 8, 2001
There are few things you can count on in a marathon, especially the Honolulu edition. But one you can usually predict is that Russia's Svetlana Zakharova will be running near the front of the pack.
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The Russian runner has finished
second 3 years in a row
after winning in 1997
After adversity, Thugwane is back
By Jerry Campany
Zakharova, 31, has run the Honolulu Marathon the past five years and never finished lower than second place. She won it in 1997, but has been the bridesmaid every year since. She finished second the year before her win.
Placing second after 26.2 miles is an accomplishment in itself, but it is not enough for her and her management.
"I have the attitude that I want to go out and run and win the race," Zakharova said through her interpreter, Constantine Selenivich.
"She is a very stable runner, always in the top three," Selenivich said. "She is at the point now where she has to win more than place second or third. She wants to start winning."
And that's exactly what she did after going back to Russia as second-best in last year's Honolulu Marathon. She has earned three of the fastest times by any woman this year, being second-best in the London Marathon in April with her personal best time of 2:24:04, and taking third in the New York City Marathon and the World Championships.
But Honolulu still counts as her only marathon win. She has been on the verge of domination since winning here, but has yet to break the tape anywhere else. She hopes that will end where her streak of top fives began in 1997.
Start: Ala Moana Boulevard/Queen Street Extension, 5 a.m.
Finish: Kapiolani Park. Elite men finish approximately 7:15 a.m., women finish approximately 7:30.
Awards ceremony: Kapiolani Park bandstand, 1 p.m.
The Course: 26.2 miles from Ala Moana Park to Nuuanu Avenue, turn around and run to Hawaii Kai then back to the finish line at Kapiolani Park.
Participants: 22,842 (as of yesterday afternoon).
Last year, Zakharova ran the course in 2:28:51 but could not keep up with fellow Russian Lyubov Morgunova's course record. It started her on a year of performances that have made her one of the hottest prospects in the marathon world.
But not right away.
Win or lose, the Honolulu Marathon has become one of Zakharova's "must-runs," her final event of the year before she takes herself out of the lineup. She says that her best year of running came about when she took a break after last year's near-miss.
"She didn't run any races for a few months after last year's Honolulu Marathon, choosing to rest and change training plans," Selenivich said. "Since then, she has been running very well."
Zakharova's idea of rest means jogging for at least an hour every day, and she plans to do so again after tomorrow's result is posted, whether it is a win or a loss. Her next commitment is to the London Marathon in April.
The humble Zakharova will not make a prediction or acknowledge the possibility that she is a favorite -- if not the favorite -- she just goes out and runs. There is no pressure with living up to the expectations her recent accomplishments have placed on her, just the pressure of running as well as she expects.
This will be Zakharova's fourth marathon this year, leaving the field open should the workload prove too much.
As hot as she has been in the past year, the field is not hers for the taking by any means. Should she finish second -- or lower -- again, the fact that one of her three fellow Russians will probably take the top spot would ease the sting.
Morgunova, 30, returns to defend her title and course record and is well rested after taking third in the Boston Marathon in April. She has been training for this race for the past 2 1/2 months. She is hoping to beat her course record again this year. Joining the defending champion will be fellow Russian Elena Paramonova, 38, who is coming in nearly as hot as Zakharova. She won the Motorola Austin Marathon with a course record 2:32:55 in February and turned around to take eighth in the New York City Marathon last month.
With three elite runners in the field, one would think that Russia would be able to dictate the pace.
Not with Italy's Franca Fiaconni around.
Fiaconni, 36, sprinted to a third-place finish after setting the pace for the first 17 miles last year, and hopes the weather will allow her to push the Russians again.
It is her third full marathon this year, as she won the Trieste (Italy) Marathon and Enschede (Netherlands) Marathon ,and came in 12th in New York. She had to fit Honolulu into her schedule after enjoying her third-place finish last year.
"I return because last year was a very beautiful experience," Fiaconni said. "The environment is very friendly. When you run you smell the scent of the flowers, the perfume of the flowers is something you can only experience here."
Mari Tanigawa and Eriko Asai of Japan are the other elite runners with the ability to push the Russians toward their goal of another record.