FROM HONOLULU TO THE WORLD

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

“THE TASTE FOR FATIGUE”

(21 Dec. 2018) Today, in this season to be jolly, we wish a happy 74th birthday to famed Italian Coach Renato Canova, who has prepared many a great runner for what were the athletic performances of their lives.

In the summer of 2012, while sipping tea at the Kerio View Hotel in Iten, Kenya, I asked Coach Canova if he were put in charge of the U.S. distance program what changes he would make to maximize performance against the Kenyan runners who have dominated the sport for so long.

“First thing, the U.S. is better than Europe,” said the white-haired Italian as we looked out over the sweep of the adjoining Rift Valley. “Their 5 and 10-kilometer base is already moving. When you start getting sub-27 minute 10K, and many, many 27:10, 27:20 – 27:20 is enough to run a marathon in 2:05.

“But for many years there was the mentality in Europe and the USA to go for very high quality (training), but to reduce the volume. So we had a pyramid that was very, very high, but the base was very, very narrow. And it could not produce any results.  So you need to increase the base while maintaining the same difference in the parameters (top to bottom). Then the pyramid becomes higher because the base has become higher, not because you have made the top higher. Continue reading

2018 HONOLULU MARATHON PREVIEW

Honolulu, HI. – In both 2016 & 2017, the Honolulu Marathon produced the fastest men’s marathon times in the United States.  Perhaps some of that anomaly can be traced to the Chicago Marathon dropping pacesetters for three years. But in the last two years Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono (2:09:38 & 2:08:27) slashed almost three minutes off Jimmy Muindi’s 2004 Honolulu course record of 2:11:12, a record that itself stood for 18 years after Ibrahim Hussein brought Kenyan-style racing to  Oahu in the mid 1980s. 

This year both Cherono and two-time women’s champion Brigid Kosgei have not returned to defend their titles, leaving the 2018 Honolulu Marathon wide open in both genders. Continue reading

INTERVIEW – DR. JIM BARAHAL, PRES. HONOLULU MARATHON ASSOCIATION

Honolulu, Hi – Now in his 32nd year as the president of the Honolulu Marathon Association, Dr. Jim Barahal is the longest serving CEO among the world’s top marathons. During his tenure Honolulu has grown from 10,000 entrants into the fourth largest marathon in the United States.

This week over 34,000 runners and walkers will take to the streets of Honolulu in three separate events, the Kalakaua Merrie Mile on Saturday, then the Start to Park 10K and the 46th Honolulu Marathon on Sunday morning. We sat down with Jim at the marathon expo at the Hawaii Convention Center yesterday to talk marathon business and sport.

Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal

JB: The challenge for us as the fourth largest marathon in the United States is we have the smallest metropolitan area of all the big marathons. New York, Chicago, Boston, we will never be as big as the very biggest races, and Los Angeles and Houston and Marine Corps in Washington DC also have much bigger markets to draw from than Honolulu. So for a long time our second market has been Japan. But there have been changes in that market in recent years with the rise of new citizen marathons, and that’s created big competition for us.

In the past, all the Japanese marathons were elite only. So the opportunity for average runners in Japan came here in Honolulu. But now with other opportunities back home, we’ve had to make somewhat of an adjustment.  How do we not only survive but thrive? What happen for us is we had to find growth beyond the marathon without cannibalizing the marathon.

All marathons now have other events on race weekend. But if you have a half marathon you find that it begins to overshadow the full marathon. So we asked several years ago do we want a half marathon? And we decided to begin a new, not companion half marathon which we call the Hapalua which is in April. It’s now in its eighth year and it’s been very successful. We have over 10,000 runners at the Hapalua and it’s become another destiination event for Japanese runners.  About 2500 of our Hapalua runners come from Japan. But that didn’t address the first week of December.

The trend in running has been away from fast running toward participation. To stay competitive, you have to attract novice runners looking for an experience. 

We realized two years ago, serendipitously, that on our course the first 10K basically ends at the marathon finish line in Kapiolani Park. That meant we could put on a 10K within the marathon and everyone could begin together, because the 10K is non-competitive. So it becomes an event with in the event. Continue reading

TIME, TIME, TIME, LOOK WHAT’S BECOME OF ME

There are those who put a lot of stock in birth order in determining a person’s psychological development. Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was one of the first in his field to suggest that birth order played a determinative role in how one approached friendships, love, and work. Later studies challenged his birth-order theory, but generally speaking first-born children were said to be more conscientious and achievement oriented, while laterborns were more rebellious, open, and agreeable. (Sounds about right in my sibling lineup)

But beyond in what order you may have been born within your own family, there is also something to be said for being born at the right time in the history of man in determining one’s future path. Not in the astrological sense, as in Mercury being in retrograde when mom spit you out, but in the sense of coming along when the world is prepared to appreciate and remunerate your particular skill set.

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Aussie great Derek Clayton

When Australia’s Derek Clayton reset the marathon world record in Antwerp, Belgium in 1969 at 2:08:34, he broke his own record of 2:09:37 set in Fukuoka, Japan two years earlier. But riddle me this? Who were the guys back in Nairobi, Ngong, Eldoret, or Iten, Kenya at the time who weren’t racing in Fukuoka or Antwerp?  Who were the guys that we never knew, never heard of, but may well have been the best marathoners of their generation but never were? Continue reading

MONEYBALL FOR THE MARATHON?

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? Continue reading

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