Hapalua chaser Pierce Murphy

Honolulu, HI – Tomorrow, the 7th Hapalua Half Marathon once again pits 24 of the top island runners against two invited world class Kenyans in a unique Chase format. But this year, the Kenyans will have local company for the first time. For how long will be the question.

24-year-old Pierce Murphy is hands-down the best runner to come off the Hawaiian islands since 1976 Olympian and three-time Honolulu Marathon champion Duncan McDonald. An eight-time All American at the University of Colorado, Kauai native Murphy has track PRs of 13:37 for 5000m and 28:48 over the 10,000. But he has only tried on the half-marathon distance one time before, that at the 2016 Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half where he finished 2nd in a modest 67:47. He hopes to reduce that time tomorrow, even in the muggy conditions brought on by what locals call Kona conditions that have prevailed on Oahu all week.

“I like the longer stuff,” says Murphy. “The longer it is the harder it is, yes, but the easier it is in racing – if that makes any sense. You can cruise a 5K, but to do it 10 K, you have to train for the 10K. Hopefully, I can run in the 65s tomorrow, and if I feel good, maybe a little faster.”

Odds are he will have to post that time running a lot on his own. Last year splits of 14:40 and 28:48 for 5k and 10k led winner Philip Tarbei to a course record 63:27 in the Hapalua. But Pierce is used to running on his own. These days he does all his training alone, a habit he got into during his high school days on Kauai where he won numerous state crowns.

“I do about 80 miles a week consistently, and just tempo work on the roads, no track.”

Tomorrow his competition will truly be world-class. Daniel Chebii, who is serving as a pacer for RunnCzech teammate and defending champ Philip Tarbei, is 59:49 man at his best and two-time BAA 10k champion. Chebii will lead Tarbei for 12k before racing on his own.

Kenyan stars Philip Tarbei (lt. blue) and Daniel Chebeii hang loose with long-time Honolulu Marathon official Jon Cross.

Tarbei himself has less speed than last year, says his manager Davor Savija, but better tempo ability. And as Honolulu Marathon Association President Jim Barahal reminds us, the number one indicator that somebody can run fast in Honolulu is having done it before, and be willing to go out hard.

“That’s how I’ve always raced,” Murphy told me, “but with these guys, I don’t know.”

Last year the Skechers Performance sponsored Pierce ran 14th at the Lilac Bloomsday 12 K in Spokane in May, then took fourth at the Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco, and 19th at the Peachtree 10k in Atlanta on July 4. I asked why he decided to return of the islands after college rather than stay in Colorado or California.

“All the best runners in the US are in training camps at altitude. I would like to put Hawaii on the map. I am attracted to racing those guys while coming from Hawaii.”

Jim Barahal offered Pierce the captaincy of Team Hawaii while giving him a one or two minute headstart on the Kenyan athletes. But Murphy wouldn’t have anything to do with that.

“I guess I’m attracted to the challenge of it,” Murphy said with a smile.

Let’s see how he feels tomorrow after 13.1 hard miles . His challenge begins at 6 a.m. in the heart of Waikiki. The first group of Tesm Hawaii runners takes off with a 24 minute head stat  the fastest locals outside Puetce Murphy will take off with 8:00 in hand. To date, the Hapalua series is tied, 3-3, with the Kenyan pros winning the last three after Te Hawaii won the first three years.


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