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Chebet, Chepkirui seek to reclaim Honolulu titles

By ELIAS MAKORI
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IN HONOLULU, HAWAII

The Honolulu Marathon may be the fourth-largest marathon in America, but it’s most certainly the most scenic.

And it’s quite laid-back, its famous “no time limit” rule attracting the slowest of fun runners who cherish back-marking the 42 kilometres under no pressure, unlike the business-like Boston, Chicago and New York marathons.

At Honolulu, the roads remain closed almost all day unlike in the other marathons where time limits of eight hours, on average, are pencilled for road closures.

Things won’t be any different today when the beautiful island of Hawaii hosts the 46th Honolulu Marathon with a field of 27,000 expected, including 87-year-old Roger Hauge who will be on the fourth leg of his challenge to compete in 50 marathons in the 50 US states.

At least half a dozen elites have been drafted, most of them Kenyans, including previous winners Wilson Chebet and Joyce Chepkirui.

Chebet – a three-time Amsterdam Marathon champion, a feat that earned him the nickname “Mr Amsterdam” – is one of Kenya’s most consistent marathoners.

He has competed in Honolulu four times, winning once in 2014 with a time of two hours, 15 minutes and 35 seconds.

He will be hoping to reclaim the title after coming close last year, finishing second (2:09:54) to course record-breaking Lawrence Cherono (2:08:27).

In the women’s division on Sunday, Joyce Chepkirui, 30, will be looking to reclaim the title she won twice, in 2014 and 2015.

Brigid Kosgei is the defending champion, having shattered the course record last year setting the fresh bar at 2:22:15.

Chebet hopes to recover from the disappointment of dropping out in Frankfurt in October.

Kenya’s Wilson Chebet relaxes at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii ahead of the Honolulu marathon on December 8, 2018. PHOTO | HONOLULU MARATHONKenya’s Wilson Chebet relaxes at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii ahead of the Honolulu marathon on December 8, 2018. PHOTO | HONOLULU MARATHON

He looked relaxed on Saturday during a pre-race elite athlete photo shoot on the famous Waikiki Beach, adjacent to the US Army Museum where a 77th anniversary gathering commemorating Japan’s invasion of USA was being held by the army’s Pacific Division formation.

His aim is to win the race, with secondary time given the tough course.

“If you want to run a fast time, like a personal best time, then races in Europe like the Amsterdam Marathon will suit you fine,” said Chebet who completed a rare Rotterdam and Amsterdam double in 2011.

“In America, it’s very difficult to run a good time. Honolulu is not a flat course, it’s a bit hilly.

“I’ve been struggling here in Honolulu, winning once and finishing second the rest of the times so my aim this time is just to win the race.

“I’m told it will be windy, but I’ve trained very well and I should be ok.”

Vincent Yator, third last year in 2:10:38, is also in the mix along with 2017 Sevilla Marathon winner (2:07:43) Titus Ekiru who was fourth in last year’s Honolulu race.

Reuben Kerio, winner of last year’s Kosice Peace Marathon in Slovakia (2:08:12), is also one to look out for with the elites to be paced by Charles Cheruiyot, Titus Sang and world half marathon record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei’s training partner Ezekiel Kemboi (not to be confused with the steeplechase legend).

Kenya's elite marathon runners pose for a photo at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii ahead of the Honolulu Marathon on December 8, 2018. PHOTO | HONOLULU MARATHONKenya’s elite marathon runners pose for a photo at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii ahead of the Honolulu Marathon on December 8, 2018. PHOTO | HONOLULU MARATHON

Jepkosgei was to make her debut here today but pulled out in the 11th hour this week after picking up an injury in training.

In her absence, Chepkirui will battle with 29-year-old former miler Sheilah Cherotich and Vivian Kiplagat, 30.

Sunday’s race was to be preceded by the “Kalakaua Merrie Mile” on the streets of Honolulu with Kenya’s defending champion Edward Cheserek, the most decorated collegiate distance runner currently, battling with New Zealand’s 2008 Olympic silver medallist in the 1,500 metres, Nick Willis, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Games.

Kenya’s Miriam Cherop is defending her women’s mile title partnering with Agnes Ng’etich with steeplechaser Leonard Bett the only male athlete in the field born this millennium.