Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, December 11, 1998

H O N O L U L U _ M A R A T H O N

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Irina Bogacheva, left, and Svetlana Zakharova battle it out
near the end of last year's Honolulu Marathon.

Women’s race
worth watching

The Honolulu Marathon
could turn into a rematch for
Zakharova and Bogacheva

By Pat Bigold


Even though the winner won't be first across the finish line, the women's race in this year's Honolulu Marathon is the race to watch.

The first through third finishers in the men's race are back, lessening the suspense there. But the women's competition has potential for fireworks.

Consider these facts:

1) Seven or eight have the credentials to win it.

2) It will be a rematch of last year's emotionally heated road war between Russian winner Svetlana Zakharova (she used her maiden name, Vasilieva, last year) and Kyrgyzstan's Irina Bogacheva.

3) One of the top contenders is an American woman, Christine McNamara of Colorado. No American of either gender has been able to win in Honolulu since 1998, when Cyndi Welte took the women's race.

Seven of the women entered have clocked under 2 hours and 30 minutes in previous marathon performances. That means they are among the elite of the sport.

One contender's sports agent said yesterday he expects to see as many as five or six in the lead pack as late as 23 or 24 miles.

''All of the women in this field are extremely tough mentally," said Zane Branson, who represents Yugoslavian darkhorse contender Suzana Ciric (2:32:57 personal best). ''That's why I don't think anyone will get dropped easily in this race."

Zakharova has never gone under 2:30:00 but that doesn't matter. She has finished second and first on the Honolulu course in the past two years. Knowledge is the key here.

And the question of Zakharova's toughness, or feistiness, was answered last year.

Bogacheva, who led for three-quarters of last year's race, accused Zakharova of elbowing her several times when the two were running together en route back to town on the Kalanianaole Highway. Zakharova vehemently denied the foul.

But American middle distance star Mary Slaney, who was broadcasting the women's race from the pace vehicle, said she did see some lesser degree of contact between the women.

Zhakarova drafted closely behind Bogacheva for most of the race before making her move to the front. That's when the contact occurred.

Drafting is a common strategy used by runners. Falling into stride behind a taller runner breaks the resistance of the wind and allows the follower to save energy for a later surge. Some runners resent being drafted off.

There were two incidents of heated verbal exchanges between Bogacheva and Zhakarova in the Kapiolani Park finish area after the race.

Bogacheva, who has had a superb year, said yesterday she didn't want to talk about what happened with the Russian last year.

But asked if she has spoken with Zakharova since the race, Bogacheva said the two have not come into contact with each other.

Zhakarova does not speak English and could not comment.

Based upon Zakharova's experience here and success on the course, and Bogacheva's three strong marathon performances in 1998, there is good possibility that the pair could wind up in another tight battle.

Bogacheva won her second straight Belgrade Marathon in 2:32:07 in April, finished second in San Diego's Rock 'n Roll Marathon in 2:34:28 in mid-summer, and was a fast sixth in the Chicago Marathon in 2:30:34 in the fall.

''My training has been very good this year," said Bogacheva.

There are two other strong Russian contenders who could be in the lead pack. They are Olympian Alla Zhilayeva (2:27:38 in Paris, 1995) and Elena Razdroguina, the 1997 Paris Marathon champion (2:29:10).

The other women in the field who have sub-2:30:00 credentials are Japan's Eriko Asai and Mari Tanigawa, China's Yanrong Wang and McNamara.

''I don't plan to blow anybody's doors off," joked McNamara yesterday. She is taking a cautious approach and paying studious attention to the details of the course.

''It's very important to know the course, and I have been running a part of it every day to get to know it," said McNamara who is making her Honolulu debut.

She was America's fastest female marathon runner of 1997. She accomplished that with a 2:28:18 finish in the London Marathon.

''The marathon is such a long race that it's sometimes not even about who's in the best shape," she said. ''Sometimes it's who got the best sleep, ate well. You could be in great condition and run 24 miles -- then just die."

McNamara is the first American woman to be considered a true contender among the foreign elite competition here in more than a decade. That in itself motivates her.

The Top women

Bullet Bib #2: Svetlana (Vasilieva) Zakharaova, Russia, age 28 ... Defending Honolulu champion ... Personal best: 2:33:14 (Honolulu, 1997) ... Was second here in 1996 (2:35:36) ... Best marathon of 1998: Los Angeles, fifth, 2:37:02.

Bullet Bib #4: Irina Bogacheva, Kyrgystan, age 37 ... second here in 1997 (2:34:01) ... Personal best: 2:28:57 (Carpi, 1991) ... In 1998, won Belgrade Marathon (2:32:07, course record), second in San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon (2:34:28) ... Best marathon of 1998: Chicago, sixth (2:30:34).

Bullet Bib #8: Christine McNamara, U.S.A., age 32 ... Honolulu debut ... Personal best: 2:28:18 (London, 1997). ... Best 1998 showing: 51:23 in Gate River 15-k ... Owns 10-k best of 32:37 (road), 32:49 (track).

Bullet Bib #14: Alla Zhilayeva, Russia, age 29 ... Honolulu debut ... Personal best: 2:31:00 (Boston, 1997) ... Member of 1996 Russian Olympic team. Other strong showings: 1997 Tokyo Marathon (2:32:32), 1995 Paris Marathon (2:37:38).

Bullet Bib #16: Elena Razdroguina, Russia, age 29 ... Honolulu debut ... Personal best: 2:39:10 (Paris Marathon, 1997) ... Finished eighth in 1998 European championships (2:30:09).

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