Ivuti is not taking the competition lightly


POSTED: Saturday, December 12, 2009

Even after enduring the equivalent of a full day in the air just getting to Hawaii, Patrick Ivuti is ready to run.

The Honolulu Marathon men's defending champion arrived after spending a total of about 24 hours flying from Nairobi to Amsterdam and then to Tokyo before touching down on Oahu early yesterday.

“;I'm thankful that I'm here, finally,”; he said with a laugh, hours after settling into his Waikiki hotel.

After running away with last year's title, Ivuti might appear to be the odds-on favorite to capture back-to-back victories. The 31-year-old Kenyan won the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 35 seconds in his Honolulu Marathon debut, finishing more than 3 minutes ahead of Stephen Njoroge-Kinyanjui despite wet, rainy conditions.

Ivuti went on to win the Prague Marathon in May in a course-record time of 2:07:48, further burnishing the credentials he's earned on the international circuit since winning the 2007 Chicago Marathon. Two months ago, he returned to Chicago to serve as pacesetter for 2008 Olympic marathon gold medalist Sammy Wanjiru, spurring his countryman to victory and a course record before calling it a day after around two-thirds of the race.

“;That's a great tempo run,”; said veteran broadcast race commentator Toni Reavis. “;(Ivuti) seems to be focused, he's prepared well, he's been a major champion. So, from that standpoint, it starts looking pretty good (for him).”;

By all accounts though, Ivuti has ample competition this year. Aiming to prevent another runaway win devoid of drama, marathon officials assembled a fleet-footed field that includes four men who have clocked 2:07 times.





        » When: Tomorrow, 5 a.m. (elite runners)

» Start/finish: In front of Ala Moana Park to Kapiolani Park


» Entries: About 24,000


» Last year's winners: Men: Patrick Ivuti, Kenya. Women: Kiyoko Shimahara, Japan.


Benson Cherono, 25, already has two career marathon wins (Los Angeles and Beijing) and ran a 2:07:58 in Milan three years ago. Nicholas Chelimo Kipkorir, 26, is bidding for his first major marathon win after posting a personal-best time of 2:07:46 at the Amsterdam Marathon in October. And six-time Honolulu Marathon winner Jimmy Muindi ran a 2:07:50 in Rotterdam in 2005, a year after he set the current Honolulu Marathon race record of 2:11:12.

“;I think we have one of the best (fields) we've ever put together,”; said Jon Cross, the race co-director. “;We've got the fastest guys we've ever had.”;

Other contenders for the first-place prize of $40,000 include Joseph Maregu, who ran a 59-minute half-marathon, and William Chebon (2:11:58 marathon in May).

Besides Ivuti and his brother-in-law Muindi, all of the elite male runners in the Kenyan contingent will be making their Honolulu Marathon debut. But the reigning champ isn't underestimating his competition.

“;This year, I see some people who are also able to win, but I'm also prepared to do better than I did last year,”; Ivuti said.

In collaboration with the runners' agents, race officials have instructed pacesetters Samuel Mwangi-Gichochi and Gilbert Chepkwony, who both have 59-minute half-marathon speed, to run 1 minute faster than race-record pace. Mwangi-Gichochi is back for his second stint as a “;rabbit”; after finishing eighth overall last year.

“;I'm a believer that the course record could (fall),”; said Cross. “;If the weather is really good, I think we can have a fast race.”;

Others are more guarded in assessing the likelihood of Ivuti or another contender claiming the $15,000 bonus awarded for setting a record.

“;It's just like The Eddie (Aikau Big Wave Invitational),”; said Reavis. “;How often do you get the perfect day for a marathon? Rarely. It's really luck of the draw. You need a lot of different factors being just right.”;

Rainy conditions affected the pace the past two years. The 26.2-mile course also turns tough after the first flat 10K (6.2 miles). With than in mind, the prospects of a race record could turn iffy quickly.

“;The course is not built for speed,”; said David Monti, editor and publisher of Race Results Weekly, pointing out that runners must twice run up Diamond Head, which he ranked ninth among his 10 toughest hills in U.S. road racing in a piece for Runner's World magazine last year.