Helena & Jim Barahal -  Happy 25th Anniversary!

Helena & Jim Barahal – Happy 25th Anniversary!

Today, March 24, 2015, is the 25th wedding anniversary of Jim and Helena Barahal of Hawaii. Jim is the president of the Honolulu Marathon Association, and one of my oldest friends in the sport.  We met in 1980 broadcasting the 8th Honolulu Marathon for radio station KKUA. The following is a play-by-play of Jim & Helena’s magical wedding week in England in 1990, to this day the best wedding I have ever attended (other than my own). Continue reading


Honolulu 2014 logo Honolulu, HI. — The sport of marathoning  has gone gaga for fast times. Since 2011’s 2:03:38 by Patrick Makau in Berlin the record has tumbled  two more times, with the current clocking, 2:02:57, coming this September in Berlin by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto.  The 100th fastest time of 2014, 2:08:25, is nine seconds faster than Aussie Derek Clayton’s 1969 world best in Antwerp that lasted a dozen years.

But Sunday’s 42nd Honolulu Marathon will not be won in anything approaching a world’s best, or for that matter, even what might be considered a normally fast, world-class time. No, Honolulu is a throw-back, built for competition, not for speed. The fact that six-time champion Jimmy Muindi’s course record, 2:11:12, has stood since 2004 — and before that Ibrahim Hussein’s 2:11:43 lasted 20 years — testifies to the difficulty presented by 26.2 miles (42.2Km) of tropical heat and humidity over a course that requires two climbs over iconic Diamond Head before the finish in Kapiolani Park. Now add a tempestuous NE wind that may clock in at 30 mph or more Sunday morning, and this 42Km may run more like 50!

Notwithstanding the challenges, this year’s Honolulu Marathon has what many are calling its strongest field ever, a well-matched compilation of veterans and eager newcomers anxious to show their wares and earn berth in a 2015 Abbot World Marathon Major.

Last year under 72F temps and calm winds the main nine-man pack loitered through a 1:11:38 first half, some three minutes behind front-runner Saeki Makino of Japan, a training partner of Japan’s famed citizen runner Yuki Kawauchi. It took till mile 22 before Kenyans Gilbert Chepkwony and 2011 champion Nicholas Chelimo reeled him in. Chepkwony then put Chelimo away with back-to-back 4:36 miles at 22 and 23 on his way to a modest 2:18:47 finish. Chepkwony and Chelimo have returned in 2014, but will be hard-pressed to maintain their positions atop the podium. It has always been said that the best way to honor your champion is to invite a field that’s worthy of his best efforts. You could say that race director Jon Cross is honoring the bejeesus out of Mr. Chepkwony this year.

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The 2014 TD Beach to Beacon 10K professional fields gathered at the elegant Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine this morning to be introduced to the media one day before the 17th running of the classic road race founded by local girl made good Joan Benoit Samuelson. Three times in its first 16 years the rolling B2B 10K has produced the fastest road 10K of the year, including in 2003 when Gilbert Okari of Kenya established the standing course record of 27:28. This year the best mark for the distance is held by Wilson Kiprono Too of Kenya while winning the Laredo 10K in Spain March 22nd in 27:39.

With defending champion and 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Micah Kogo (28:02) leading another strong east African contingent, depending on how aggressive the field is, that world-leading time may again come under pressure on the rolling, but net downhill layout. Continue reading


Peter, Patrick & Isabella Hangin' Loose at Paili Lookout

Peter, Patrick & Isabella Hangin’ Loose at Pali Lookout

Honolulu, Hawaii — After two days of sightseeing and public appearances, Patrick Makau, Peter Kirui, and Isabella Ochichi will get down to the business end of their trip to Honolulu Sunday morning as the 3rd Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon begins along Waikiki Beach (see start schedule below).

Makau ran the fastest time under 2013’s torrentialdownpour, 65:28, but because The Chase format was in play, where the top pros had to chase down 24 top local runners given head starts, Patrick only crossed the finish line in 16th place.

This year Makau is coming off an injury which derailed the rest of 2013, a year he saw his world record fall to countryman Wilson Kipsang in Berlin. The Hapalua will be Patrick’s first competition since a hollowed out 2:14 at the 2013 London Marathon last April.  He’s just now getting back to real training. Isabella Ochichi is on the comeback trail, too, after an endless seven year layoff.  With the Honolulu Marathon already on her December schedule, this first visit to Oahu is as much an audition as anything.  Strangely, there has never been a Kenyan women’s winner at the Honolulu Marathon.  The Hapalua will let her test the tropical conditions.  She is healthy now, but being sensible with her return to form.

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Coming April 13, 2014

Coming April 13, 2014

Honolulu, Hawaii – Even as the Virgin Money London Marathon features a fearsome field of contenders for its 2014 edition this Sunday morning, former marathon world record holder, and Sunday London pacer, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia has offered a bleak prognosis for the sport he bestrode for so many years.

“Athletics has to change a little bit, bring in new ideas, new concepts,” said the holder of 27 world records to the assembled London press corps. “Otherwise it’s going to be just a bit boring to watch.”

That’s a little ironic, perhaps, since Haile will play a key role in one of running’s most labored old ideas this Sunday morn, lead pacer in the marathon. New ideas? How about letting the athletes compete over the entire distance? Boring to watch? How about knowing for a certainty that NOTHING will happen for the first half of the race — Unless there is an error in judgement, like we saw in 2013 when they went through the half in 61:34, or in 2009 when they went through 10k in 28:30 on the way to the half in 61:36.  Those kind of errors just blow up the race, not the SOMETHING race organizers might be looking for.

Saying the health and well-being of the sport (meaning track & field) has been masked by the over-sized presence of Jamaican superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, Haile wondered what the sport would do in his absence?

“We have to upgrade the situation,” he concluded, “attract more of an audience (and give) what they like. We have to attract sponsors. If the sponsors think nobody cares about athletics, who is going to sponsor you?” Continue reading


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


It is no surprise that the dominance of Kenyan runners over the last twenty years has cut both ways in the sport of distance running.  While records have fallen with increasing rapidity, the marketability of the sport — and its champions  — has also fallen well behind the standard set by the slower champions of the initial running boom.  Now, perhaps belatedly, the fastest runners on the planet have begun to  acknowledge that their role must extend beyond that of simple performer and include a dash of salesman, too, in the offering of the sport to the public. Continue reading