Zakharova rallies for first victory since '97
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By Casey McGuire-Turcotte
Special to The Advertiser
For Russia's Svetlana Zakharova, this one has been a long time coming.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
Svetlana Zakharova of Russia overtook Albina Ivanova in the final three miles to win the women's race of the Honolulu Marathon.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
Albina Ivanova (Russia) was second in 2:29:53, and Alevtina Ivanova (Russia, no relation) was third in 2:31:12 to give Russia the 1-2-3 sweep for the second straight year.
"I am so happy to finally get another win here," Zakharova said through her agent and interpreter, Konstaintin Selinevich (Zakharova also won in Honolulu in 1997.) "The past four years have been frustrating, but I knew I would get lucky sometime soon."
Luck had far less to do with it than determination and grit.
Pacesetter Lyubov Denisova of Russia, who was contracted to run on record pace (2:28:33) and drop out at the halfway point, and Hellen Kimutai of Kenya got out to an early lead following the 5 a.m. start, with an all-Russian pack of Irina Bogacheva, Alevtina Ivanova, Zakharova, Silvia Skvortsova and Albina Ivanova quickly forming about one minute back.
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By the 10K mark, the pack appeared too far behind to make any dent in the increasing Kimutai lead.
Once over Diamond Head, however, the pack, which had faded to three runners, used the downhill momentum to make a move, picking up 35 seconds on the leaders in the next two miles.
By the 11th mile at the Kalaniana'ole Highway intersection, the pack of Zakharova, Alevtina and Albina Ivanova, caught Kimutai and passed her.
Kimutai fell off the pace right away, and finished seventh in 2:36:29.
Albina Ivanova, running in her first Honolulu Marathon and eighth marathon overall, took the lead at mile 14, and immediately opened a sizeable gap with a 5:32 mile.
"From that point on, I was really hurting," Albina said through her interpreter. "My legs were sore, I felt tight, but I knew I was close."
By the turnaround, the 25-year-old Albina had a 20-second lead on Zakharova, but was losing form quickly.
Zakharova, who was third behind Alevtina Ivanova at the 20th mile, began to claw away at the lead. By mile 24, she passed her and was only 15 seconds behind Albina.
With a mile to go at the top of Diamond Head, amid the cheers of spectators and participants, Zakharova put on a final surge and flew by a fading Albina. With record-setting hopes, she continued to push the pace.
Although she finished 35 seconds off the record, Zakharova was happy just to win.
"The whole race, all I was thinking was, 'No more second places,' " she said. "When I saw Nikolay (Zakharov, her husband and coach) at the 24-mile mark, he kept saying 'You can do it, move up on the hill' ... and I did. I feel great."
She said that although the wind was difficult to run in, it was not a surprise.
"The wind is always a factor on this course, so you just have to prepare for it," Zakhorova said. "Mentally, I was ready."
Selinevich, who represents both Zakharova and Albina Ivanova, was not surprised by Zakharova's comeback.
"She is very strong upstairs," he said. "Going out slowly, staying calm and in control is a part of her strategy. Both gave their best efforts today."
Albina said she was not disappointed with her performance.
"I knew there was no way I would catch Svetlana once she passed me," she said. "I am very, very happy to have run so well on such a tough course."
The record of 2:28:33 was set in 2000 by last year's winner, Russia's Lyubov Morgunova. She had her first child in October, and did not compete in this year's race.