Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 13, 2003

Hussein takes run at fourth marathon win

 •  Capsule: Male and female contenders

By Katherine Nichols
Special to The Advertiser

When: Tomorrow

Time: 5 a.m

Starting line: Ala Moana and Queen Street extension

Information: honolulumarathon.org
Mother Nature could be a major factor in tomorrow's 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon, where headwinds, heat, humidity and hills in tough places could humble newcomers and add minutes to an elite athlete's best time.

But Jimmy Muindi, last year's second-place finisher, is ready.

"Last year, I did a lot of the work," said Muindi, a 30-year-old Kenyan who has won the event twice.

For the first half of last year's race he led the pack in his attempt to break the 1986 course record of 2:11:43, draining himself while shielding others from the severe headwind.

In the last kilometer, he was out-kicked by his friend, Mbarak Hussein, who won by four seconds.

"You cannot work alone," said Muindi. "I need to allow somebody else to help me."

This year, he's been training "very tough" and nearly equaled his personal record of 2:08:25 at the Chicago Marathon in October. He is the first to admit that if the weather does not cooperate tomorrow, he will forego the record to concentrate on winning.

"If you go for the record, then you're taking the chance of losing everything," said Toni Reavis, the host of New Balance Elite Racing on Fox Sports, who is covering the Honolulu Marathon for the 21st year.

"Once they know that fast times are out of the question ... then it becomes totally tactical. It becomes a war of attrition."

Jimmy Muindi, who finished second in last year's Hono-lulu Marathon, has different plans for tomorrow's race.

Associated Press photos

Mbarak Hussein won last year's marathon by four seconds.
The win is important to Muindi. Hussein, 38, has won the race three times, "so I'm going to balance the equation," said Muindi.

But Hussein said he wants to be the first man to win the race four times. A veteran racer in Honolulu, he also is ready for the elements and the competition.

"I have a plan that will change as soon as the gun goes off," he said, referring to his ability to adjust as the race progresses.

"We love the fact that Mbarak and Jimmy have really become legends here in Honolulu," said Honolulu Marathon president Jim Barahal. "But we brought in people this year who have a chance to beat them. We definitely wanted to make them earn it."

Hussein acknowledged: "It's not going to be me and Jimmy dominating. ... I expect it to be tougher this year."

Matthew Sigei, a 22-year-old Kenyan who ran a lifetime best of 2:09.17 in September, has malaria and will not compete, race officials announced. His absence is notable, but the field remains strong.

Joseph Kamau is a "wild card" who could challenge for the win, according to Barahal. One of the top marathoners in the late 1990s, he is now making a comeback. A 2:11:22 win at Minnesota's Grandma's Marathon in June on a reportedly slow course makes him a contender. Stephen Ndungu, also from Kenya, ran 2:09:54 to place second in the Los Angeles Marathon in February.

Newcomers should never be underestimated. But in Honolulu, experience "matters a lot," said Muindi.

"Once someone establishes he can run well on a tough course, that goes a long way," said Barahal. "Psychologically, the athlete goes to the starting line and is not spooked or influenced by the conditions that pop up."

Even athletes with impressive performances in other venues "sometimes crash out there."

The women's race

Albina Ivanova, 26, remains the favorite in this year's thinning women's field.

A 2:29:53 second-place finish in last year's Honolulu Marathon proves the Russian can perform in Hawai'i's unpredictable environment.

Ivanova became the top contender when last year's champion, Svetlana Zakharova, declined to travel to Honolulu due to exhaustion after winning the Boston and Chicago marathons.

And early this week, course record holder Lyubov Morgunova (2:28:33 in 2000) was injured in a car accident, forcing her to drop out of what was slated to be a comeback race after giving birth to her first child.

"She wants to win the race; that's the plan," said Ivanova's agent and interpreter, Konstantin Selinevich. She said the high winds concerned her, "maybe just a little bit, because you have to spend a lot of energy fighting with the wind." But she quickly added that if you train hard, it shouldn't matter. "There's wind for everybody."

However, she did say the weather would help determine her speed and strategy.

