PUNAHOU HIGH SCHOOL VISIT

Punahou logo     Honolulu, HI. — We drove through the Makai Gate at the intersection of Punahou and Wilder Streets onto the Punahou School campus just as classes were letting out for the day.  In the warm Hawaiian sunshine kids with backpacks slung over their shoulders walked indolently side-by-side, some toward waiting family cars, many others toward after-school sports practices.

Located perhaps two miles inland from Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu, the Punahou School is a private co-ed primary and prep school celebrated for both its academic and sporting successes.  Originally established in 1841 as a school for the children of missionaries serving throughout the Pacific region, these days Punahou is most famous as the alma mater of Barack Obama, America’s 44th president, who graduated (as Barry) in 1979.

Today, Dr. Jim Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association was bringing former three-time Honolulu Marathon champion Mbarek Hussein and four-time U.S. Olympian Abdi Abdirahman to the campus to visit Coach Todd Iacovelli’s distance running session, where Jim’ son Sebastian is a mainstay.

“You know me,” said Abdi, “If I can help motivate even one kid, not just in running, but life, that would mean a lot to me.” Continue reading

BUILDING THE WALL, FEELING IT FALL

Hono 2013 dawn     Honolulu, HI. — In today’s modern architectural aesthetic the open floor-plan has become the preferred design, a wall-dispensing motif to create an enlarged sense of space.  So, too, in today’s modern marathon world has the removal of barriers come into vogue, as the long-feared “Wall” has all but been torn down at the upper echelon of competition.

Born in the wispy tendrils of myth – see the legend of Pheidippides – the marathon “Wall” is what made the event such an epic challenge.  A much respected and feared barrier for any runner who assailed the marathon’s mighty length, The Wall is an invisible construction erected with the mortar of hubris and desire that stood as a bulwark against those who ran out of energy before the race ran out of distance.

But with today’s professional athletes building on training methods of the past, the marathon has been humbled.  Rather than a test of endurance the event has been turned into a test of speed over distance.  Athletes sequestered in monastic camps deep in the highlands of East Africa or in the rarefied atmospheres of the Rockies or Alps over-train for the distance.  These days we often hear of the top men doing at least one, and as many as three, 40Km runs in a training cycle, and many more 35Ks jaunts to bolster their longer runs.  Yes, today’s elite men and women stand on the starting lines of marathons world-wide unafraid of what lies ahead.  Yet there remain exceptions to the rule, and we witnessed one such exception this past Sunday at the 41st Honolulu Marathon. Continue reading

THE MAYOR OF TUCSON

Abdi leading the cheers in Osaka 2007

Abdi leading the cheers in Osaka 2007         (photo by Scott Winnier)

In less than two weeks Tucson’s Abdi Abdirahman will compete in the Honolulu Marathon for the first time.  Due to the marketplace of marathons, it has been more than a quarter century since a top American male has come to Honolulu to race.  So as Honolulu prepares for its December 8th onslaught, and the nation as a whole celebrates what many believe to be her most endearing holiday (before going off the rails again on Black Friday), I thought we’d go back a few years to a trip I made to Tucson in 2007 as Abdi prepared for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in New York City.

Though I had known and covered Abdirahman for many years, what I learned during that visit didn’t just reveal the character of the man, through him it reminded me of the character of the country he now calls home.  Perhaps it’s a reminder we all need to hear during this time of Thanksgiving. Continue reading

2013 NEW YORK CITY MARATHON IN PICTURES

Last Sunday morning November 3, 2013 mine was a Dickensian position, the best seat in town, the worst seat in town, riding aboard the broadcast wing of the lead men’s motorcycle giving commentary for ESPN2 coverage of the 43rd ING New York City Marathon on a raw, windblown day.  From that isolated outpost I had an unobstructed view of the entire race.

With my trusty I-Phone in hand I captured the following pics between TV reports.  So here is what the men’s race looked like up-close and personal.

