SCOTSMAN GOURLEY TAKES TOP PRIZE AT KALAKAUA MERRIE MILE
By Rich Sands, @sands
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
HONOLULU (10-Dec) — Neil Gourley used a strong closing sprint to win a
unique battle of the sexes race in the Kalakaua Merrie Mile here this
morning. In warm, but blustery, conditions the Scottish runner prevailed
in a mixed-sex pursuit format, with the women receiving a 29-second head
start over the men and prize money awarded based on overall finish,
regardless of sex. The race –contested just steps away from Hawaii’s
Waikiki Beach– was a warm-up for Sunday’s 50th running of the Honolulu
“It felt weird passing a whole different field, but this event is just
really fun,” said Gourley, who ran the 1500 meters for Great Britain at
the World, European and Commonwealth Championships this past summer. “I
enjoyed that. It’s a whole different thing than what I’m used to.”
In this sixth edition of the race, run on a flat, out-and-back course on
Honolulu’s upscale Kalakaua Avenue, the women set off first with two
more seconds than in past years, in an attempt to even their odds. Alas,
the men were committed to earning bragging rights and were able to catch
the women with less than 200 meters to go.
The women’s field didn’t make it easy, however, courtesy of the strong
pace set by Sage Hurta and Nikki Hiltz. But by the turnaround point,
roughly 900 meters into the race, the men had made up more than half of
the time gap and were closing fast.
“At the turn I was counting and I could tell they were getting close,”
said Katie Snowden of Great Britain. “I know that we needed to get
rolling on the way back.”
Kieran Lumb of Canada had set an aggressive early tempo, with Gourley
just off his shoulder and Craig Engels and Drew Hunter on their heels.
“It’s a good job he did, otherwise we might not have caught them,”
Gourley said of Lumb, a senior at the University of Washington. “There
was no strategy really, just trying to gun them down in the last half.”
By the time the finish line was in sight, the men’s pack was about to
swallow up the women.
“I felt bad doing it; it didn’t feel right, if I’m honest,” Gourley said
with a laugh. “But it’s good fun. Maybe the gap needs to be a bit bigger
or maybe that’s just how the strategy played out today.”
The gap was based on the respective course records which are 29.3
seconds apart (3:53.3 vs. 4:22.6).
Gourley now had the lead and it became a matter of holding on to claim
the $4,000 first-place prize. “At that point I was just trying not to
look behind, because I could feel that they were right there,” he said.
“I knew there were a lot of people there.”
Sam Prakel had swung to the right of the women while most of the other
men went to the left, a move he says may have cost him momentum. He was
closing hard in the final strides, but Gourley had established too much
of a cushion by that point and won the race decisively, 3:56.1 to
3:56.4. “I still made a good move and closed well for second,” Prakel
said of his $3,000 payday. “I think Neil just ran a smarter race today.”
Hobbs Kessler (3:57.0) and Lumb (3:57.1) grabbed the remaining prize
money, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Matthew Centrowitz, the 2016
Olympic 1500m champion, finished ninth (4:03.6) in his first race in 13
months. He underwent ACL surgery back in May.
Snowden (4:27.3) maintained her composure despite the chaos of the
rapidly passing men, and held off Hiltz (4:27.5) for the top spot in the
women’s division and sixth-place overall. “Once the guys came past they
were coming at such speed it was impossible to get past them again,”
said Snowden, who also did triple-international duty for Great Britain
over the summer, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the 1500 at the
European Athletics Championships.
Both Gourley and Snowden are part of the Under Armour Mission Run Dark
Sky Distance training group based on Flagstaff, Arizona, under the
direction of Stephan Haas. Their performances today capped an incredible
fall season for the squad, which included a TCS New York City Marathon
championship for Sharon Lokedi, a USATF 5-K title for Weini Kelati, and
a runner-up finish at last week’s USATF marathon championship for Jacob
Thomson. Kelati also ran here today finishing fifth among the women in
“We’ve got a really good feel about the group right now,” Snowden said.
“When one of us does well it spreads throughout the team.”