SUB 2:10 BONANZA IN 2019

Kahana, Maui – The 2019 marathon year is all but complete, and it has been historic, to say the least. While the men’s world record withstood a strong challenge by 37 year-old Kenenisa Bekele in Berlin where the Ethiopian superstar seemed to finally get serious about the distance, coming within two seconds of Kenyan rival Eliud Kipchoge’s 2018 mark of 2:01:39,  the once seemingly untouchable 2:15:25 women’s record by England Paula Radcliffe set in London 2003 came crashing down in Chicago beneath the weight of Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei’s mind-numbing 2:14:04.

And for his part, 34 year-old Kipchoge kept adding to his own ne plus ultra career by winning again in London in the spring before delivering history’s first sub-2  hour 26.2 miler at the INEOS Challenge exhibition in Vienna in October.

But those three weren’t alone.  In 2019 it seemed like everyone and their kid brother took the once proud marathon distance to the woodshed, as technology, talent, youth, and God knows what else delivered the following comparative numbers.

Year               Sub-2:10s    Primary Nations

2016                  150             Ken 98;  Eth 39

2017                   186             Ken 113; Eth 41

2018                   164             Ken  76;  Eth 41

2019                   293             Ken 123; Eth 98

As the data suggests, Ethiopia is on the rise, while their Kenyan neighbors to the south have seen their once wide margin in depth whittled down considerably.  As to why, I will leave to you, dear readers. That’s a stone for us to turn over on another day.

But the number that stands out like an outrigger bunion is the 293 men’s sub-2:10s, a staggering 129 more than in 2018, with Ethiopians improving by 57 year over year, while the Kenyans added 47 more in 2019 than in 2018.

As the latest New York Times story on the role of shoe technology says, Nike’s Fastest Shoes May Give Runner’s a Bigger Advantage Than We Thought.  Yes, we have crossed the Rubicon and entered a whole new territory where new judgements and new expectations will make old marks seem as quaint as hoop skirts by comparison.

The top American time of the year came in Amsterdam where Leonard Korir finished 11th in 2:07:56. His time represented the 124th best of 2019 worldwide.  Scott Fauble’s 2:09:09 seventh place (#220 globally) and Jared Ward’s 2:09:25 eighth in Boston (#240) showed again that Americans tend to be better pure racers than paced time trialers.

To round out the ledger, Morocco posted 11 sub-2:10s; Bahrain, Japan, and Eritrea notched 8 each; Uganda 7; USA, France and Turkey 3; Great Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, China, and Israel 2; with Canada, Peru, South Africa, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Tanzania, South Korea, and Norway 1 each.

I will do a women’s breakdown in the coming days.




Honolulu, HI – Imagine what old Pheidippides would have thought of this marathon year of 2019. The original marathoner, the one who expired after running 40k from Marathon to Athens in 492 B.C. to bring word of a military victory to the city fathers, how would he have wrapped his head around Eliud Kipchoge’s 1:59:40 exhibition in Vienna, or Brigid Kosgei’s 2:14:04 in Chicago, or now Titus Ekiru’s 2:07:59.02 in the heat, humidity, and hills of Honolulu?

Honolulu record setter Titus Ekiru

First of all, he’d probably lose his mind by just the idea of Hawaii as a place, but other than that he’d likely wonder if gravity had somehow been mastered or overcome. How else to explain such running?  Yet we don’t have to go back 2500 years to be gobsmacked by the current state of affairs.

“Who ever thought we’d see times like this here?” said long time Honolulu Marathon president Jim Barahal after watching Titus Ekiru’s 27-second course record at yesterday’s 47th Honolulu Marathon.

Barahal’s head-scratching bemusement distilled the feelings many have had regarding the tectonic changes this sport has been living through in recent years.

Nowadays, rather than the grueling endurance challenge of yesteryear, the marathon seems like just another race for the sport’s top talent. In fact, it doesn’t seem to give them even a moment’s pause whatsoever.

So when 28 year-old Titus Ekiru arrived on the island to defend his 2018 title coming off a three minute marathon PB in the spring in Milan, Italy, then tuned up for Honolulu with a big half marathon best in Lisbon in late October (60:12), the Honolulu record was definitely under threat, given the right conditions. Continue reading


Looking to Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach

Honolulu, HI – The Honolulu Marathon may not be a World Marathon Major, but it is a major world marathon. Now in it’s 47th year, the island classic began as more of an end-of-the-season lark for the handful of top local runners and a few island hopping elites brought over by their shoe company sponsor.  Winning times would generally fall just under 2:20 for men and 2;40 for women.  But it was always a fun time more than a fast time.  