5:27 opening mile to the crest of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, 4:40 second mile down into Brooklyn

Peter Kirui leads a 5:27 opening mile to the crest of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  Joining in the middle is 2009 champion Meb Keflezighi and 2011 course record setter Geoffrey Mutai (in red) as they carve out a 4:40 second mile down onto Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue.  All the while the scourge of a north wind whips at their singlets at the left front shoulder, flags stiff from the northwest on the north running course.  My moto driver Sean Ricci has heated pants and jacket. Smart fellow.

Meb showing early form on Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn dead into the 15 mph wind

Meb Keflezighi showing early form on Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn dead into the 15 mph wind…Meb didn’t come into New York in top form, having lost training to a partially torn calf muscle…  Notwithstanding, he used what fitness he had to drive the pace and support the event as he’s done now for the eighth time in his career… Recall this is where he debuted in `02, ripping up First Avenue with Hendrik Ramaala of South Africa, only to come frozen to the line in ninth place at 2:12:35.

Geoffrey Mutai, Julius Arile & Meb on Lafayette Ave. in mile 8 (39:43, 4:47 8th mile

Geoffrey Mutai, Julius Arile & Meb on Lafayette Ave. in Brooklyn passing mile 8 in 39:43 off a 4:47 last mile, cruising to keep warm along the brick front gallery.

Italy's Daniel Meucci takes lead in mile 11 on Bedford Ave.
At 11 miles 2013 New York Half Marathon runner up Daniel Meucci of Pisa, Italy runs ahead along Bedford Ave. His gap grew to as much as three-seconds, but it didn’t last last long.
Geoffrey Mutai in 4:48 14th mile into Queens over Pulaski Bridge into stiff headwind culls the herd

Race favorite Geoffrey Mutai — The Raptor — goes hunting into Queens cutting against a stiff headwind.  Who’s serious?  His piercing 4:48 14th mile over the Pulaski Bridge at half-way culled the herd by one-third, dispatching, among others, Meb and 2003 & 2007 champ Martin Lel, an under-appreciated all-time great, who at age 35 may have sung his final tune in New York.

Olympic & World Champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda beginning to feel effects of third marathon in six months

Olympic & World Champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda beginning to feel his third marathon in six months.  His team are firm believers in the two-marathons-per-year model, but when you have a chance to win $500,000 you lace up and hope to find the magic… But after wins in the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships Marathons, only the second man in history to hold both titles simultaneously — Gezahenge Abera of Ethiopia took gold in Sydney 2000 and Edmonton 2001 — maybe Stephen had already cashed in those chips.

London Marathon champion Tsegay Kebede leads over Queensborough Bridge, 25K 1:16:59 (15:18 last 5K)

2013 London Marathon champion Tsegay Kebede leads over Queensborough Bridge where the race always turns serious. 25K in 1:16:59 (15:18 last 5K). This is the eye of the storm before the thunder up First Ave., a brutal and defining stretch representing the second biggest climb on the course after the initial bridge crossing at the start…  You can see Jackson Kiprop of Uganda in internal monitoring mode.  The day was a punisher, there were no blistering miles. Didn’t need to be. The conditions effectively added a kilometer to the distance, and you can see the grind take its toll.

Kebede & Uganda's Jackson Kiprop in lock-step up First Ave.

Kebede & Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop in lock-step onto First Ave. up Thunder Alley.

First Avenue Slot Canyon 17 -- 20 miles; 4:40, 4:43, 4:45, 5:05 still fighting the breeze

First Avenue a slot canyon from 17  to 20 miles.  They fell in 4:40, 4:43, 4:45, and 5:05 as the headwinds gave no quarter.  Solid tempo here, not as incendiary as under better conditions. The race still looms.

Damage done:  Wesley Korir, Kenyan parliamentarian and 2012 Boston champ gives way

Damage done: Wesley Korir,(far right) Kenyan parliamentarian and 2012 Boston champ gives way.  Peter Kirui (yellow), Kiprop (light blue), and Kiprotich in orange laces getting strung out, as well.

