Honolulu, Hawaii — 25 year-old Army 1st Lieutenant Stephen Marthy of Fort Shafter can forever say that he beat marathon world record holder Patrick Makau in a half-marathon — never mind that he had a 11-minute head start. The Albany, New York native sprinted past his final two competitors in the final quarter-mile to win The Chase competition at the second annual Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon today in Kapiolani Park.
Lt. Marthy’s gun time of 1:12:46 minus the 11:00 head start he was awarded gave him a net time of 1:01:46, good enough for a four-second win over Christina Wong, and 13 seconds over Kim Kuehnert in the handicap format. His time also brought Marthy home ahead of world-class Kenyan runners Patrick Makau, Nicholas Manza and Jimmy Muindi and earned him a cool $5000 first place prize.
In the Chase format the three Kenyans along with the massed field of thousands watched as six separate starts gave top local runners head starts of 25, 21, and 19 minutes for women, and 14, 11, and 7 minutes for the men. The Kenyans gave chase at 6 a.m. under threatening, though still darkened skies. Throughout the early starts the rains held off, and footing was sure. But about a minute before the Chase was to engage, the deluge.
Running through ankle-deep puddles the Kenyans never did find their racing rhythm in the challenging curtain-of-rain conditions. Their finishing times, 1:05:28 for Patrick Makau, the marathon world record holder, and 1:05:29 for Nicholas Manza, a 2:06 marathon man, placed them 16th and 17th in The Chase standings, though their times were by far the fastest of the day.
“It was very challenging conditions,” said Patrick Makau afterwards. “It was better to be cautious, not to turn your foot.”
“I liked it,” parried Albany-born West Point grad Marthy. “I just remembered my cross country days from back east. Plus, I ran a PR for 8 miles on February 18th, so I knew I was in good shape.”
A cross country runner while at West Point, Lt. Marthy also had a 1500 meter college PR of 4:02. He was among those who began 11 minutes before the Kenyans. His only worry was an injury suffered this past Wednesday, though it wasn’t running related.
“Before work last week I was in a pugil stick match at the fort, and my opponent hit my thumb,” explained Marthy. “X-rays indicated a partially torn ligament. The doctor put a cast up to my forearm, but when I tried running with it, I knew couldn’t really race like that. So I had him put on a thumb brace for today. I’ll have it replaced with the cast again tomorrow.”
It was Marthy’s debut half-marathon, and he took off in the middle of the three men’s starts, 11 minutes up on the Kenyans. As the finish neared, and the Kenyans were still not closing fast enough, Marthy had just enough fuel left in his tank to deliver that first place check. Crossing the line just four seconds behind Marthy was 23 year-old Christina Wong of Honolulu. Close behind in third place was 24 year-old Kim Kuehnert, also of Honolulu. Both women carried the full 25-minute head start on the Kenyans, and 14:00 on Marthy. Kuehnert was also motivated by having missed the start last year when she got caught in a porta-potty. While that call to nature cost her a few minutes in 2012, this year she had the timing within 13-seconds of perfection.
The top local man in gun-time was Allen Wagner in 1:09:29, just four minutes behind Makau. But because he only had a 7:00 head start, he finished fourth in The Chase competition.
Nicholas Manza and Patrick Makau went out at 5:07 for the first mile, and 14:59 for the opening three miles, often running through shoe-deep puddles. By that time they had already dropped Jimmy Muindi, but the top locals had already laid down splits that put a quick end to the thought that the mighty Kenyans could run them down late in the race.
Manza fronted Makau throughout the race, hitting modest splits of 30:55 for 10km, and 50:05 at 10 miles, well below their marathon pace averages. For all intents it became a hard tempo run for Makau who carries a half-marathon PR of 58:52 and holds two silver medals from previous World Half Marathon Championships.
In the challenging conditions both top Kenyans raced cautiously as they are in the final stage in their preparations for an April 21st marathon. Manza is headed to Warsaw, Poland, and Makau will compete in London, England where he will meet one of the top fields ever assembled. For Makau the trip to Hawaii offered not just a physical tune up, but a mental break from the rigors of training back home on Kenya.
The Hapalua Chase, organized by the Honolulu Marathon Association, pits the top runners in Hawaii against the world-class runners on a course which features at least four miles of out-and-back racing, giving the average runners a good view of the elegance and efficiency of Makau and his fellow Kenyan stars. Now in its second year, The Hapalua grew by 20% in 2013, and looks to expand even more in 2014 when the sunshine that greeted the runners all week long will hopefully show up on race day once again.
THE HAPALUA CHASE – RESULTS
- Stephen Marthy – Honolulu – 1:01:46 (1:12:46 gun time)
- Christina Wong – Honolulu – 1:01:50 (1:26:50) gun time)
- Kim Kuehnert – Honolulu – 1:01:59 (1:26:59 gun time)
- Allen Wagner – Keaau – 1:02:29 (1:09:29 gun time)
- Jonathan Lyau – Honolulu – 1:02:47 (1:16:47 gun time)
- Todd Iacovelli – Honolulu – 1:03:07 (1:10:07 gun time) :01 PR
- Natalia Kravchuk – Honolulu – 1:03:39 (1:22:39 gun time)
- Polina Babkina – Honolulu – 1:03:47 (1:22:47 gun time)
- Nathan Clarkson – Honolulu – 1:03:53 (1:10:53 gun time)
- Jill Thompson – Honolulu – 1:04:22 (1:23:22 gun time)