Then something happened, and over the last 30 years Honolulu has become a springboard for some of the greatest marathoners of the modern era who utilized the Honolulu Marathon as a proving ground for greater glory on the world stage.

Ibrahim Hussein set new records in Honolulu and kick-started the Kenyan marathon revolution

Kenya’s Ibrahim Hussein was the first Kenyan champion in Honolulu, winning three straight from 1985 to 1987.  More than that, the University of New Mexico grad twice broke the Honolulu course record, slashing three-plus minutes off Dave Gordon’s 1982 mark of 2:15:30 with a 2:12:08 in 1985, then slicing another 25-seconds off in 1986.

Before Hussein the assumption was that Kenyans were not disciplined enough for the marathon distance. Attacking 26 miles as if it were 10K road or 12K cross country event, Kenyan athletes flamed out well before the finish lines of marathons far and wide.

Think of that assumption today in light of the last three decades of marathon domination that has emerged from training camps in and around the towns of Eldoret and Iten in the Central Highlands of Kenya.

Hussein went on to become the first Kenyan to win the New York City Marathon in 1987, then duplicated that first with three wins in Boston in 1988, ‘91, & ’92. Continue reading


As we head back to Hawaii for the 2019 Honolulu Marathon and Waikiki Merrie Mile,  I recall another such trip 30 years ago when travel was quite different and the distance to go much greater.

Oh, jeez! We just found out the plane sitting at Lindbergh Field’s terminal 2 gate 50 has a mechanical issue and we have to wait four hours for our next update!  Not the flight itself, mind you, just an update. Once again I’m reminded that travel is fun for those who don’t do it!  Anyway, here’s the way it worked back in 1989.


The Continental flight to Honolulu lifted out of Newark’s Liberty International at 8:45 a.m.  I’d been up since five packing at the Hotel Wales on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side.  Not that the Wales fit the exclusive Carnegie Hill neighborhood.  In fact, its main function appeared to be tryst-palace for the weasel-minded marrieds of the area. Redolent of bad blood and old lust, the bedding’s sheen frightened me into sleeping fully dressed on top rather than toasty, but tainted, beneath.

On the ride to the airport the next morning, sleep clung to the corners of my eyes like small shells left behind on the beach by the outgoing tide.  A day of travel, eleven hours in all, had me centered on the task of reducing the apprehension such involvement in close quarters required, meaning, lay off the coffee and resist the pull to fully awaken.

After all the airport preliminaries, the silver bird banked gracefully to the northeast revealing the deep thicket of Manhattan skyscrapers below.  From above, the towers transformed into the spiny defenses of a hunkered down animal in fear.  Not that I harbored any fear of flying.  In fact, I had always been something of a fatalist.  Send-offs like, “Have a good flight” had always confused me.

“I don’t think me having a good flight is gonna make much of a difference,”  I’d think to myself, even while saying out loud, “Thanks, I will.”  I figured it was pretty much up to the captain to have the good flight since it always seemed like the fellas with the hash marks on their gabardines had a hold of the controls.  Me, I was just going along for the ride.

Before long I drifted into the completion of last night’s abbreviated sleep, carried by the hum of the jet’s spinning turbines.  Hours later I awoke – the captain was still having a “good flight” up front – as the latest James Bond movie, “Living Daylights” rolled its closing credits while window shades lifted throughout the cabin.

Outside beneath a broken cloud cover the Rocky Mountains jutted skyward, while rivers meandered through the snow looking like chocolate syrup squeezed into a glass of cold milk.

As we glided into San Francisco over the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, we were told there would be a one-hour layover as the plane was refueled and cleaned for the final 5 1/2 hour flight to Honolulu.  Being a seasoned frequent flier I knew it was best to wait until the plane was fully boarded before re-entering, as the air-conditioning systems in airplanes never worked very well on the ground.  So sitting there in the back of the Continental flight to Honolulu partially boarded and not ready for takeoff would have been a rookie mistake.

Before off-loading, I left a “Seat Occupied” sign on my cushion, as well as my journal and magazines in the pocket below the tray table. But when I finally did re-board, lo and behold as I marched through the crowded compartment, there in full battle dress plopped comfortably in seat 34A – MY seat – was a nun.  Well now. Continue reading