Elite Eight still in it at 20 miles in  1:38:25

Elite Eight still holding tight at 20 miles in 1:38:25, two minutes behind 2011’s record. Of the eight only South Africa’s Lusapho April (yellow on left) and Kenya’s Julius Arile (yellow in center) were new comers to these ranks.  But their preparations indicated they were ready for a breakthrough.

Turning onto Fifth Avenue in the Bronx heading south for first time with the wind

Turning west at speed in the Bronx at the north end of the course. Not long before they’ll take another left south onto Fifth Avenue and have the wind assist for the first time…  Julius Arile has been a player all day.  He moved his training from Iten to Eldoret to join Wilson Chebet‘s big group.   Then he tuned up in the Czech Republic with a 27:42 10K ,which he won, and a 61:15 half, taking third.  Good confidence booster for the one-time “Millionth Face” for the U.N. Small Arms Treaty. In that role the one-time gun-toting cattle rustler had twice before been to NY to meet with U.N. general secretaries.  No peace today.

Mutai begins to make his presence felt, 35K in 1:46:42.. Last 5K in 14:58, fastest of the day

2011 record setter Geoffrey Mutai begins to assert his presence, 35K in 1:46:42, the last 5K in 14:58, fastest of the day.  That same 21.7 K marker had been passed in 1:44:01 in 2011 during his 2:05:06 course record. But 2011 was the ideal day, 42F, low humidity, calm winds.  Mutai lit up the final 10K in 28:45, the second half fell in 61:50, third fastest second half of a marathon ever…  We can see Stephen Kiprotich losing contact again, and so went his chance for the World Marathon Majors jackpot of $500,000.  He needed to win the race outright to claim the prize and hope challenger Tsegay Kebede did no better than third… But it was several bridges too far for the Olympic and World Champion who has room to grow in big city marathons.

Former AK-47 wielding cattle rustler Julius Arile eyes Mutai warily

Julius Arile eyes Mutai warily. He knows where lies the danger as they enter the killing territory.

Mutai & Kebede, a couple of Bronx Bombers.  22 miles in 1:47:49, last two miles in 9:36

Bronx Bombers — Mutai & Kebede.  Would have been nice to have these two on the same page. But Mutai has winning on his mind, Kebede wants the World Marathon Majors jackpot.  You don’t challenge the Raptor when he’s out hunting.  Second place is wing, win 500,000 times.  As long as Kipriotich remains in his rear-view mirror, the half-million is his.

Crossing Madison Avenue Bridge from Bronx into Manhattan Mutai begins his final assault. Only Biwott can answer

Crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, back into Manhattan.  Mutai begins his final assault. Only Stanley Biwott can or is willing to answer.  Before the race Mutai made his intentions clear, “When I decide to move, my body feels like it can run to the end at this speed.” … Verysimple.  From here to home, you and me. Ready?

Mutai presses, Biwott flexes. Biwott beat Mutai at Feb. 2013 RAK Half Marathon, 58:56 to 58:58, but this ain't no half.

The Raptor presses, eyes ahead, grim and determined. Biwott flexes, taking the ground rather than flinging it behind.  Look at that quad! … Stanley got the better of Geoffry in Feb. at the RAK Half Marathon, 58:56 to 58:58 — they were second and third.  This is no half…And Biwott has a fuel management history.  It happened in London this spring. Off a wicked pace through the half, 61:34, Biwott raised the stakes at 21 miles before flaming out and finishing eighth… Coach Claudio Berardelli had hoped lessons had been learned, and now longer tempo runs with short rest would smooth out his fuel issues. But today it is simply a case of being over-matched.  Biwott didn’t initiate any of the moves, just answered for as long as he could.  You have to admire his competitive spirit.

The break begins at 1:52:30

After only nine minutes together, the break begins at 1:52:30.

