CHAMPIONS TO CLASH IN HONOLULU

Honolulu, Hi – Looking through the winning times of the Honolulu Marathon over the years can take you back to the days before the first Running Boom when 5:00 per mile pace was still the gold standard for world-class marathon running.

Sunset on the eve before the race

Even in today’s world where the race is on for the first sub-2 hour performance, the Honolulu Marathon record of 2:09:39, set last year by Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono, looks as modest as a peck on your sister’s cheek. But when you read the names of Honolulu’s champions, you begin to understand the challenge that heat, humidity, and hills can represent in what remains one of the world’s most iconic city marathons.

Dennis Kimetto feeling the Aloha spirit

This year, for the first time in its 45 years, the marathon world record holder will toe the Honolulu Marathon starting line tomorrow morning at 5 AM. Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto will be joined by over 27,000 fellow adventurers, only a handful of whom have any chance of beating the 33 year-old. But those handful are dangerous, indeed. Continue reading

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COOLER WEATHER PREDICTING FAST TIMES IN HONOLULU

Honolulu, HI. – As the countdown to the 45th Honolulu Marathon continues and the hotels along Waikiki Beach fill up with runners, all who assumed that the world’s most tropical marathon would once again offer balmy conditions are now digging into their luggage for any long-sleeve shirt they might have brought along by mistake.

Waikiki Beach

“Only twice before in race history have we seen conditions like this,” said Honolulu Marathon president Jim Barahal as temperatures hovered around the mid-60sF. “In 1986 when Ibrahim Hussein ran a course record (2:11:43), and in 2004 when Jimmy Muindi ran 2:11:12.”

The conditions Dr. Barahal describes are light north winds bringing dipping temps with low humidity. Typical December weather on the islands call for temps ranging from 76F – 87F, rarely falling below 64F, with winds predominately from the east.

Last year with light breezes replacing the traditional trade winds buffeting miles 11-15 along  Kalanianaʻole Highway heading to the marathon turnaround in Hawaii Kai, Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono and 2014 champion Wilson Chebet dueled below the 2004 course record of 2:11:12. Cherono became the first man ever under 2:10 in Honolulu with his 2:09:38 win. Chebet took second in 2:10:50. Continue reading

MIND GAMES

These next two weeks will mark the end of the 2017 marathon year, first with the 71st Fukuoka International Marathon this Sunday in Japan, followed by the 45th Honolulu Marathon on December 10th (where I will be sending reports beginning next Wednesday).

But as the sport gears up for these big year-end competitions, I wanted to go back for one last look at what will go down as the defining race of the American running year, Shalane Flanagan‘s historic win at the TCS New York City Marathon November 5th.

Going back over the news coverage, I noticed an interesting observation in the New York Times story of the women’s competition.  And I was wondering whether other racers noticed it, or saw it as I did.  Here’s how the Times story led up to the moment of truth in the women’s race.

“After 21 miles, the lead pack whittled to three: Keitany, Daska, and Shalane Flanagan, a 36-year-old from Massachusetts, who finished second in New York in 2010. Keitany finally removed her sleeves. The race was on.”

Shalane leads Keitany and Daska down Fifth Avenue (Photo by Photo Run)

As I watched that critical stretch, Shalane, especially, had the contained but concentrated appearance of an athlete with horses at the ready, all controlled energy with a tight hold of the reins. To my eye at least, it looked like from the 20-mile mark on Shalane kept waiting for the real Mary Keitany to show up and throw down because she was poised to respond.

Both Mary and Shalane had come a long way since their marathon debuts in NYC 2010 – – where Shalane took second behind Edna Kiplagat by 20 seconds, with Mary in third, another 21 seconds back in 2:29:01.  Every race has its Alpha, though, and with Ms. Keitany coming in as three-time defending champion and women’s-only world-record setting London zephyr, there was no doubt as to who the leading lady in New York 2017 was.

But as Shalane, Mary, and Mamitu Daska battled down Fifth Avenue alongside the row of elegant apartment buildings on the Upper East Side this year (with Edna trailing in 4th place, BTW), Keitany’s face revealed a mask of just enough discomfort to betray a lost cause.  If she had been the Keitany of the last three years, one would have thought she would have tried to leave a long time ago – hell, last year she won by over 3 1/2 minutes! –  especially at what had been a desultory 2:32 marathon pace early on, no more than a tempo effort for the 2:17:01 winner in London this past spring.  Daska in her NYC debut was the wildcard.  Here’s the Times story again.

… as they made their way down Fifth Avenue, one runner began to break away. Surprisingly, it was not Keitany…In a bizarre decision, Keitany began to drift toward the east side of 5th Avenue, away from Flanagan’s tail, before zigzagging back into the customary route. At that point, though, it was too late to catch the runner from Massachusetts — .”

