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

Hussein repeats for third Honolulu title

 •  Zakharova rallies for first victory since '97
 •  Lyau, Friis, Kusutani, Schnack top local finishers
 •  Schabort repeats as wheelchair champion
 •  Man's death puts damper on annual event
 •  Photo gallery

By Katherine Nichols
Special to The Advertiser

It would have been a better day for the America's Cup or a kite surfing competition than for a marathon. But the top two competitors made the most of the conditions as they threatened the course record and battled each other to the wire, making the 30th Honolulu Marathon one of the most exciting in years.

Mbarak Hussein holds up three fingers en route to winning his third Honolulu Marathon. Hussein beat fellow Kenyan Jimmy Muindi by four seconds.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Defending champion Mbarak Hussein triumphed over his friend, fiercest competitor and fellow Kenyan Jimmy Muindi in the final half-mile, finishing in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 29 seconds.

Approximately 26,500 of 26,680 starters completed the 26.2-mile course, according to race officials. A record 27,022 finished in 1995 and 26,495 finished in 1997.

Muindi, the 1999 and 2000 Honolulu Marathon winner who had led much of the race and even pulled 10 yards ahead at one point, crossed the line four seconds after Hussein. Ondoro Osoro, also of Kenya, finished third in 2:15.23.

"I passed him and got a little ahead, but I was finished," Muindi said of his surge after mile 22. The 37-year-old Hussein, who also won in 1998, refused to let him go. By mile 23 the two were running stride for stride again.

They remained together up Diamond Head, where the race is often determined, maintaining a 5:02 pace up and over the hill before quickening to 4:49 on the 26th mile.

"I was really scared," Hussein said of the last mile against Muindi. "I know he's a really good kicker." Hussein, who has run 800 meters in 1:45, held on and made his move in the last stretch. "It came to the wire," he said.

Both took advantage of the cool temperatures, about 66 degrees at the 5 a.m. start. They ran smoothly and seemed to barely break a sweat the entire way, helped along by several other runners who kept pace until about mile 21.

 •  Men — Top 200
 •  Women — Top 200
 •  Age group finishers
 •  Hawai'i finishers — Top 400
 •  Japan — Top 400
 •  Mainland U.S. — Top 200
 •  Canada
 •  Germany
 •  Korea
 •  Wheelchair finishers

A pack that included Hussein, Muindi, Osoro, David Mutua, Francis Naali and Fred Chumba went through the first mile in 5:00. The entire way Hussein remained cautious, unsure of who would win. "Everybody looked good," he said.

They hit six miles in 29:51. "We haven't had this kind of pace in years," Honolulu Marathon Association president Jim Barahal said from the escort vehicle.

They ran a 5:01 mile up Diamond Head the first time. And for the rest of the race came tantalizingly close to course record pace.

But the wind, and a lack of an efficient pace line rotating leaders as the top group of seven runners fought it, proved too much. The group went through the halfway mark in 1:06:28. Mile 14 dropped to 5:14 as the wind took its toll. And for the most part, the group let Muindi set the pace in front.

Toni Reavis, host of New Balance Elite Racing on Fox Sports, asked the question everyone was thinking: "Is Jimmy doing too much work?"

"The wind was very terrible," said the 30-year-old Muindi. "I was pushing very hard."

This frustrated the 2:08 marathoner. But he knew if he didn't push the pace, nobody would. When he eased up, the entire pack slowed. "I had to move," he said. "You have to sacrifice yourself."

While the low humidity was a bonus, fighting the wind is always a struggle.

And a tail wind on the way back to Kahala doesn't make up for early losses. "It never helps you as much as it hurts you," said Alberto Salazar, former world record holder in the marathon and two-time Olympian.

Muindi's solution was to work with Hussein. "I knew he would assist me to drop some of the guys," Muindi said.

By mile 19, the pack of seven had whittled to four, with Hussein, Muindi, Osoro and Naali.

Of that group, Osoro, 35, is the fastest marathoner with a lifetime best of 2:06:54. His strength and fitness undoubtedly have helped him in his recovery from a gunshot wound during a carjacking in Kenya two years ago.

Four attackers forced their way into his car just as he was about to put the key in the ignition. They ordered him to move to the passenger side, then shoved him out the window as the man in the back seat fired a bullet through Osoro's neck.

He suffered nerve damage to his right side. Though it remains weak and he has trouble holding a pen and writing, he said his training and the movement in his body have improved. But not enough to stay with Hussein and Muindi.

By mile 21, only the two were left. Shortly after mile 22, Muindi made his move. But Hussein reeled him in by the time they turned onto Kahala Avenue.

As they battled up Diamond Head toward the finish, cheers from runners traveling in the opposite direction lifted them to a 5:02 25th mile up the hill.

Though the record didn't fall yesterday, Hussein showed his respect for Muindi's efforts by congratulating him at the end.

And Barahal was encouraged by the fast time on such a difficult day. "I was really thrilled to see not just a great race but that both of them threatened the record. For us, it's a really good motivator to really aggressively attack the course record next year," he said.

This means devoting more resources to the men's race, attracting a deeper field, approaching new coaches and inviting a pacesetter. That's what marathon officials did in the women's competition when Lyubov Morgunova of Russia broke the 14-year-old women's course record by running 2:28:33 in 2000.

Before this year, the course record of 2:12:17 (and race record of 2:11:43 on a different course in 1986) hadn't even been approached, according to Barahal.

Next year he wants to "see if we can shake it up a little" with an infusion of new talent into the field. Of the men's record, Barahal said, "now it's just sitting there; let's go get it."

Fresh talent aside, Hussein and Muindi plan to return next year. And Hussein made no secret of the fact that he has his eye on a fourth title. With a smile on his face at the finish line, he said, "Honolulu is very special to me."

Hussein and Svetlana Zakharova earned $15,000 each for their victories. Second-place finishers Muindi and Albina Ivanova got $8,000 each and Osoro and Alevtina Ivanova got $5,000 apiece foir third.

The top two men got $2,000 bonuses for finishing under 2 minutes, 13 seconds. The top two women got $5,000 for a running sub 2:30.

Bonuses that weren't claimed were $5,000 for new men's course record (2:12:17), $10,000 for race record, old course (2:11:43) and $10,000 for the women's race record (2:28:33).