Saturday, December 11, 1999

Marathon makes
for intriguing strategy

The top men's runners will
have difficult decisions to make
as the race unfolds tomorrow

Field might top 26,000
Traffic restrictions planned

By Pat Bigold


The Honolulu Marathon is unlike other 26.2-mile races courses that lure world class runners.

The heat, humidity, gusting winds off the ocean and challenging terrain take a much higher toll than races like the Boston, New York City, London, Chicago, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam marathons.

That's why Ken-yan Ibrahim Hussein's Honolulu race record of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 43 seconds is considered extraordinary and has stood since 1986.

Another Kenyan, Cosmas Ndeti, set a Boston course re-cord of 2:07:15 in 1994, but he never finished higher than second here.

The 1996 Olym-pic gold medalist, Josiah Thungwane of South Africa, could finish no faster than 2:16:08 when he won here the year before.

When an extra hill was added in a minor re-routing of the course in 1992, the challenge increased.

"If you can run a 2:06 marathon some place else, you can run 2:10 here," Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal said.

Enter Fred Kiprop, ranked history's sixth fastest marathoner by Runner's World magazine.

Kiprop clocked a stunning 2:06:47 at Amsterdam on Oct. 17.

He is a late entry -- a surprise entry -- and he has the strongly credentialed men's field feeling a bit uneasy.

"I wonder if Fred is rabbiting or is he here to finish?" said defending Honolulu champion Mbarak Hussein of Kenya after arriving last night.

Hussein, younger brother of the race record holder, knows how unlikely it is for someone who's just accomplished one of the all-time fastest marathon times to compete seriously in Honolulu with only eight weeks recovery time. Most bodies need a lot more rest.

"But somebody like that coming in here, you don't want to underestimate him," said Hussein. "He could be very serious."

The 32-year-old Hussein, who had two fourths (1993-94) and one fifth-place finish (1997) before winning here, said a high-level marathon race like Honolulu tests the mind as well as the body.

Kiprop's arrival has every contender's mind on high alert.

The initial rumor was that Kiprop was coming just to pace Fila teammate and Kenyan countryman Erick Kimaiyo.

The 30-year-old Kimaiyo, who won here in 1996 and 1997, is looking for his first victory in two years.

That seemed to make sense for someone in Kiprop's situation. Run 10 miles or so at a breakneck pace, kill off those who take the bait. Wish Kimaiyo good luck and drop out.

Yesterday, the 25-year-old didn't deny he's a rabbit. But he said if he feels good just before the 19-mile mark - well, he might just go for the whole enchilada.

"If I am comfortable by then, then automatically I know I am going to win," he said. "It depends on me."

A world-class marathoner like Kiprop will sometimes try to thin out a pack of front-runners by making a surge at a point where no one expects a change in pace. It upsets the timing of the other runners and sometimes allows the surging runner to break away.

"You don't want to make a mistake," said Hussein. "You don't want to overlook something and let somebody run away. I remember in 1993 when the Korean guy (Bong Ju Lee) won, everybody let him go and he won. At 20 miles, the guy was gone. By the time we started chasing him, it was hard."

Kiprop is having the kind of year no one has ever had coming to race here. He defended his title in Australia's Gold Coast Mara-thon (2:14:04) in July, and ran a strong fourth-place time in the Paris Marathon (2:08:44) in April.

But Hussein, who set a personal marathon record with a 2:10:45 in the Suzuki Rock 'n roll Marathon in June, said Kiprop is not the only contender who makes him nervous this year.

Kenyan Douglas Wakihuri, the 36-year-old former Olympian, world champion and New York City champion, was a bigger name in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But he's no relic.

"This kind of race favors Wakihuri," said Hussein. "This is a tough place to run and he's a strong runner, strong finisher. In Honolulu, if you're strong, you'll do good."

Wakihuri's agent, Martin Franklin, agrees.

"He won in Rome where it was hot," said Franklin.

"He won in New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games, where it's hilly."

Told that there is chance of rain tomorrow morning, Wakihuri snapped, "That's not rain."

Having trained in the punishing torrential downpours of Nairobi, Kenya, the past two months, Wakihuri said he's not about to be impressed by Honolulu's liquid sunshine.

"Running in Nairobi, your muscles get stronger because you run in mud and the bottom of your shoes get very heavy," he said.

"The person who can stand the heat and dehydration will win the race. That's the key here. It's not the speed, it's the strength that matters here."

Asked if he could handle a finish as fast as last year's, when Hussein beat Kimaiyo in a near photo finish (2:14:53), Wakihuri never changed his expression.

"That's fine," he said. "I did that in London in 1989. There were six seconds between the first and third guy."

Wakihuri, who owns a personal best of 27:59 at 10 kilometers, won that race in 2:09:03.

"Making a judgement is hard," said Hussein.

"If one of these guys makes a move, you really have to think. Especially if the weather is real bad and somebody puts in a 4:40 or 4:30 mile. It would really be a hard decision whether to go with him or not."

Honolulu Marathon

Bullet Start:: 5 a.m. tomorrow, intersection of Ala Moana Blvd. and Queen St. Extension.
Bullet Course: 26.2 miles (to Hawaii Kai and return to Kapiolani Park finish).
Bullet Results:

Field might
top 26,000

By Pat Bigold


The entry field for tomorrow's 27th Honolulu Marathon was estimated at more than 26,000 as registration closed last night at the Outrigger Reef Hotel with a long line of runners still waiting to pay the late entry fee of $100.

The official figure releases as of 6:10 p.m. was 25,840 with about 200 entries yet to be entered into the computer. Registration resumed today and will continue until 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Ocean Tower building of the Outrigger Reef.

The marathon starts at 5 a.m. tomorrow at the intersection of Ala Moana Blvd. and Queen St. Extension.

Last year, the race was the third largest marathon in the world behind New York City and London. It had an entry field of 27,704 and 22,112 finishers.

The biggest entry field for the Honolulu Marathon was in 1995, when 34,434 registered and 27,022 finished.

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