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Course Record for Denisova at 2006 Honolulu Marathon
By David Monti
(c) 2006 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

HONOLULU (10-Dec-2006) -- There's an old adage that says that blondes have more fun, and that was definitely the case at today's Honolulu Marathon.  Lyubov Denisova of Russia, her long blonde ponytail saturated by the tropical humidity, overwhelmed a strong women's field to run the fastest-ever marathon here by a woman in the event's 34 year history.  Denisova, 35, crossed the finish line in 2:27:19, surpassing compatriot Lyubov Morgunova's 2004 record by 14 seconds.

When asked through an interpreter if she planned to break the course record, the petite Russian who just bought a home in Gainesville, Fla., quipped: "Of course."

Running in the warmth of Gainesville under the watchful eye of her husband and coach, Maxim, Denisova prepared carefully for the heat, humidity and hills which make the Honolulu Marathon so challenging.  When she arrived at the start today she realized that the conditions were favorable for a fast time because it was relatively cool and the strong Trade Winds which had kicked up the past several days had died down.

"I have been training in Florida so I was used to the weather conditions," she said.

Denisova was running on her own through 5 kilometers (17:29) and 10 km (34:21), but was eventually joined by her strongest challenger, Alevtina Biktimirova, also of Russia.  The pair ran together, mingling with a few men, through halfway in 1:13:32, modestly under the course record pace.  But soon Biktimirova, sixth at the European Championships Marathon and the course record holder of the Frankfurt Marathon with a 2:25:12 personal best, could no longer keep pace.

"In the second half I was by myself," said Denisova, who has twice finished on the podium at the ING New York City Marathon.

Running the second half of the out-and-back course only slightly slower than the first, Denisova came home more than two minutes clear of Biktimirova, who finished in a solid 2:29:42.  Eri Hayakawa of Japan, the 2003 Honolulu champion, came from behind to finish third in 2:32:32.  Defending champion, Olesya Nurgalieva of Russia, was fourth in 2:36:02.

In addition to the $40,000 first prize, Denisova also won an additional $10,000 for breaking the course record and $17,000 for running sub-2:28:00.  Her $67,000 payday was the largest ever won by a woman in the history of the Honolulu Marathon.  Denisova said she would use some of the prize money to furnish her new house.

Denisova, who finished third in the City of Los Angeles Marathon last March, hadn't originally planned to run Honolulu this year.  She had her eyes set on New York, but that race had filled its elite field.  The New York organizers recommended her to Honolulu, but co-race director Jon Cross had already filled his elite field, too.  So Denisova, who is known for her stubborn streak, entered Honolulu on her own.  Cross gladly accommodated her in the elite field when he found out she was planning to run, and made sure she had an elite number and a good starting position.  That's all she needed today to come out on top.

"It isn't a secret that I was not invited to this race," said Denisova.  "So, I wanted to prove that I belonged here."


No athlete is more experienced at the Honolulu Marathon than five-time winner, Jimmy Muindi.  He came into today's race the heavy favorite, despite only having seven weeks to recover from his third place effort at the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in October.  He had won the last three editions of the race and has the fastest personal best time (2:07:49), but all was not well with the willowy Kenyan.

"My body wasn't going," he said after the race, explaining that his throat was sore and that he was coughing a lot.

But even when not at full strength, Muindi is a formidable competitor.  He conserved his energy, drafting the leaders through the first 10 km in 30:17, a little aggressive for this course.  Amongst the leaders was Ambesse Tolossa, the feisty Ethiopian who won the Tokyo International Marathon last February.  Wearing bib #6, he was clearly Muindi's biggest challenger, despite complaining later of a pain in the bottom of his left foot.

"Up and down like Ethiopia," Tolossa said of the Honolulu course which was definitely to his liking.

After the aggressive start, the pace slackened considerably.  The pack of five contenders, including Muindi, Tolossa, Ethiopians Araya Haregot and Tekeste Kebede, and two-time Olympic medalist Eric Wainaina of Kenya, reached the half-way point in 1:06:19, but they were still in the process of slowing down.  Nobody wanted to push ahead of Muindi, and 5 kilometers between 20-K and 25-K were crossed in only 16 minutes and 42 seconds.  Muindi didn't mind the slow time.

"Something like 2:14 here is nothing for me," he said.

The race finally got going at 30-K and Kebede and Haregot fell back.  Wainaina was the next to falter and when the 35-K mark was reached in 1:51:04 it was just Muindi and Tolossa vying for the win.  According to Muindi, the Ethiopian was running aggressively, bumping the taller Kenyan and sometimes clipping his heels.  Words were exchanged.

"He was trying to mess me up," said Muindi a little frustrated.

Beginning the climb of Diamond Head Avenue after 35-K, Tolossa managed to get a step on Muindi.  By the time the nearly 2-kilometer climb, which rises about 34 meters, was completed, Tolossa had a lock on the lead.

"The move he made was very powerful," said Muindi.

It was now Tolossa against the pavement, and Tolossa won.  He sailed to the finish line, smiling broadly, in 2:13:42, nearly a minute up on Muindi's 2:14:39.  Wainaina held on for third in 2:16:08.

"I'm so happy and very satisfied," said Tolossa who won $40,000 plus $3,000 in time bonuses.

The race had 28,635 entrants, 17,905 from Japan.  Runners will continue to finish into the evening despite the 5:00 a.m. start because the race has an open finish line, part of the "Aloha Spirit" which makes this marathon, the third largest in the United States, unique.


 1. Ambesse Tolossa, ETH, 2:13:42
 2. Jimmy Muindi, KEN, 2:14:39
 3. Eric Waiaina, KEN, 2:16:08
 4. Araya Haregot, ETH, 2:16:59
 5. Eric Nzoiki, KEN, 2:17:10

 1. Lyubov Denisova, RUS, 2:27:19 CR
 2. Alevtina Biktimirova, RUS, 2:29:42
 3. Eri Hayakawa, JPN, 2:32:31
 4. Olesya Nurgalieva, RUS, 2:36:02
 5. Albina Ivanova, RUS, 2:39:44

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