HAPALUA HALF: THE JOES AGAINST THE PROS

Honolulu, Hi. – With the continuing domination of East African runners, the task of connecting today’s pro runners to thousands of citizen runners is more challenging than ever.

This Sunday The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon will contest its sixth running. Between 8500 and 9000 runners will participate, a bump up from the 7600 who ran in 2016, marking the fifth straight increase from the original 2000 who ran in the inaugural 2012 race.

But from its inception The Hapalua has established itself not just as another jog-a-thon following in the wake of a professional foot race. No, The Hapalua has been an industry innovator in the tricky sphere of athlete connectivity.

With its unique Chase format pitting  four invited professionals against 22 of the islands’ top runners The Hapalua has found a way to make the competition world-class and locally relevant all at the same time. Continue reading

BEKELE SIGNS ON TO DUBAI & LONDON

Bekele finishing 3rd in London 2016 signs on for 2017

Much of what push back there’s been against the three Sub-2 Hour marathon projects concerns their focus on time rather than competition.  Now comes word came that Ethiopian superstar Kenenisa Bekele has signed on to the April 23rd Virgin London Marathon, just days after being announced to run the Standard Charter Dubai Marathon on January 20th in what is likely a world record attempt.  Hmmm.

Now a cynic might conclude that with defending London and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, along with former Boston champ Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia signed on to this spring’s Nike Project Breaking2 (at an as yet undisclosed location), London’s major name (if not two) has been stripped from the event marquee.  So, notwithstanding Bekele’s Dubai appearance 13 weeks earlier, London needed a big name to build its 2017 race around.  You can bet this isn’t the scenario the Abbott World Marathons Majors had in mind when they put together their series ten years ago.

But as the paydays of the marathon have continued to spread (if not actually grow), and the World Marathon Majors series title now paying off as a five-year $100,000 annuity rather than a one-fell-swoop $500,000 (because of Rita Jeptoo and Lilya Shobokhova stealing three Majors’ titles via drug disqualifications), we’ve begun to see more and more top athletes stretch their wings and challenge the old assumptions and the old-line events. Not only are the old warhorses like Bekele willing to squeeze more into less in terms of rest and recovery, youthful runners who might once have gone to the track ovals in Europe are now running marathons like they were halves.

With a marathon training cycle of 12 weeks, give or take, and a full recovery assigned one month, conventional wisdom has long held that two per year was the way to best schedule a top marathon career — with exceptions made for an Olympic year, where athletes were willing to compromise their fall effort for a shot at Olympic glory (World Championship not so much).  The original five Abbott World Marathon Majors built their series upon this convention. But racing is not simply an exercise in trophy collection, it’s a business opportunity with only so many years available to stake your claims.  Athletes like 22 year-old Lemi Berhanu Hayle is a prime example. Continue reading

SUB 2-HOUR MARATHON?

OK, how can I not weigh-in on the sub-2 hour marathon experiment by Nike? First, as to the potential. Alright, yes, based on every metric available, it is possible, barely, though not probable. As much of life is a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy, it is only when we think something is possible that it enters into the realm of the doable. After the belief it is a matter of execution.

There is no doubt Nike has the resources to make such an attempt valid, and the marketing savvy to maximize the public interest. The big question for me is the unintended consequences of the attempt. Continue reading

KALAKAUA MERRIE MILE 2016

img_3885Honolulu, 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