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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 10, 2001

Challenge, triumph ignite 2001 marathon

 •  Kenya's Hussein Marathon champ
 •  Russian women dominate, finishing 1-2-3
 •  Schabort uses mental edge for fourth consecutive title
 •  Jackson surprises self in fast start
 •  Age group winners
See video of the top men and women finishers

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jonathan Zaleski, 33, of Los Angeles, collapsed in apparent pain just a few feet from the Honolulu Marathon finish line yesterday, going down on one knee after seven grueling hours on the course.

Christmas lights downtown illuminate the start of the 29th annual Honolulu Marathon. Patriotism was a theme, as American flag T-shirts and star-spangled scarves were seen on a number of this year's 9,159 Japanese runners.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

When his girlfriend, Kristen Zeanah, 23, turned back to help him up, he whipped out a diamond ring and said, "Will you marry me?"

It was marathon madness in Hawai'i yesterday as Zeanah and about 20,000 other runners said yes to matrimonial and other challenges along the 26.2-mile route from Aloha Tower to Koko Head and back, to a carnival of cramps and cookies under a dozen circus tents pulled taut in Kapiolani Park across from Waikiki beach.

There was a man running in a muumuu and another in Japanese wooden geta.

They came from 45 different countries, with Japan dominating the foreign entries at 9,159. But the 29th annual event wore all-American patriotism on its sleeve.

Soldiers Pvt. Nick Freitas, 22, and Spec. Cesar Vasquez, 21, from Schofield Barracks won cheers in the dawn's early light as they ran the route carrying the Stars and Stripes aloft.

"They yelled, 'Go USA,' and a lot of people thanked us for carrying the flag," said Freitas, an infantry rifle team leader from Chico, Calif.

Star-spangled head scarves were the headdress of the day, Japanese visitors wrapped themselves in American flag T-shirts, and New Yorkers came from Ground Zero to run in honor of the victims of Sept. 11.

New York City police officer Thomas Lowney of Massapequa, running his sixth marathon, came to do this one with no training and on 10 days' notice because he'd been told he could come to Hawai'i with other survivors of the World Trade Center attack as guests of the travel industry here.

Masaaki Iwasaki of Konosushi, Japan ran the course as the Statue of Liberty wearing a Japanese sash.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I wanted to do this, to run in honor of all the police, fire and emergency workers and all the people, the thousands of people, who lost their lives," he said.

"This was the first year I missed one — because my son was born six months ago — but God was telling me that I could run this one. It was kind of like one of those things that were meant to be."

Tennessee housewife Tina Wesson of "Outback Survivor" fame sailed in at about 6 hours and 28 minutes, hardly breaking a sweat as the celebrity runner-spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion program. Its thousand runners raised $4 million for arthritis research yesterday.

Wesson, who won $1 million by outplaying, outwitting and outlasting 15 other Americans stranded for weeks in the Australian outback on the CBS reality program this year, said the marathon was a breeze compared to "Survivor."

"It was much easier than the outback. "Survivor" is six weeks, you're battling people, you're battling elements, you're battling starvation," she said. "I would do this any day rather than go back on "Survivor." Over here, you know in five or six hours you are going to be done. The breeze was always blowing, we had incredible views of the ocean, people were so nice — they had little cookies out from their house, had little treats out for you. It was so wonderful — paradise."

Wesson, who has mild rheumatoid arthritis in her hands, said she was running "for all the people out there who can't button their shirt and can't brush their own hair" because of arthritic pain. Researchers "are very close to whipping this thing," she said.

Mark Clingan of Kailua carried Old Glory for the entire 26.2 miles. Flags and patriotic colors were the race theme.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Gonzo" journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, last seen trying to open a whisky bottle with a fork in his luxe digs at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental hotel, didn't show, described officially by marathon aides as "sick." But actor Sean Penn, flirting with the idea of filming Thompson's Hawaiian novel "The Curse of Lono," made an appearance at the start.

Fans mobbed Japanese model/actress Rie Hasegawa as she trotted daintily over the finish line at 3:26:36, more than half an hour faster than last year.

The river of joyous finishers began pouring into the park at 7:15:09 a.m., when Mbarak Hussein of Kenya sprinted in 20 seconds ahead of anyone else. Fourteen minutes and 46 seconds later, Lyubov Morgunova of Russia led the women for her second straight Honolulu victory.

But winners came in at all hours — it took six hours for the first 11,000 to cross the finish line; and in all sizes — 4,760 small, 7,745 medium, 7,013 large, 3,460 extra large and 517 extra-extra large, according to the T-shirt tent.

They came in all ages — 172 under 14, and 14 over 80 — and 11 men for every nine women. Maine alone was not represented among the 50 states, which were led by more than 6,700 entrants from Hawai'i, mostly O'ahu, followed by California with more than 4,300 entries.

Gusty winds slowed runners but kept them cool, making for less work than usual in the medical tent, where the dehydrated sprawled on army cots, arms flopped open to receive intravenous drips of saline.

At least two runners were taken by ambulance to The Queen's Medical Center, one with an irregular heart beat, another with an altered mental state that was not quickly improving. No serious injuries were reported.

Marathon medical director Larry Rotkin, M.D., said the dazed runner apparently fell victim to an herbal supplement.

"Better than golf and tied with sex" was the way Mark Taylor, 39, a restaurant manager from San Francisco, described the post-race massage he was getting from Laretta Dubin, a volunteer from the American Institute of Massage Therapy in Kailua.

"I'm never going to do it again," Taylor said. "I gotta work on my golf game. But massage should be every week."

Mike Nguyen, 25, of Los Angeles, strolled up to the food tent and stared at the sign.

"Apples for finishers? I want steak," said Nguyen, a dentist in training who was one of 2,300 runners from a Los Angeles AIDS support group flown here courtesy of United Airlines and housed by the Hyatt Regency. The group raised more than $8 million in pledges to assist AIDS patients.

Joanne Osowski of Spring Lake, N.J., who finished in 4:24:20, broke down in tears when she said she was running with Joints in Motion in honor of her brother, Paul, a New Jersey state trooper who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis in both knees.

"I'm sorry," she said, dabbing at her eyes. "I'm just happy."

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.