Entering Central Park at 90th Street alone and in control

Entering Central Park at 90th Street – 24 miles. The man who had one of the best marathon years in history in 2011, with unimaginable course records in both Boston and New York, followed with an off 2012… He dropped of of Boston’s roasting oven in April, leading to not being chosen for the Kenyan Olympic team for London, and finally he was hurricaned out of defending his NY title last fall… This spring in the Virgin London Marathon he was never a factor in a last-man-standing win by Tsegay Kebede. Mutai dropped out with a hamstring issue.  But since then he has been back in full form, and when that happens, no contest, really.

In full flight and heading for home. Victory number two in NYC

In full flight, a symphony of efficieny and heading for home. Victory number two in NYC.

Biwott still in 2nd

Biwott still in 2nd but broken.  It will be back to the drawing board to try to find the answer to those fading closing kilometers. He has all the will and speed, just needs to refine the mix in training so he doesn’t run low on fuel.

South Africa's Lusapho April and Tsegay Kebede closing fast

South Africa’s Lusapho April and Tsegay Kebede closing fast on Biwott.  April, pronounced like the month, is in fact named after the month of April. Not by his parents, but by the old apartheid government of South Africa.  Because of his complicated surname, a government official told him, “No, man, we can’t spell that. It’s April. So that’s now your name.”…  Two NYC champions have come out of South Africa, Willie Mtolo in 1992 — who was here in town with April — and Hendrik Ramaala in 2004…  April’s been with coach Karen Zimmerman since he was 14.  He had a sixteen week build up for New York. He came here rather than run in Frankfurt, because with a 2:08 PR he wanted a tough race more than a speed one. He’s good on challenging courses, and proved it again.

Kebede moves into second place at 25 miles, April in third

Kebede moves into second place at 25 miles, April into third…Biwott will fade all the way to fifth.

Camera's eye view. This is where I was perched all day behind camera ace Phillip Martinez with Sean Ricci driving

Camera’s eye view. This is where I was perched all day behind camera ace Phillip Martinez with Sean Ricci driving.

Final 100 meters

Final 100 meters, history awaits!

Kebede gallops toward a $560,000 payday and the 2012 -- 2013 World Marathon Majors title after twice finishing second in previous years

Secure in second place behind Mutai’s 2:08:24 win, Kebede gallops toward a $560,000 payday and the 2012 — 2013 World Marathon Majors title after twice finishing second in previous cycles.

It was a glorious day in the city. Cold as hell, but warmed by the spirit of the people and the grace and majesty of the runners.  Hope to do it again next year.  Till then, see you on the roads.  Next marathon stop, Honolulu December 8th. Still time to join the fun.

END

2nd RECESS – PUTTING KIDS IN MOTION

2nd Recess Logo     By 6 p.m. the casual pace of early evening dog walks had been replaced by the high spirited strides of the San Diego Track Club on the shadow-lanced lawns of Balboa Park.  But even as the runners began their pre-workout drills,  100 meters away a gaggle of children were engaged in their own exercises as part of 2nd Recess,  the club’s youth program initiated and conducted by top local runners Marco Anzures and his fiancee Natasha LaBeaud.

“Today we’re doing gut busters,” said Marco, a former collegiate runner at UCLA (Class of 2010), as he spoke to a group of children seated on the grass.  “Does anyone know what your core is?” Continue reading

MENTOR HELPS RECORD HOLDER MAKAU TO THE TOP

 

Jimmy Muindi, 7X Honolulu Marathon champion

Jimmy Muindi, 6X Honolulu Marathon champion

     Honolulu, Hawaii — We tend to see the finished product and think it was always this way. But of course, it rarely is.  In 2004 Kenya’s Jimmy Muindi saw a young Patrick Makau run a school race in their home area of Machakos, Kenya, and identified a budding talent in raw form.  Remembering how he was mentored by three-time Boston Marathon champion Cosmas Ndeti early in his own career, Muindi invited Makau to come train with him in Ngong outside Nairobi after Patrick graduated from high school.