It’s that bold section I want to draw your attention to. Here’s the question, was it really a bizarre move? Unusual, yes, but –  Continue reading

RELENTLESS SHALANE WINS IN NEW YORK CITY

Like many a Boston Marathon finisher, Shalane Flanagan walked downstairs with a tender tred after the race. The Marblehead, Massachusetts native had attacked the old course with a willful intention on Patriot’s Day 2014, convinced that an unrelenting pace from the start would discourage her opponents and set her up for victory.  But now, after the savage pace she set on the rolling hills from Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill in Newton had shredded her quads, the walk downstairs from the VIP room of the House of Blues to the main stage for that night’s award ceremony was proving to be yet another painful journey.

Once on stage, the top ten women were presented to the boisterous crowd. Shalane was number seven. Then, as the champion (now confirmed drug cheat) Rita Jeptoo of Kenya basked in the spotlight and applause gowned up like a beauty pageant contestant, Shalane stood behind her still unrelenting, still feisty and unbowed.

“You’re welcome,” Shalane said tartly from behind as I introduced Jeptoo to the crowd. We heard her.  It was an acknowledgment that Flanagan knew exactly what role she had played in the fastest Boston Marathon in history, her own 2:22:02 time in seventh being the fastest ever by an American in Boston.

Shalane Flanagan leading the charge in Boston 2014

The plan for Boston 2014 had been set months in advance by Shalane and her Bowerman Track Club coach Jerry Schumacher. And to a degree, it had worked, delivering the 33-year-old to the Boylston Street finish line in exactly the time she was trying to achieve. Unfortunately, it was nearly four minutes behind the drug queen, and two minutes off that which Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia fashioned in second place – 2:19:59.

“When I first heard of Jeptoo (drug bust),” remembered Shalane, “I was angry. But then I was relieved. I could do that two minutes.”

And she nearly did, six months later in Berlin, again gunning for time rather than place. This time it was Deena Kastor‘s American record 2:19:36 from London 2006. Continue reading

STANFORD CARDINAL SWEEP USD INVITATIONAL XC

San Diego, Ca. – National power Stanford headlined the 2nd USD Cross Country Invitational today at Mission Bay Park, convincingly winning both the men’s 8k and women’s 6k. University of California San Diego secured runner up in both races with junior Aren Johnson taking the men’s victory in 25:20 over the pack running Cardinal squad. The host USD Toreros finished third in both races with their women just one point behind local rivals UCSD, 47-48. (pictures below story)

“It was a very competitive meet,” said USD head coach Will Guarino, “great weather, great environment, and a real stepping stone to build on. Continue reading

NB FALMOUTH ROAD RACE WEEKEND 2017 GEARS UP

Falmouth, MA. – Timing and Tommy, what a combination. The end of the summah (sic) on old Cape Cod and the hospitality of race founder Tommy Leonard, put them together and what you get is what has come to be known as The Great American Road Race. This Sunday the New Balance Falmouth Road Race celebrates its 45th running.

2017 NB Falmouth Elites: (back row l-r: Craig Engels (mile), Abdi Abdirahman, Katie Mackey (mile), Diane Nukuri (’15 champion), Stephen Sambu (3X men’s champion), Jess Tonn.  (Front row: Danny Romanchuk, Krige Schabort (5x chair champ), Tatyana McFadden (2x chair champ)

Today, race weekend kicked off with a press conference at the Casino Wharf overlooking a gray Vineyard Sound and the finish line of the 7-mile summer classic. Defending champions Stephen Sambu (3x open men’s division), Katie Mackey (3x women’s Aetna Mile) and Tatyana McFadden (2x female wheelchair division) headlined the proceedings. But Falmouth weekend is very much a family reunion, too.

Inaugural year champions Jenny Tuthill and Dave Duba

Inaugural year winners Dave Duba and Jenny Tuthill were back to remember 1973, even as they wondered where the ensuing years had gone. 1975 and ’76 men’s champion and race inspiration Frank Shorter never fails to return to the Cape to join Tommy Leonard for a stroll along memory lane. And six-time women’s champ Joan Benoit Samuelson will factor once again into the master’s competition, even at age 60. Continue reading

2017 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10k Preview

Cape Elizabeth, ME – 33 years ago on August 5th a young woman from Cape Elizabeth, Maine wrote her name indelibly into athletics history by winning the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. She trained for that effort along the streets of her hometown, streets that this August 5th will play host to the 20th running of one of the nation’s premier 10k road races.

The TD Beach to Beacon 10k began as a great notion that over its two decade life has lived up to its founder’s hopes and more.  Joan Benoit Samuelson‘s hometown race has proven to be among the new American road race classics, taking its place alongside such legendary first boom generation runs like the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod and the Bix 7 Road Race in Daveport, Iowa, races Joanie helped put on the map with her victories and personality.

For its 20th running, 117 legacy runners and five former champions lead thousands more on the trek from near Crescent Beach to the Portland Head Light in Ft. Williams Park.  Local star Ben True will attempt to defend his title from 2016, when he became the first American to win the prestigious international race. But Ben will have his hands and legs full. Continue reading