RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tatyana Petrova is a threat to win tomorrow despite it being only her third marathon.
Petrova on track
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The 35th annual Honolulu Marathon surged past 27,000 participants, who don't seem overly concerned the weather may be less than ideal for the start of tomorrow's race.
Forecasters are predicting a clearing trend, but the chance of rain will hover at 50 percent as five-time Honolulu Marathon champion Jimmy Muindi prepares for the 26.2-mile race. The race begins at 5 a.m. on Ala Moana Boulevard across from Ala Moana Beach Park and ends at Kapiolani Park a little more than 2 hours later for the quality runners.
The Honolulu Marathon Expo will remain open at the Hawaii Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. The course stretches from downtown to Hawaii Kai, and back around Diamond Head to the finish line in Waikiki.
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Tatyana Petrova's career arc has been just a tad irregular since her last visit to Honolulu.
Three years ago, the Russian do-it-all runner ran her first marathon here and finished fifth among women, but the 3,000-meter steeplechase has evolved as her event of choice since.
"She's sort of the usual thing that happens in reverse," said David Monti, editor and publisher of Race Results Weekly. "Usually athletes who are out on the track and go short distances, as they get older move up and run events like the marathon. Tatyana set out for a couple of years, predominately running road races. And she did well -- she was a good athlete. She did not run a steeplechase until the beginning of 2006. And in short order, became one of the best in the world."
Petrova, 24, hopes to earn the same reputation in tomorrow's 26.2-mile endurance race, the 35th Honolulu Marathon. She sat down with her friend and countrywoman, last year's runner-up Alevtina Biktimirova, and translator Dainora Puida, a former player for the Hawaii women's basketball team.
With the absence of last year's champion, Russia's Lyubov Denisova, from the competition because of a positive banned substances test in March, it's guaranteed a new person will break the tape for the women.
At last count, about 27,022 were registered for the race, with more than half that number from Japan. A final pulse is expected during late registration today.
"It's hard to say (what to expect) because my friend" -- she points at Biktimirova with a grin -- "is good, the Japan runners are good, so it's going to be interesting," Petrova said. "I'll begin slowly, and want to take it easy. Whatever's left (near the end), I'll do the best I can."
When asked whether the two would run together during the race, a brief moment of gamesmanship flared. "We haven't talked about that," they said in unison.
While Biktimirova is established with eight marathons under her belt, Petrova's done just two. But she burst onto the world track and field scene with a silver medal in this year's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships, and notched wins in the same category at the European Champions Club and Moscow Cup.
She's run between 10 and 15 kilometers per day to prepare for this race, but lamented that it wasn't enough time to prepare for her third career marathon since her previous event, in October. Another concern is possible windy and rainy conditions on race day. On the other hand, she's got a nothing-to-lose mentality and being in Hawaii allows a unique opportunity to both relax and run a race -- "work and vacation," as she called it.
The marathon will be more than happy to crown somebody new. Denisova broke the women's course record at 2 hours, 27 minutes, 19 seconds, and later tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone during an unrelated test -- but kept $67,000 in prize money. It helped lead to the reintroduction of drug testing for the top three men's and women's finishers this year.
Petrova, tested with extreme regularity as a track athlete, sees this as a good thing.
"Yeah, it's right. That's what they're supposed to do," she said, adding she was surprised when word got out about Denisova.
Monti cautioned not to draw any conclusions about a country, like Russia, because one of its athletes tested positive for a banned substance.
"Because a person comes from one country, doesn't make them any more or less likely to be a cheater than from any other country," he said. "(In the US) we've had some positive tests from some very high profile people who were revered. Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin. And I don't think that means the United States is a bastion of cheaters."