MELODY FAIRCHILD – YOUTH STAR TURNS MASTER MOTIVATOR

Efraimson finishing 2:01 in Portland

Efraimson finishing 2:01 in Portland

Cleveland, Oh. — Young Alexa Efraimson put her abundant talent on display last night in Portland, Oregon, clocking 2:01:13 for 800 meters at the Portland Twilight meet, a time which slots her # 3 on the all-time U.S. list for high school aged girls behind Mary Cain and the late Kim Gallagher. It was a fine piece of running by the Camus, Washington native who turned pro last year in lieu of exploring a collegiate running career, a decision that Cain had also made the year before.

But even as Alexa showed her stuff, we are reminded that Mary Cain has come off the boil. After two years of blistering performances, including a spate of records from 800 to 5000 meters, reaching the finals in the 1500 meters 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, and a win at the World Juniors 3000 meter champs in Eugene last summer, the Bronxville, New York native has come into 2015 under performing.  Her indoor season was lackluster, and in her three outdoor 1500s to date she has yet to break 4:15.  Last Thursday she finished 11th in a 12-person 1500 at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic at Occidental College in L.A.

Efraimson and Cain are just the latest two high school aged phenoms who matured early and were capable of national and even international caliber performances. But there is nothing automatic about youthful talent, and the road ahead holds no guarantees of future success.

This past weekend I was in Cleveland for the 38th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and 10Km, races I have covered since 1978.  Racing in Cleveland this year was another prodigious young talent with high hopes, and another former youth superstar who serves as a cautionary tale for all who follow. Continue reading

BOSTON MARATHON PRESS DAY

Boston, MA. — Press day at the Boston Marathon as principal sponsor John Hancock Financial Services introduces 2015 elite/pro fields.  Count me among those who is not a fan of the Boston interview setup whereby the entire pro field is presented at individual tables in a one-fell-swoop opportunity.  On paper it might seem like a good arrangement, but when most of the field is East African and speaks softly, it is all but impossible to communicate with them in the din.  Secondly, there is no way to make your way around the entire room in the allotted time, so you end up prioritizing your interviews, and end up missing a whole bunch of folks you dearly want to speak to.

But enough of my bitching as there is lots to discuss as Boston 2015 kicks into high gear. Continue reading

2015 HAPALUA: RACE REPORT

Coming April 12, 2015

Honolulu, HI.  — In the pitiless game of hunter and prey there are no guarantees, only daily survivals. Today, under its unique Chase format, in which 24 top runners from the Hawaiian Islands are given incremental head starts ranging from 20 to 7 minutes on four international chasers, The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon saw the hunters prevail for the first time in four years.

After running down every Team Hawaii runner by 19K, Kenya’s Peter Kirui outkicked Kenyan born Qatari Nicholas Kemboi in the final few meters in Kapiolani Park, 64:08 to 64:09, to take the $5000 first prize.  1:05 later Honolulu triathlete Ben Williams arrived just one second ahead of Kenyan Emily Chebet, while 18 year-old Kalaheo High School senior Makai Clemons finished 54 seconds later in fifth place.

Group E at Waikiki Beach start with 18 minute head start

Group E at Waikiki Beach start with 18 minute head start

Williams and Makai were two of five local men given a seven minute lead on Kirui and Kemboi, while two-time IAAF World Cross Country champion Emily Chebet of Kenya began with a six minute advantage on a warm, muggy morning (if you asked the internationalists) or a nice and cool day (when the locals were surveyed).

Having finished third last year in the Chase after beginning very conservatively with former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau, Kirui began the day alongside iconic Waikiki Beach with a one minute faster 5K split than last year (15:02 vs 16:08).

Peter Kirui (#2) and Nicholas Kemboi along Ala Moana Blvd.

Peter Kirui (#2) and Nicholas Kemboi along Ala Moana Blvd.

“I was expecting to run 62,” said the champion afterwards, “and I tried to push at 10K (30:07), but the conditions were very warm, and I slowed down to wait for Nicholas because it is very hard to run alone from that far out.”

