KALAKAUA MERRIE MILE 2016

Honolulu, HI. –  Oh,  you could see this one coming a mile away. 18-year-old Kenyan Edwin Kiptoo was obviously the wildcard in today’s inaugural Kalakaua Merrie Mile. Looking up stats on all the athletes, it soon dawned on me that this kid had never competed outside Kenya in his life. Yet he’d been second at the 2016 Kenyan Junior World Trials, and had a 1500-meter PR of 3:38.3 that was run in Eldoret at 7000′ altitude on a track where 2012 Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop holds the record at 3:37.0.

“Shoot!” I said to anyone willing to listen, “this is the guy. He’s gonna tip this whole thing  over.”

This whole thing was a Wahine vs Kane street mile (Women vs Men) held the day before the 44th Honolulu Marathon. The new event was the brainchild of long-time Marathon President Jim Barahal, with the idea being to get a sprint to the tape with both genders gunning for the win. Continue reading

2016 HAPALUA – THE CHASE IS ON

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.

Isabella Ochichi wins 2016 Hapalua Chase

Isabella Ochichi wins 2016 Hapalua 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.

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Kenyan stars Kibet & Makau (left) assess the start of Japan pro Ryotaro Otani who went off with a 3:00 head start.

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.

Team Hawaii's Amanda Beaman takes 3rd in Chase.

Team Hawaii’s Amanda Beaman takes 3rd in Chase.

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. Continue reading

BARAHAL INDUCTED INTO HAWAII SPORTS HALL OF FAME

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

The Honolulu Marathon is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is its tropical location. Not that that’s any bargain come race day. With its warm, humid conditions and Diamond Head hill to climb going out and coming home, Honolulu is by far the slowest of the top echelon marathons in the world.  Imagine any other marathon whose course record still doesn’t average 5:00 per mile pace.

And yet in its 42 years the Honolulu Marathon has etched a place of honor both in the sport and at home, long recognized as one of the world’s most iconic marathons.  This week the Honolulu Marathon Association’s president of the last 27 years, Dr. Jim Barahal, was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame. 

“I’m particularly happy that it was the Sports Hall of Fame,” said Barahal of his induction. “We have always approached this as a sporting event, and we don’t want to lose sight of that. It’s why we always invite the very top athletes. In this day and age that is not a universal sentiment. But it would never occur to us to have anything other than a world-class competition. We want to be on the sports page, not the lifestyle page.” Continue reading

THE HAPALUA: BRANDING A NEW EVENT

Coming April 12, 2015

Coming April 12, 2015

Honolulu, HI. — The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon is quite a mouthful for a race name, especially when you consider it was born out of the long-standing and short-named Honolulu Marathon.  But with over 6100 entrants signed up for Sunday’s fourth annual Hapalua, the event, and its name, seems to have stuck.

“From a creation point of view, we did something different,” said Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal.  “We created a half-marathon from scratch, and branded it with its own name standing alone from the Honolulu Marathon.”

Not that that was the original idea.  At first, Barahal considered a linked name that he thought lent itself to a logo with its own cache.  Thus, the Honolulu Marathon Half Marathon would be branded as HM Squared.

“That was an interesting brand,” thought Barahal, who has been president of the Honolulu Marathon Association since 1987.  But when he got a little deeper into the project, Barahal Googled the Hawaiian word for half, and it turned out it was Hapalua.  That’s when he said, ‘that’s an even nicer name’.

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

On top of which, no one had ever used the word Hapalua in any context before, because in Hawaii the word people use for half is Hapa, which is the diminutive of Hapalua.

“I don’t think anyone knew there was a longer word,” laughed Barahal. “It took me about two minutes on the phone with an attorney to trademark that name, and we decided not just piggyback on our marathon.” Continue reading

A WEDDING TO REMEMBER

Helena & Jim Barahal -  Happy 25th Anniversary!

Helena & Jim Barahal – Happy 25th Anniversary!

Today, March 24, 2015, is the 25th wedding anniversary of Jim and Helena Barahal of Hawaii. Jim is the president of the Honolulu Marathon Association, and one of my oldest friends in the sport.  We met in 1980 broadcasting the 8th Honolulu Marathon for radio station KKUA. The following is a play-by-play of Jim & Helena’s magical wedding week in England in 1990, to this day the best wedding I have ever attended (other than my own). Continue reading

HONOLULU 2014 RECAP

Honolulu, Hi. —  Monday dawned sunny and bright the day after the 2014 Honolulu Marathon.  Such is the game of chance in the marathon world.  For yesterday’s 42nd Honolulu Marathon a deep roll of clouds lingered over Oahu, bringing spells of lashing trade winds and screeds of warm rain in the pre-dawn darkness along the mid-section of the out-and-back course.

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Yet the conditions didn’t chill the Aloha spirit offered or received by the thousands who embraced the warm but wild conditions — though fully 4000 of the 30,000 entrants who picked up their bib numbers at the Honolulu Convention Center failed to arrive at the Ala Moana Blvd. start line at 5 a.m.  That number, however, is more a reflection of the spirit of the Honolulu Marathon as a destination event more so than, say, a Boston qualifier.  Yet, the thousands who took up the challenge remained stalwart.  The final finishers didn’t arrive at the Kapiolani Park finish line until nearly 15 hours into the race.   Continue reading

2014 HONOLULU MARATHON PREVIEW

Honolulu 2014 logo Honolulu, HI. — The sport of marathoning  has gone gaga for fast times. Since 2011’s 2:03:38 by Patrick Makau in Berlin the record has tumbled  two more times, with the current clocking, 2:02:57, coming this September in Berlin by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto.  The 100th fastest time of 2014, 2:08:25, is nine seconds faster than Aussie Derek Clayton’s 1969 world best in Antwerp that lasted a dozen years.

But Sunday’s 42nd Honolulu Marathon will not be won in anything approaching a world’s best, or for that matter, even what might be considered a normally fast, world-class time. No, Honolulu is a throw-back, built for competition, not for speed. The fact that six-time champion Jimmy Muindi’s course record, 2:11:12, has stood since 2004 — and before that Ibrahim Hussein’s 2:11:43 lasted 20 years — testifies to the difficulty presented by 26.2 miles (42.2Km) of tropical heat and humidity over a course that requires two climbs over iconic Diamond Head before the finish in Kapiolani Park. Now add a tempestuous NE wind that may clock in at 30 mph or more Sunday morning, and this 42Km may run more like 50!

Notwithstanding the challenges, this year’s Honolulu Marathon has what many are calling its strongest field ever, a well-matched compilation of veterans and eager newcomers anxious to show their wares and earn berth in a 2015 Abbot World Marathon Major.

Last year under 72F temps and calm winds the main nine-man pack loitered through a 1:11:38 first half, some three minutes behind front-runner Saeki Makino of Japan, a training partner of Japan’s famed citizen runner Yuki Kawauchi. It took till mile 22 before Kenyans Gilbert Chepkwony and 2011 champion Nicholas Chelimo reeled him in. Chepkwony then put Chelimo away with back-to-back 4:36 miles at 22 and 23 on his way to a modest 2:18:47 finish. Chepkwony and Chelimo have returned in 2014, but will be hard-pressed to maintain their positions atop the podium. It has always been said that the best way to honor your champion is to invite a field that’s worthy of his best efforts. You could say that race director Jon Cross is honoring the bejeesus out of Mr. Chepkwony this year.

Continue reading