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

Kenya's Muindi gets record-tying third victory

By Katherine Nichols
Special to The Advertiser

What a difference a year and family can make.

Kenya's Jimmy Muindi won by a little more than two minutes.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Jimmy Muindi, who finished second last year, earned his record-tying third Honolulu Marathon victory yesterday in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 59 seconds — a 5:04 per mile pace.

Muindi won $15,000 for winning the race and another $5,000 for running under 2:13.

But the 30-year-old Kenyan seemed more thrilled with the sentimental rewards. "This year is very different for me; I won in front of my family," said Muindi, who also won in 1999 and 2000. "I'm very happy."

Muindi's family had accompanied him to Hawai'i for the first time and he didn't disappoint them as he matched the three victories of friendly rival Mbarak Hussein, 38, who finished second in 2:15:01. Philip Tanui, 27, was third in 2:16:31.

"Jimmy was really dominant," said Honolulu Marathon president Dr. Jim Barahal. "He came here fit and focused."

A total of 22,495 started the 5 a.m. run at Ala Moana Boulevard and Queen Street; a total of 22,121 finished the 26.2 miles near Kapi'olani Park, according to Honolulu Marathon officials.

Hussein, who won in 1998, 2001 and '02, said he was diagnosed Saturday with shingles, a viral infection that can be extremely painful.

"(Muindi) was stronger today," he said, refusing to make excuses or elaborate on the tenderness in his lower abdomen. Indeed, Hussein was more concerned about his older brother's course record.

Mother Nature created an ideal environment for a kite-surfing competition, but not a fast marathon, with headwinds up to 25 mph fatiguing the pacesetter and slowing the lead pack of seven, leaving Abrahim Hussein's race record of 2:11:43 out of reach.

"The first 10K was very much OK," Muindi said of the blazing 15:21 5-kilometer and 30:40 10-kilometer splits. But as the pace slowed in the latter part of the second 10K, Muindi said he urged the pace setter, Peter Tanui (no relation to Philip), to "push harder." Yet the wind left everyone unable or unwilling to quicken the tempo.

They ran through the 15K in 46:48 and hit the 10-mile mark in Kahala in 50:11, a brisk 5:01 pace.

The elements took their toll along the first part of Kalaniana'ole as runners scrambled to run single file, hiding from the wind while slowing to a 5:26 pace through mile 11.

"It's a tough four-mile slog out to Hawai'i Kai," said Toni Reavis, host of Elite Racing on Fox Sports Network.

"You lose more than you gain" when running against the wind, explained Alberto Salazar, former world record holder in the marathon and three-time winner of the New York City Marathon. A runner can lose 10 to 15 seconds per mile against the wind, yet gain only five to seven seconds with a tailwind, meaning "you'll only make up about half" the time.

Pacesetter Tanui dropped out near the halfway point, which the pack hit in 1:06:43. That's when Muindi appeared to take charge, with 19-year-old Dawit Trfe, the lone Ethiopian, right on his shoulder, and the rest of the group hanging on. But memories of last year — leading the pack against the wind and then losing in the final kilometer by four seconds — helped him check his effort. "Out there, you cannot do it alone," Muindi said after the race.

This year, others helped. Hussein took the lead on several occasions, as did Philip Tanui. Salazar declared Muindi's tactic of sharing the load "very smart." Although Muindi backed off once in a while, "Whenever he feels like the pace is going too slow, he goes to the front, keeps it honest," Salazar said.

By 15 miles the pack had slimmed to five. David Matua of Kenya managed to stay with the group after dropping his water bottle and stopping to retrieve it. But he lost contact at about mile 17. At that point, the leaders picked up the pace with a 5:06 mile and decreased to three.

Muindi soon pulled away from Hussein and Tanui, running six consecutive miles at sub-five minute mile pace to gain a lead that extended to 30 seconds by mile 22.

Although Muindi glanced back a couple of times — often a sign that a leader is faltering — Salazar said the athlete looked to be running comfortably. And Muindi might have enjoyed what Reavis described as a "hero's welcome" from the thousands of runners moving in the opposite direction, cheering and snapping photos with the rising sun tinting the clouds peach behind him.

Hussein told Barahal that his shingles didn't bother him. "But I have to believe it did," said Barahal, a physician. Either way, Hussein and Muindi surely will be back next year. And now that each has won three, "I think we're looking at the best of seven here."