Legends are still
Little separates the Hall-of-Fame
duo of Muindi and Hussein
in tomorrow’s race
In most sports, having the words "Hall of Fame" attached to your name usually means living on past glories and trading in your athletic skill for an autographer's pen.
Except at the Honolulu Marathon, where everyone will be trying to catch the legends.
Jimmy Muindi and Mbarak Hussein were inducted into the Honolulu Marathon Hall of Fame yesterday, just two days before one of them probably will win the race.
Where: Start line at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Queen Street Extension, finish at Kapiolani Park after going to Hawaii Kai and back.
When: Tomorrow, 5 a.m.
Who: Nearly 25,000 runners, about 60 percent of them from Japan.
Record holders: Ibrahim Hussein of Kenya, 2:11:43 (1986), Lyubov Morgunova of Russia, 2:28:33 (2000).
"(Being inducted) was very special," Hussein said. "I thought one day maybe I would be in the Hall of Fame, but I never thought it would happen while I am still running. It was very emotional."
Hussein has won the race the past two years and three times in eight tries. Muindi has won it when Hussein hasn't, taking it twice in nine tries. In the past five years, either Muindi or Hussein have won it, with only four seconds separating them last year.
And this year figures to be another tight race because so little separates Honolulu's favorite Kenyan sons.
They have run the race together seven times in the past nine years, with Hussein finishing ahead of Muindi three times. They have forged a friendship over that time, learning each other's styles and tendencies so much so that the only thing that separates them when the fireworks light the sky at the start of the race is determination.
Hussein knows that Muindi will push the pace between them. Muindi knows that Hussein will sit back and wait for him to make his move. Then it is just a case of whether Hussein has anything left to pass his good friend.
"He's quite a gentleman," Hussein said. "You know when it is time to go, he'll go so you have to be ready when he decides to make a move."
Hussein won it last year, but isn't exactly sure how he did it. He thinks it could have been the boost he gets when the hometown crowd shouts his name, or it could have been just a lucky day. When so little separates two elite athletes, the difference between first and second can be a simple thought that enters their minds for just brief second -- if it is a positive thought, you win. If it is a negative thought, you lose.
"I hear them calling for me more than anybody," Hussein said. "At that stage (coming up Diamond Head) it takes a small thing to revive somebody and when I hear them cheering for me it revives me a little bit.
"Sometimes it's how much you want it. Last year Jimmy and I were in almost the same shape but I think maybe I needed it more than he did."
Although the pair is expected to produce another sprint to the finish, any number of elite athletes, including Kenyans Joseph Kamau, David Mutua, Stephen Ndungu and Philip Tanui, could emerge to steal their thunder. But it is almost assured that they won't break the course record owned by Ibrahim Hussein, Mbarak's older brother and a 1997 inductee into the Hall of Fame.
The National Weather Service is predicting winds of 15-25 miles per hour and scattered showers.
While Mbarak Hussein and Muindi have run the course a combined 17 times, the other elite athletes have only run it once between them -- Mutua's fourth-place finish last year.
Hussein says that could be a huge difference.
"We know the course so well," Hussein said. "We know how it can change and we can adapt to the weather exactly as we need to. Some young guys get shocked by the weather and don't do so well even though they are in better shape than us."
THE WIND MAY have a greater effect on racers who will finish an hour before the world-class runners. South Africa's Krige Schabort has never lost on the course and is the five-time defending wheelchair champion.
He is expected to breeze through the field again, especially if it is as windy as they say it will be. Schabort is watching the weather very closely.
"I don't think there is a race with tougher wind conditions," said Schabort, who won the New York City Marathon this fall for the second straight time and shattered that course's record by six minutes. "I have been watching the weather since before I left."
Windy or not, nobody will be able to predict the women's race.
Russians Svetlana Zakharova and Lyubov Morgunova pulled out of the race to leave Albina Ivanova, who finished second to Zakharova last year, and Alevtina Ivanova to continue their country's domination of the event. Olga Romanova was signed on as the pace-setter but will get a chance to go for the prize and keep Russia's hopes for a sweep alive.
Russian women have won the race in each of the past three years and have swept the top three spots the last two years. But with Zakharova ill after becoming the third woman to win the Boston and Chicago marathons in the same year, and Morgunova -- who owns the course record -- staying home after a car accident last week, conditions are ripe for someone else to break through.
Japan's Eri Hayakawa presents the greatest threat to the Russians' winning streak after finishing fourth last year despite being only 21 years old.
"I'm not sure what to expect," Konstantin Selinevich, the agent responsible for bringing Russia's elite to Hawaii, said. "I'm not sure what to expect from the Japanese runners, but if my girls don't make any mistakes they can do very well."
The two winners will receive $15,000 plus possible bonuses, including $10,000 if they set a new race record. The wheelchair winner will get $3,000.
The 26.2-mile course begins on Ala Moana Boulevard and loops through downtown Honolulu, then to Hawaii Kai and back to the finish line at Kapiolani Park.