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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 9, 2002

Man's death puts damper on annual event

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 •  Lyau, Friis, Kusutani, Schnack top local finishers
 •  Photo gallery

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

The death of one runner at the finish line marred the spectacle of the 30th Honolulu Marathon yesterday as approximately 26,500 other runners, from princes to paupers to Army privates, streamed over 26 miles and 385 yards of asphalt in the world's fourth-largest event of its kind.

Marathon runners make their way toward Kahala. Approximately 26,500 runners finished yesterday's Honolulu Marathon, making it the fourth-largest event of its kind. But the spectacle was marred by the death of one of its participants, 33-year-old Grant Hirohata Goto of Hawai'i.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Inside the medical tent, a swarm of doctors, nurses and paramedics tried to save Grant Hirohata Goto, a 33-year-old Hawai'i resident who collapsed at the finish line after completing the race in 4 hours and 57 minutes.

He was carried into the medical tent, but failed to respond to life support measures. Goto was pronounced dead at The Queen's Medical Center.

Honolulu Marathon Association President Dr. Jim Barahal said Goto's death was statistically a rare event in a sport which generally is considered healthy and health promoting.

"But that doesn't change the fact of how devastated I am by what happened today," he said. "And anything that I feel pales in comparison with what the family must be feeling."

The most recent death in a Honolulu Marathon was in 1995, Barahal said.

For most participants, yesterday was filled with personal victories.

Bettyjean "BJ" McHugh, 75, of North Vancouver, British Columbia, clocked a time of 4 hours and 11 minutes which she and her running group, the Capilano Eagles, said was 10 minutes better than the previous record for women ages 75 to 79.

"The champagne is flowing," McHugh said as she celebrated with friends at the Hawaiiana Hotel in Waikiki last night, chalking up her achievement to good training and good genes. "My quads are a little tight, but I feel great."

A retired nurse, McHugh took up running at age 55, and ran the Boston Marathon in 3:48 when she was "just a kid" of 67.

She said she keeps running because other members of her team, whose ages range down to 30, "are an inspiration to me. I just run because I love it."

McHugh said she was shocked to hear about the death of another runner.

"It's such a shame, and it does put a damper on things, but it makes us all also remember how precious life is," she said.

Olympic gold-medal marathoner Frank Shorter of Colorado, whose victory in 1972 helped spur the "marathon movement" in America, got up from the massage table in the VIP tent and hobbled to a folding chair to talk about what makes people pursue the joy of running.

Shorter took the race "nice and easy" yesterday, finishing in 3 hours and 20 minutes, a bit off his Olympic time 30 years ago: 2 hours, 12 minutes, 19 seconds.

He came back to Honolulu for the 18th time yesterday after not having completed a marathon in competition in the past seven years. He realizes now, he says, how lucky he is to be able to run.

"People recognize me on the course," he said, "and I say hello and I look at them and I know a lot of people wish that they were out there with us."
It is a big deal for runners, too, to be on the course and pass the man who won the Olympics.

"But there's no gloating," Shorter said. "Runners have respect for each other."

He said that at 55 he is no longer running for personal times, but simply because "I love to run."

Watching the runners stream across the finish line nearby, Shorter said the Honolulu Marathon is "the perfect blend of the international event and the local fun run.

"Events in Hawai'i have to be local, by definition, and of all the major races in the world this one has the most local fun and character."

Around him lay the proud wreckage of the event: runners by the thousands, nursing blisters, cringing from cramps, weeping with happiness and fatigue.
One runner lay sprawled under a banyan tree, his girlfriend pulling off his shoes because he was unable to reach them.

"Step right up. Have your marathon picture taken. There is no charge," photo hawkers cried, offering runners a chance to pose next to a buffed boy in a pareu or a pretty girl in a hula skirt and coconut bra, in front of a sign that read, "Finishers, Honolulu Marathon, 2002."

On the course, a dozen Santas, at least one Spider-Man, and a host of other costumed contestants livened up a river of runners pouring over the pavement from Ala Moana Beach Park to Hawai'i Ka'i and back to Kapi'olani Park.

Prince Pieter-Christiaan of Orange, the Netherlands, displayed intestinal fortitude as he battled not only the heat and the miles, but a last-minute bout of flu that had him vomiting the night before the race and stopping at restrooms five times during the event before finishing in 3 hours and 50 minutes.

The prince wiped away tears as he sat talking on a cellular telephone with his father, Pieter van Vollenhoven, and his mother, Margriet, the sister of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

"It was just when they told me how proud they were of me," said Pieter-Christiaan, a scuba diver who was running for the World Wildlife Federation to help save coral reefs.

Army Staff Sgt. Nelson Ortiz of Waipahu, wearing No. 12127, jogged across the finish line in 14,203rd place in 5 hours, 48 minutes and 31 seconds and clambered up on a barricade to smoke a cigarette.

"He even smokes WHEN he's running," his wife said.

Mark Mundy, 7, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., wore a T-shirt proudly proclaiming "My Daddy Has Sole" as he sat patiently under a monkeypod tree waiting for his father, Scott Mundy, to come across the finish line.

"He's great," wife Jennifer Mundy said, watching the runners anxiously as she held daughter Emily, 2. "We love him. He loves to run, and he's raised almost $10,000 for the AIDS Project of Los Angeles."

There were 30,428 entrants in yesterday's marathon, 26,680 runners who actually started the race and — at 5:30 p.m. yesterday, more than 12 hours after the starting gun — about 26,500 finishers, with some stragglers still on the course.

The number of finishers moved the Honolulu Marathon past Berlin and into fourth place in the world, behind London, New York City and Chicago, marathon spokesman Pat Bigold said.

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