Honolulu, HI – Hapalua is the Hawaiian word for half, but today’s 7th Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon, was a full measure by anyone’s standards. Under unusually high humidity, defending champion Philip Tarbei of Kenya was able to overcome both the muggy conditions and the head starts afforded all 24 Team Hawaii runners to become the first person to win a second Hapalua title. His 64:14 winning time was 47-seconds slower than last year’s course record, and the outcome of the unique Chase format pitting Hawaii’s best against the Kenyan pros was not decided until the finish line banner came into view in Kapiolani Park.
“I was not sure I could win because of the high humidity,” said the 25 year-old Tarbei from Iten, Kenya, “I’ve never run in anything like this before.”
Though rain threatened throughout the morning, it never actually came. But in its stead, a heavy overlay of humidity clung to Oahu like a clammy shrink wrap, making racing conditions challenging for all 7000-plus starters.
After the 24 Team Hawaii runners took off from the pre-dawn Waikiki Beach start line on Kalakaua Avenue with leads of 24 to 8 minutes, Tarbei, his pacer Daniel Chebii and Kuaui native Pierce Murphy lit out giving Chase. (more…)
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.” (more…)
Lahaina, Maui – Walking along Wahikuli Wayside Park, water to my right, the island of Lanai rising like a whale’s hump off the coast. Not too different, really, than running down off Memorial Drive along the Charles River looking over to the Boston skyline where the gold dome of the Statehouse sits framed by the towers of downtown. Same sort of feel to the traffic, too, streaming on my left along Honoapi’ilani Road.
“Come on, lads, put your back into,” comes to mind, Starbuck’s exhortation to his crew in the whaling boats out chasing Moby Dick.
After only 25 minutes I come to the end of the sidewalk before the turnaround. A rain squall hits, blowing down off the West Maui Mountain ridge. We have to stop. Toya is doing repeat 400s. With the wind against, I’m going to do one mile plus out and a mile plus back.
Along the walk back, I begin considering some of the results from the fall marathon season. Among the realizations is that there has to be intentionality in the marathon. Every other race, too, but especially so in the marathon.
For instance, stomach problems in Berlin September 24th stopped 2013 champion Wilson Kipsang in his tracks at 30K as Eliud Kipchoge drove on to victory in 2:03:32, the fastest official time of 2017.
Kipsang returned home to Kenya where he retooled for New York City in early November. There he came in a close second behind Geoffrey Kamworor. But that little extra that he had when he managed to put away Lelisa Desisa in NYC in 2014 was missing in ’17, still in Berlin recovering, I’d say. His intention this fall was Berlin, not New York, and in the end it mattered. (more…)
Lahaina, Maui – In 2003 Michael Lewis published Moneyball, his book telling how the Oakland Athletics baseball team implemented a more efficient and cost-effective way to evaluate players and strategize game situations based solely on data analysis. This approach led the Athletics to player acquisitions that other teams had overlooked or disregarded, but more importantly, led to success on the diamond.
When the book came out, many a baseball expert was dismissive. But at some point they couldn’t argue with the success the A’s were having using their new methodology.
In the ensuing years, people in many other fields took up the Moneyball example to reevaluate their businesses, positing that if the old ways of analyzing baseball were in error, couldn’t other suppositions be open to reexamination, as well? (more…)
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.
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.
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. (more…)
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.
“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. (more…)
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.
“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.”
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 – FEARFUL NO MORE – MARY KEITANY – 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 – (more…)