Tuesday, December 8, 1998
Despite a drop in JapaneseBy Pat Bigold
runners, Honolulu's race
might have 27,000 entries
It will remain one of the three or four largest marathons in the world.
But entries for the 26th Honolulu Marathon on Sunday reflect the dip in the Japanese economy that has affected business throughout the state.
"We expect to wind up with about 27,000 entries," said Dr. Jim Barahal, Honolulu Marathon Association president.
The largest marathons this year have been New York City with over 31,000 finishers, London with over 30,000 and Berlin with just under 22,000.
If the Honolulu Marathon reaches 27,000 entries, the finishing field could be around the Berlin total. That is accounting for the percentage of entries who won't show up for the 5 a.m. start on Ala Moana Boulevard, and the percentage who won't be able to finish the race.
Last year, Honolulu ranked third in size behind New York City and London with 26,467 finishers.
The race has averaged 32,000 entries since 1992, most coming from Japan.
Total entries in 1997 were 33,682. Japanese entries numbered 17,952, but this year they stand at about 13,000.
Barahal said participation from Japan, due to its geographic proximity to Hawaii, will continue to be critical to the Honolulu Marathon remaining among the world's biggest.
Asked if he fears a continuing downward trend in marathon participation, Barahal said no.
"I don't think it's true that marathoning as a worldwide mass participation sport is on the decline," he said.
"The next question is, will it decline in Japan? I have always maintained that it won't. I never thought running in Japan was just a 'running boom.' It's a revered activity and Japanese don't have the opportunity to run a full marathon like the Honolulu Marathon without the pressure of time standards.
"A 15 to 20 percent drop (in Japanese numbers) -- probably closer to 20 -- is not necessarily cause for panic. It's a cause for concern."
Barahal acknowledged that numbers from European countries like Germany, and from the U.S. mainland, have increased slightly over the year. But he said there's no reason to believe that the Honolulu Marathon can ever come to rely on Eastbound traffic.
"I don't think there will ever be a huge market there for us because it's such a long trip from Europe and it's hard to imagine getting thousands of French people coming here to run like they do in New York," he said.
"We will grow in Europe but it will never replace the thousands of Japanese runners who come here."
FOOTNOTES: Two-time men's winner Erick Kimaiyo of Kenya will once again be the favorite in elite field. Second-place finisher Jimmy Muindi of Kenya is also back.
The top two women of 1997, Svetlana Zakharova of Russia and Irina Bogacheva of Kyrgyzstan, are also back. Zakharaova was Vasilieva last year, but she now goes by her husband's name.
The top American woman marathoner of 1997, Christine McNamara (Colorado), is also in the women's field.