For two years Muindi supported his fellow Kamba tribesman before Makau got his first break, a chance to run a half-marathon in Tarsus, Turkey in 2006.  Makau did not waste the opportunity.  He not only won that race (62:42), but met his future wife Cathreen, who finished second in the women’s field. Continue reading

WORLD RECORD HOLDER MAKAU: LONDON MARATHON TUNE UP IN HAWAII

The Hapalua    Though the indoor winter track season is in full swing on both sides of the pond, the spring marathon majors in Boston and London have already begun to loom on the horizon.  Even with the monster storm tracking toward New England and scheduled to dump as much as two feet of snow on the area tomorrow through Saturday, the mud and scuttling clouds of April – conditions well recognized in both Boston and London – still beckon off in the soon-to-be whited out distance.

While training for the marathons continues in deep sequestration at camps across the American west and along East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, we can begin to see the training sweats being stripped off as schedules get set for the tune up races heralding marathon season.  Yesterday, the RAK Half-Marathon field was released.  Headed by 2010 champion Geoffrey Mutai, the marathon list leader in both 2011 & 2012, the RAK Half has swiftly become the world’s deepest and fastest half marathon.  Its list of champions is a true who’s who of this running generation, and features several Virgin London Marathon contenders going head up on February 15th.

Patrick Makau, marathon world record holder

World record holder Patrick Makau (photo by PhotoRun.Net)

Yet one man who will not be in the UAE next weekend is the 2008-2009 RAK Half champion and course record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya (58:52), who is also the marathon world record holder.  Makau will instead tune up for the London Marathon one month from now thousands of miles away on the island of Oahu at the Hapalua Half Marathon, the second-year sister event of the Honolulu Marathon.

With men like 2011 Boston & New York, and 2012 Berlin champ Geoffrey Mutai, 2011 London winner Emmanuel (not related) Mutai, and 2012 Chicago runner-up Feyisa Lelisa of Ethiopia matching up in the UAE before going double the distance in London April 21st, it may seem an odd selection for Makau to go solo at a low-key race in Hawaii.  But according to Makau’s manager Zane Branson, Makau is more than comfortable with his choice. Continue reading

HUNG UP ON TIME – 2012 Honolulu Marathon

Aerial View of Hawaii Kai

Aerial View of Hawaii Kai

Yesterday’s 40th Honolulu Marathon was a breath of fresh air.  In fact, it was many, many breaths of fresh trade-wind-blown air as times for the 26.2 mile loop course out to Hawaii Kai over Diamond Head and back was severely slowed by the strong trade winds blowing out along Kalanianaole Highway from miles 11-16. In the end, any chance for an event record (2:11:12, 2004) was swept away as this marathon turned into what has been lost in the sport in recent years, a pure foot-race rather than a paced time-trial.

While speculation was rife all week whether Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, the Olympic bronze medallist and second fastest man in history, could better Jimmy Muindi’s long-standing mark, it came down to whether Kipsang could put away his Ethiopian rival Markos Geneti, the Los Angeles Marathon record holder and 2:04 man from Dubai 2012.

Though overall time ceased to be the issue, it required a full-blooded 4:39 partially upgrade 23rd mile for Kipsang to dispatch Geneti, though the winning time of 2:12:31 was only the ninth-fastest time in Honolulu Marathon history, and a full 8:49 slower than Kipsang’s 2:03:42 PR from Frankfurt 2011.  So, are we to look at his win in Honolulu as a failure?  He did run the fastest second half in Honolulu history, 65:31.

The point here is the sport has become so hung up on time that we have all but eliminated personality-driven competition from the minds of a constantly dwindling fan base.  We even refer to our race fields as filled with Kenyans or Ethiopians, as if there were no distinctions among these men and women of neighboring cultures.