Selinevich describes her as "an up-and-coming athlete," and noted that television commentators have highlighted her technique as an example of smooth and economical running.

"You feel like you can put a glass of water on top of her head and it won't spill," he said.

Japan's Eri Hayakawa may also be in the lead pack, according to Barahal.

"She's fit and she's got a definite chance to win this race," he said.

Despite an impressive fourth-place finish in last year's Honolulu Marathon, most experts would agree that at age 22, her best racing lies ahead.

Olga Romanova, 23, originally came to Honolulu to lead the field through 30 kilometers as the pace setter, then drop out. Selinevich said now that fewer invited athletes will race, "she has a chance to be in the top five, even if she runs a conservative pace" in her debut marathon. "To win, that's not the point for her. That's not the goal," she said. Rather, "it's a good opportunity to try a marathon, feel what it's like."

A new pace setter for the women almost guarantees they will run in a pack out to Hawai'i Kai. When asked if the men would follow the same strategy, Reavis of Fox Sports said: "Kenyans don't run from behind. They run from the front, then try to improve their position."

ON THE RUN: Three-time winner Mbarak Hussein and two-time winner Jimmy Muindi were inducted into the Honolulu Marathon's Hall of Fame on Thursday night at Oahu Country Club. ... Hussein joins his brother, Ibrahim, a three-time winner, in the Hall of Fame.

• • •


Male Contenders

Mbarak Hussein (Wearing No. 1)

• Kenya, age 38
Highlights: 1998, 2001, 2002 Honolulu Marathon winner
2002 Honolulu Marathon: 2:12:29 (1st place, best time in Honolulu)
Lifetime bests: 2:09:45 (2002 Boston Marathon); 10K—27:45
Fun Fact: A few months ago he visited seven elementary schools in Hawai'i and signed 600 autographs.

Jimmy Muindi (Wearing No. 3)

• Kenya, age 30
Highlights: 1999 and 2000 Hono-lulu Marathon winner
2002 Honolulu Marathon: 2:12:33 (2nd place, best time in Honolulu)
Lifetime bests: 2:08:25 (2002 Berlin Marathon); 10K—27:15
Fun fact: He is a farmer and born-again Christian who enjoys reading the gospel and preaching.

Joseph Kamau (Wearing No. 9)

• Kenya, age 32
Highlights: Winner of Grandma's Marathon in June in 2:11:22
Lifetime bests: Marathon—2:10:46 (1997); 10K—27:11
Fun fact: One of the top road racers in the late 1990s, he is now making a comeback.

Stephen Ndungu (Wearing No. 13)

• Kenya, age 36
Highlights: Ran a lifetime best of 2:09:54 in Los Angeles Marathon this year for second place.
Fun fact: He runs well in the heat, is very tough, but lacks a finishing kick if the race comes down to the wire.

Female Contenders

Russia's Albina Ivanova, left, Alevtina Ivanova and Olga Romanova are among the top four contenders in the women's race.

Associated Press

Albina Ivanova (Wearing No. 2)

• Russia, age 26
2002 Honolulu Marathon: 2:29:53, 2nd place
Lifetime bests: 2:25:35 (2003 Chicago Marathon, 4th place); Half marathon—1:11:24
Fun fact: Paints her fingernails purple for every race.

Alevtina Ivanova (no relation to Albina) (Wearing No. 7)

• Russia, age 28
2002 Honolulu Marathon: 2:31:12, 3rd place
Lifetime bests: 2:29:05 (2003 Nagano Marathon, 2nd place); 10 miles—53:18.
Fun fact: Shops for toy cars for her 3 1/2-year-old son whenever she travels to a race.

Eri Hayakawa (Wearing No. 10)

• Japan, age 22
2002 Honolulu Marathon: 2:32:42, 4th place (lifetime best)
Lifetime bests: Half marathon—1:12:32
Fun fact: Note the age; she will only get faster.

Olga Romanova (Wearing No. 15)

• Russia, age 23
Lifetime bests: Half marathon—1:11:16; 10K—31:58
Fun fact: She came to Honolulu to be this year's pacesetter, but now has decided to make her marathon debut.