Prepping for Hapalua
7 of 800 Japanese runners ready for Hapalua
First group of Team Hawaii about to start along Waikiki Beach, including winner Eri MacDonald on far left
First group of Team Hawaii about to start along Waikiki Beach, including winner Eri MacDonald on far left

Honolulu, Hawaii — Hawaii’s First Family of running notched another victory today as 33-year-old Eri MacDonald won the third edition of The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon in a unique Chase format that pitted the top island runners against three invited world-class runners from Kenya. Beginning 21-minutes ahead  of Patrick Makau and Peter Kirui, Eri ran 1:25:21, which adjusted to 1:04:21 at the Kapiolani Park finish. That was enough to complete the 13.1 mile loop 29-seconds ahead of Big island runner Rani Henderson, 38,  a three-time Honolulu Marathon Kama’aina (island) champion who began in the same group with MacDonald.  The victory garned a $5000 first-place prize.

Long-striding Kenyan star Peter Kirui came roaring from behind to catch all but the top two.  He posted a gun time of 65:45 over the Honolulu course which included two climbs of the Diamond Head crater in the final 6km.  

“It was fun,” said Macdonald,who was a 13-time Hawaii state high school cross country and track champion at Punahou High school. “I ran the first year, and it didn’t go very well, but I started with a good group today, then took the lead coming back down Diamond Head.” 

Hapalua Chase champion Eri MacDonald and proud dad Duncan.
Hapalua Chase champion Eri MacDonald and proud dad Duncan.

A practicing attorney Eri also assists her dad Duncan who is head coach at Punahou High.  The islands’ best pure runner, Duncan remains Hawaii’s only sub-4:00 miler. He was also the first three years champion of the Honolulu Marathon, and a 1976 US Olympian at 5000 meters.


Isabella Ochichi starts with top Hawaiin male runners
Isabella Ochichi starts with top Hawaiin male runners Santillan and Villagran

Under the Chase format, 24 Team Hawaii athletes in six separate groupings took off 21 to 4 1/2 minutes before Patrick Makau and Peter Kirui.  Fellow Kenyan Isabella Ochichi was linked with the top two local men, Leandro Santillan and Fermin Villagran, both of Hawaii Pacific University.

With that competition Ochichi went out aggressively, while Kirui and Makau opened conservatively under windy but cool (for Hawaii) conditions.  They hit one mile in 5:14, then a modest 16:08 at 5km. That’s not even a very good women’s time on the mainland. But Makau, who was last year’s fastest finisher at 65:28, is still returning from a long injury layoff, and it was obvious Kirui was helping the former marathon world record holder through the opening miles.

By 5km Isabella had dropped her two male competitors on the way to a 33:07 10km split.  Kirui and Makau hit that mark in only 32:06, as they maintained 5:10 per mile, 3:10 per kilometer pace.   

“10km to 17km there was too much wind,” said Peter who last week cranked a 59:22 half marathon personal best in Prague in the Czech Republic. “I only ran 80% until 15km today, then 90% to the finish.  I had more energy catching people.  The format was very nice. I think it is possible to run 61 minutes or 62 minutes on this course.”

2004 Olympic 5000 meter women’s silver medalist Ochichi finished in 1:10:24 which netted 1:05:54 in the Chase format. It was the performance of the day, though still only fourth in the Chase competition behind MacDonald, Henderson and Kirui.

“I would think Isabella’s time is worth 68 minutes on the mainland on a flat course,” said her manager Zane Branson of International Athletics Consultancy (IAC).

Hapalua Top 10
Hapalua Top 10

Kirui finally left Makau at nine miles as the course entered Kapiolani Park (46:11, 4:58 mile). From there to the finish he gobbled up the front-runners in bunches, passing 15 of them in the final stretch up and over Diamond Head to the finish. He blitzed his final 5km in 14:07 ripping off 4:30 miles at the end.  Even so, Peter didn’t pass Isabella until the downside of Diamond Head just three minutes from the finish line in Kapiolani Park. It is the same finish she hopes to cross again in December at the Honolulu Marathon.

“The course was very scenic,”said Isabella whose bright smile and easy charm won her many new fans throughout her time in Honolulu.  “You enjoyed chasing people and having people chase you. I was running alone after 5km, so I said today it is me and my road. I want to come back with my family and after the race go to the beach.” 

Former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau finished 15th in 68:42, still on the long climb back to the top. “I don’t have any problem with my knee,” he said after surrendering three minutes to Kirui over the final 4.1 miles.  “My body responded, and I have confidence to go back home and train hard again.”

Light showers cooled the record 4600 starters, an increase from 3000 in 2013 and 2000 in the inaugural year.  800 Japanese runners made the trip, an increase of 400% over last year as the legacy of the Hapalua and the MacDonald family continues to grow on the islands.


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