It has been a sad, tiresome, and in the final analysis debilitating focus which has allowed the sport to be subsumed by  the increasing emphasis on charity fund-raising.  Odd, too, because it was competition and personalities which first elevated road racing to public attention via the Frank Shorter versus Bill Rodgers rivalry. Continue reading

ARILE IN RACE AGAINST ARMS

Julius Arile presents Small Arms petition to UN Gen-Sec Ban-Ki Moon

Julius Arile presents Small Arms petition to UN Gen-Sec Ban-Ki Moon

Julius Arile is nowhere near the fastest or most celebrated runner in the 2012 Honolulu Marathon field.  His PR is only 2:12:13,  run this year in Prague.   No, the man in the spotlight is 2012 Olympic Marathon bronze medallist Wilson Kipsang who also won this spring’s London Marathon, and holds the second fastest official marathon time in history at 2:03:42, run in Frankfurt, Germany in 2011.

But while Kipsang is the big gun in Honolulu aiming to shoot down Jimmy Muindi’s 2004 event record of 2:11:12, what his Kenyan countryman Julius Arile is targeting is, in many ways, much more important.

You see, Julius Arile is a former AK-47 wielding cattle rustler who laid down his weapon and life of violence in 2004 in exchange for the chance of a life as a professional runner.  He is also the “Millionth Face” for the United  Nation’s Small Arms Treaty, a multilateral treaty that would regulate the international trade in conventional weapons. The treaty was negotiated at a global conference under the auspices of the United Nations from July 2–27, 2012 in New York.

Through his designation as the Millionth Face, Arile has twice come to New York City to meet with U.N. Secretary-Generals Kofi Annan (2006) and Ban-Ki Moon this past June. But this Sunday he will don the trappings of his new trade as he takes on Wilson Kipsang and a host of other top Kenyans and Ethiopians at the 40th Honolulu Marathon. And in this new trade the concept of dying is far less literal than in his previous life. Continue reading

HONOLULU SNARES WILSON KIPSANG FROM SANDY WRECKAGE

OLYMPIC BRONZE KIPSANG SAYS ALOHA HONOLULU

Hurricane Sandy’s vast power has been such that it has now tossed elite marathoners to the far ends of the globe in hopes of redeeming their 2012 fall marathon campaigns following cancellation of the ING New York City Marathon.

Today, Honolulu Marathon Association President Jim Barahal revealed that New York fave and Olympic bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang of Kenya will be taking his talents to the 40th Honolulu Marathon on December 9th.

“We are disappointed he was not able to compete in New York,” texted Barahal, “but we’re pleased to be able to offer another opportunity for him to run, and we’re excited to have such a phenomenal athlete go after the course record in Honolulu.”

Wilson Kipsang was one of the New York elites who publicly acknowledged the difficulty faced by the New York Road Runners in cancelling the marathon, saying “This is terrible, but it’s part of life. I’m not angry. People suffered misfortune.”

With the New York Road Runners and the city of New York deciding to cancel the 42nd ING New York City Marathon just 40 hours before last Sunday’s scheduled start, there has been very little time to consider options.

Now the 2012 London champion, and second fastest “official” marathoner in history from his 2:03:42 win from Frankfurt in September 2011, will test himself on one of the legendary courses in the world, although one which doesn’t often draw the world’s super-elite to its starting line due to heat, humidity and budgetary constraints.

While stars like Ibrahim Hussein, Benson Masya and Cosmas Ndeti were discovered in Honolulu, and 1993 champion Lee Bong-ju of Korea and 1995 winner Josiah Thungwane of South Africa went on to win Olympic silver and gold medals in Atlanta 1996, this will be the first time a reigning Olympic medalist will compete in Honolulu in his Olympic year.

According to Honolulu race director Jon Cross 2011 L.A. Marathon champ (debut, 2:06:35) and 2012 Dubai Marathon third-placer (2:04:54) Markos Geneti of Ethiopia will also join the festivities with more names to follow.  Stay tuned. Given the weather, always the key in Honolulu, we could be in for a record year.

The current Honolulu Marathon event record, 2:11:12, was set by Kenya’s Jimmy Muindi in 2004, in the fourth of his six Honolulu wins.

END