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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 15, 2003

Tokyo's Hayakawa gives Japan a first in Honolulu

By Stacy Yuen Hernandez
Special to The Advertiser

A 22-year-old college student made Honolulu Marathon history yesterday when she became the first runner from Japan to win the race.

Eri Hayakawa took home the women's title.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Eri Hayakawa, of Tokyo, came from behind to surpass a strong Russian field and win the women's title in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 57 seconds. This was Hayakawa's second Honolulu Marathon. Yesterday's time beats her personal best set in last year's race by 45 seconds.

Alevtina Ivanova, 28, and Albina Ivanova, 26, who are not related, were considered the top contenders in the 31st annual 26.2-mile event that has been dominated by Russians in recent years.

Alevtina was second in 2:33:49, and Albina third in 2:34:36. Another Russian, Olga Romanova, 23, finished fourth in 2:39:49 in her marathon debut.

The Honolulu Marathon has enjoyed immense popularity among runners from Japan. There have been 246,778 Japan entries in the event since 1973, race officials said.

Hayakawa said she will be back for next year's race. With more than 60 percent of the yesterday's field of 22,495 from Japan (14,115 runners from Japan finished), she ran to the cheers of Japan runners heading in the opposite direction as she was on her way back. "(The cheers) were a very big help," she said.

The support was a much-needed boost in a race where Mother Nature is a major concern to all.

Honolulu Marathon women's winner Eri Hayakawa of Tokyo accepts congratulations after crossing the finish line.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Last year, I felt the wind was strong," Hayakawa said. "But this year, I felt I was stronger."

Yesterday's women's race was considered to be up-for-grabs with news early last week that the pre-race favorite and course-record holder Lyubov Morgunova (2:28:33 in 2000) was injured in a car accident in Moscow. Svetlana Zakharova, last year's champion, also withdrew from the race because of exhaustion after running three marathons this year, including victories in Boston and Chicago.

Albina Ivanova led for much of yesterday's race, going through the first 10 kilometers with the pacesetter, Katie McGregor, in 35:07.

Hayakawa stayed about 30 seconds behind the leaders, and dropped back about a minute behind at the half-marathon mark.

"In the beginning, my pace was slow ... I was thinking just to finish, not to place," said Hayakawa. Knowing the strength of the Russians and the fact they have swept the first three places of the event for the past two years, Hayakawa said her plan was simply to "try my best."

It didn't seem likely that she would be able to beat the Ivanovas. By 30 kilometers, Hayakawa was 1 minute, 54 seconds behind the leader, Albina, and 1:25 behind Alevtina, who was in second.

A breakdown in the women's pace car early in the race made it difficult for the leaders. "It's not a really big thing, but it didn't help," said Albina, through her agent and interpreter Konstantin Selinevich. "Sometimes the (pace truck) blocks the wind and the clock is there (so you know how fast you're running)."

After the 30-kilometer mark, Alevtina overtook the weakening Albina and the two attempted to hang on to their lead.

Meanwhile, Hayakawa began picking up her pace as she began the final ascent over Diamond Head on her way to the Kapi'olani Park finish. At that point, she spotted the Russians and began reeling them in.

"As I ran a little faster, I thought maybe I could catch them," she said. "I went quickly past both of them."

"The Japanese girl was stronger today. Today wasn't my day," said Albina. Selinevich said Hayakawa's winning performance is no surprise. "The girls know that she is a strong contender."

Hayakawa earned $15,000 for her victory, plus incentives.