Honolulu, HI. – At a time when interest in the outcome of elite races is struggling to connect with an audience, the Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon has designed a format that brings the world-class into competition with the local-class, while making hunters and prey out of all. In today’s version of the Hapalua’s unique Chase format, Kenya’s Isabella Ochichi used her seven-minute head start over scratch runners Patrick Makau and Erick Kibet to notch the overall win and take home the Hapalua title and $5000 top prize. Former marathon world record holder Makau and 61-minute half-marathoner Kibet finished together in 1:05:35, which was only good for fourth and fifth in the Chase.
The Hapalua Chase brings 24 of the islands’ best runners together as Team Hawaii to compete against four invited professionals. Team Hawaii runners get head starts, ranging from 23 minutes to six minutes, launching from Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki Beach.
2004 Olympic 5000m silver medalist and two-time Honolulu Marathon third placer Ochichi completed the challenging Diamond Head dominated course in 1:10:37, besting Japanese pro Ryotaro Otani – who was given a three-minute cushion – by 59-seconds.
17 year-old Iolani High School senior Amanda Beaman finished third with a gun time of 1:25:23. But with a 20-minute head start the 2015 Hawaii state cross country and 3000 meter champion was able to just hold off fast closing Makau and Kibet who ran the entire distance side-by-side.
“It was fun,” said Ochichi in the sun-spashed post-race gathering. “You were running away from someone as well as running after someone.”
Two years ago Isabella came to the Hapalua, but was only awarded a five-minute advantage, which left her 1:10:24 gun time in only fourth place at the Kapiolani Park finish. Today, she caught Team Hawaii’s Amanda Beaman at 19K going up Diamond Head and cruised home the clear winner.
“This is my fourth Hapalua,” said 36 year-old Bree Wee of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii who finished third in the inaugural Hapalua Chase in 2012, but 20th today. “It’s my favorite race of the year. The concept is so unique. You can’t be so hungry to catch those in front of you that you over cook it, or go out too conservatively if those in front are having a good day. It is one of those races you really have to focus on yourself.”
The Chase format is the brain-child of Honolulu Marathon president Jim Barahal, who was once one of the top runners on the islands when he moved to Honolulu from his native Michigan in the late 1970s.
“A lot of race organizers like me have been doing it a long time,” said Barahal. “And after a while you can lose contact with the cutting edge in the running community, because the top local runners are in their 20s and 30s, and we aren’t racing with them anymore. The Chase reconnects us to that community, and that alone makes it a good idea.
“But we always want to be a world-class race that involves fast running. We don’t just want to be covered on the features page, we want to be on the sports page. But you have to create a competition. We don’t want to have one guy winning by seven or eight minutes. That’s embarrassing. So we came up with a way to bring in world-class runners and connect them to the local running community.”
One of the biggest applause of the day rose for 11 year-old Nicholas Pugliese, a fifth-grader at Honolulu’s Punahou School who was competing in his first half-marathon, and finished in 119th place in a sparkling 1:39:38.
“I did five weeks of training,” explained young Nicholas. “My goal was 1:40. My dad gave me the race plan. I was inspired by him, because he has a knee injury and couldn’t run, and by my granddad, too, who would have turned 80 today (granddad Maseo passed two years ago).”
The Hapalua is the fastest growing sporting event on the islands. Nearly 8000 runners signed up for fifth annual, including more than 1700 from Japan.
“It’s huge in the running community,” enthused Kona triathlete Bree Wee. “Year one was somewhat look and see, but by year two it was huge. 8000 runners is really big for Hawaii.”
Not such a bad circumstance for any race to chase.
CHASE RESULTS –
- Isabella Ochichi, 28, Ken. – 1:03:37 (adjusted) – gun time – 1:10:37
- Ryotaro Otani, 25, Jpn – 1:04:38 (adjusted) – gun time – 1:07:38
- Amanda Beaman, 17, HI. 1:05:23 (adjusted) – gun time – 1:25:23
- Patrick Makau, 31, Ken. 1:05:35 (scratch)
- Erick Kibet, 28, Ken. 1:05:35 (scratch)