Thursday, February 27, 2003

Marathon heads
across the ocean to
shore up more entrants

The 26,477 finishers in the 2002 Honolulu Marathon elevated the race to the fourth-largest in the world, according to marathon officials who want it to get even bigger.

Ahead of Honolulu in number of finishers are marathons in London with 32,899; New York City, 31,384 and Chicago, with 31,106.

The percentage of entrants from Japan is a huge contributor to the number of finishers in Honolulu. Since 1989, when Nihonjin comprised 55 percent of entrants, runners from Japan have represented more than half the field in 12 Honolulu Marathons.

To encourage more runners, Jim Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association, is heading to their homeland.

"Our goal is to move up in the world rankings," Barahal said.

This, in the face of possible war, as businesses worldwide work to anticipate and mitigate any financial impact.

Sponsor meetings top Barahal's agenda. In Japan, Japan Airlines is the title sponsor of the Honolulu Marathon. Other companies such as DC Card, Nike Japan and Amino Vital contribute to the race's 7-figure sponsorship total, which was otherwise not disclosed.

It's not just runner-numbers Barahal would like to increase. "The trip is very important to maintain or hopefully increase sponsorship levels," he said.

The marathon is self-funded, receiving no state tourism promotion money, according to marathon publicist Pat Bigold.

Honolulu Marathon officials assert that their race is the world's largest "destination" marathon because more than three-quarters of its participants are from out of state. Way out of state, in many cases, such as 2002 winners Mbarak Hussein from Kenya and Svetlana Zakharova from Russia.

Coverage of the Honolulu race around the world may also increase interest in the 2003 marathon -- publicity organizers needn't pay for. The March issue of Runner's World magazine has a large pictorial feature on December's race; gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote about the race as only he could, for ESPN online's Page 2 feature.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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