RECORD RUN FOR EKIRU AT HONOLULU MARATHON TODAY
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2019 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
HONOLULU (08-Dec) — Kenya’s Titus Ekiru ran the fastest-ever marathon in the state of Hawaii here this morning, handily breaking the course record, and pocketing $50,000 in prize money and time bonuses at the 47th Honolulu Marathon. The 27 year-old Kenyan –who grew up poor in Turkana County in northwest Kenya and also won last year’s Honolulu Marathon– clocked an extended time of 2:07:59.02. That eclipsed the previous record of 2:08:27 set by reigning Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono, also of Kenya, set in 2017.
Ekiru, who also won the Milano City Marathon last April in a personal best 2:04:46, came to Honolulu this year with the singular goal of breaking Cherono’s record. But the warm temperatures here (22C/72F), accompanied by 84% humidity, and the hilly course make fast times difficult. Nonetheless, the Nike-sponsored Ekiru was ready.
“You know last year I say I need to try my best (this year), and maybe I can run course record,” Ekiru told Race Results Weekly. “This year I trained three months and then I tell my coach I need to try to go and run 2:07 here.”
From the gun, Ekiru was running in uncharted territory for this race. With the help of two Kenyan pacemakers, Edwin Kibet Rotich and Reuben Kiprop Kerio, the men’s lead pack went out at about 3:00 per kilometer pace, hitting the 5-kilometer checkpoint in 15:07, 10-K in 29:54 and halfway in 1:03:40. Ekiru said that he was running well within himself, and was ready to hold that pace in the second half.
“Yeah, it was comfortable,” Ekiru said. “At 25-K I said, I try my best.”
Ekiru and Kerio accelerated, and by the 25-K mark (1:15:03) the pair had an 8-second advantage over Wilson Chebet, another Kenyan who won this race in 2014. Kerio dropped out before 30-K leaving Ekiru to battle the clock –and the rising heat and humidity– all alone. But this was Ekiru’s third time competing here, so he knew what to expect in the final kilometers.
“This time around I know the course very well,” Ekiru said.
But his energy stores were waning as he made the long, two-kilometer climb up Diamond Head Avenue to the 40-K/25-mile mark. A beautiful sunrise over the Pacific Ocean greeted him, but he had no time to notice.
“One hundred percent,” he replied when asked how much effort he had to put in to make it to the finish.
Descending the final hill into Kapiolani Park for the last kilometer to the finish, Ekiru was able to hold his pace to the line. He fell to his knees, folded his hands, and prayed just after finishing. The Honolulu Marathon Association awarded him $25,000 for first place, $10,000 for breaking the course record, and $15,000 in accumulated time bonuses.
Chebet finished a distance second in 2:13:14 ($10,000) and Edwin Kipngetich Koech got third in 2:14:20 ($5,000). Japanese marathon record holder Suguru Osako used today’s race as a tempo run and finished sixth in 2:17:30 (he ran the first half in 1:09:07 and the second in 1:08:23).
What the women’s race lacked in speed, it made up in drama. Kenyans Betsy Saina and Margaret Muriuki ran close together from the starter’s gun, through halfway in 1:17:38, and all the way to 40-K in 2:24:22. Saina –the more accomplished athlete who has a world-class 2:22:43 personal best– was waiting for the right moment to pull away, but later admitted that she missed her opportunity.
“I know she used to be very good in 1500,” Saina said, admitting that she should have tried to shake her rival by the 38-kilometer because Muriuki has superior finishing speed. She added: “So, I did a big mistake.”
Muriuki remained patient and waited for 41-K to make her bid for victory. The petite Kenyan made one big push and Saina had no answer. Muriuki had the entire finish straight to herself, breaking the tape in a personal best 2:31:10, good for $25,000 in prize money.
“By that time I was running with my heart, not my head,” a smiling Muriuki said wearing a the crown of local flowers given to the winners here. She added: “And then I sprint.”
Saina was timed in 2:31:51 in second place and earned $10,000 in prize money. Third place ($5,000) went to Renee Metivier of Bend, Ore., who successfully qualified for the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon by running 2:43:18 (2:45:00 was the qualifying standard). Metivier, 37, had battled back from several surgeries and only had a short build-up for this race. She only entered the race a week ago.
“That was the dream, right?” said a tearful Metivier when asked if she thought she would make the qualifying time today. “I knew I was cutting it tight but you can’t rush your body. With two leg breaks I learned my lesson rushing it. My body finally turned a corner six weeks ago, and I had a lot of faith.”
In all, 19,427 runners crossed the starting line in today’s marathon, plus another 5888 in the contemporaneous Start to Park 10-K. Runners will continue to stream in all afternoon because the race does not enforce a time cutoff.