Kirui opens a lead in mile 7

Kirui opens a lead in mile 7 as Kemboi suffers with a blister

Kemboi, the fourth fastest 10,000 meter runner in history at 26:30, developed a painful blister at 5K, and had to slow, allowing Kirui to open a 10 second margin.  But when his toe went numb and Kirui backed off the throttle, Nicholas regained contact on the return through Waikiki Beach.  From there the two internationalists began to pick off Team Hawaii runners one by one beginning in mile 7. Continue reading

THE HAPALUA: BRANDING A NEW EVENT

Coming April 12, 2015

Coming April 12, 2015

Honolulu, HI. — The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon is quite a mouthful for a race name, especially when you consider it was born out of the long-standing and short-named Honolulu Marathon.  But with over 6100 entrants signed up for Sunday’s fourth annual Hapalua, the event, and its name, seems to have stuck.

“From a creation point of view, we did something different,” said Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal.  “We created a half-marathon from scratch, and branded it with its own name standing alone from the Honolulu Marathon.”

Not that that was the original idea.  At first, Barahal considered a linked name that he thought lent itself to a logo with its own cache.  Thus, the Honolulu Marathon Half Marathon would be branded as HM Squared.

“That was an interesting brand,” thought Barahal, who has been president of the Honolulu Marathon Association since 1987.  But when he got a little deeper into the project, Barahal Googled the Hawaiian word for half, and it turned out it was Hapalua.  That’s when he said, ‘that’s an even nicer name’.

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

On top of which, no one had ever used the word Hapalua in any context before, because in Hawaii the word people use for half is Hapa, which is the diminutive of Hapalua.

“I don’t think anyone knew there was a longer word,” laughed Barahal. “It took me about two minutes on the phone with an attorney to trademark that name, and we decided not just piggyback on our marathon.” Continue reading

SWEET TREATS AT 2015 HAPALUA

Coming April 12, 2015

Coming April 12, 2015

Honolulu, Hi.  — 36 hours from Nairobi, but for Peter Kirui, Nicholas Kemboi and Emily Chebet, the three Kenyan born Chasers in Sunday’s 4th Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon, the time in travel was well worth the while. And not just for financial reasons.

“This is as far from Kenya as you can get,” explained their manager Zane Branson.  “There is something about being so far away in a totally different world.  You get a different perspective on everything.”

Well, perhaps the whole world feels that way about the Aloha State.   Continue reading

2015 CARLSBAD 5000 RUNDOWN

IMG_4570Carlsbad, CA. — Warm and windy, not the alliterative conditions they were hoping for at the 30th Carlsbad 5000.  Perhaps serene and swift would have been more like it. And yet, despite the less than ideal racing conditions, they darn near got world record number 17 at the event dubbed “The World’s Fastest 5K”, a moniker CBAD has more than earned over its first 29 years, as it has hosted 16 world and eight U.S. road records over that span.

But it didn’t quite happen in 2015, as Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba could only scare the 2006 mark of 14:46 set by countrywoman Meseret Defar here in the seaside town 30 miles north of San Diego.

The younger sister of two-time Carlsbad champ Tirunesh Dibaba finished in 14:48, third-best road 5K in history, but a full 25-seconds in front of runner up Geleta Burka, also of Ethiopia, the 2013 Carlsbad women’s champion.

With off-shore breezes starching the seaside flags today when the pros got around to racing, the faster overall times organizers expected on the newly designed (for elites only) two-loop course along Carlsbad Boulevard never came to pass. It didn’t help that four-time defending invitational men’s champion Dejen Gebrmeskel of Ethiopia withdrew with an illness just hours before the race. Continue reading

CARLSBAD 5000 CHANGES COURSE

Carlsbad Logo 2015Carlsbad, CA. — While it was the inaugural San Diego Rock `n` Roll Marathon that set Elite Racing off onto its national manifest destiny in 1998, a status that today has gone global under the banner of The Competitor Group, it was the 1986 Carlsbad 5000 that made Elite Racing’s bones on the international racing circuit in the first place.

This Sunday morning the Carlsbad 5000 celebrates its 30th anniversary, ironically on the same weekend as the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in China. I say ironically, because the history of the Carlsbad 5000 has always been inextricably linked to World Cross, which has traditionally come one to two weeks before CBAD on the race calendar. Accordingly, one could always find Carlsbad elite athlete coordinators Mike Long and now Matthew Turnbull camped out at World Cross with a bevy of tickets for the World Cross medalist to make the trek to the legendary layout 30 miles north of San Diego for a little R & R, and, yes, a hard race in the middle. No wonder Carlsbad has been site to 16 world, 8 U.S., and innumerable other national 5K and age-group road records. Continue reading