RRW: Honolulu Marathon Boasts Best-Ever Elite Fields With Six Sub-2:08 Men Led By

Gilbert Chepkwony defends his title against 2:04:48-man Yamane Adhane. Commonwealth Games 10,000 champ Joyce Chepkirui is the favorite for the women despite bombing in her debut with 2:35. She faces Ehitu Kiros (2:23:39) and others. 35-year-old former Olympic silver medalist Isabellah Ochichi will run her 2nd marathon (2:35 debut).

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By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
November 25, 2014

The Honolulu Marathon –the fourth largest in the United States after New York, Chicago and Boston– has attracted its best-ever elite fields for the event’s 42nd edition on Sunday, December 14.  The eight elite men and nine elite women will compete for a $150,000 prize money purse (plus generous time bonuses), with $40,000 going to the race winners.


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Men from Ethiopia and Kenya fill all of the spots in the men’s elite field, led by defending champion Gilbert Chepkwony (2:08:16 PB).  In very warm and humid conditions last year (27C/80F with 64% humidity), Chepkwony ran the slowest winning time since 2007 when the race was held in driving rain.  Clocking 2:18:47, he prevailed over two-time Honolulu champion Nicholas Chelimo by covering the 23rd mile in 4:36, dropping Chelimo.

“Chelimo was following me so I tried to pull ahead,” Chepkwony told reporters after last year’s race.  He added: “It is very special to win the Honolulu Marathon.”

Chelimo (2:07:28 PB) is also back, joined by Honolulu newcomers Yamane Adhane of Ethiopia (2:04:48 PB), and Wilson Chebet (2:05:37) and Benjamin Koloum Kiptoo (2:06:31), both of Kenya.  Adhane –who has won marathons in Rotterdam, Daegu, Ottawa, and Gongju– is a very consistent athlete with 20 marathons to his credit.  His top-10 marks average to 2:07:20, according to the athletics statistics service, Tilastopaja Oy.  Chebet has won the TCS Amsterdam Marathon three times, and Koloum has won marathons in Paris, Rome, Chunchon, Brescia and Beijing during his career.

Also in the men’s race are Ethiopia’s Gebretsadik Abraha (2:07:46 PB), and Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata (2:07:44) and Julius Arile (2:10:03).  Arile, a former cattle rustler, is the subject of an upcoming documentary called “The Gun Runner.”  He finished a surprising fourth at last year’s TCS New York City Marathon.

The men’s course record is 2:11:12 set by Kenya’s Jimmy Muindi in 2012; Muindi won the race a record six times.


One of the world’s best road runners, Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui, will make her second serious attempt at the marathon distance in Honolulu.  At the 2012 Virgin London Marathon, Chepkirui ran as a pacemaker through 20 miles, helping four women break 2:21.  She came back to London the following year, ran with the leaders through halfway (1:11:49), but fell apart in the second half to finish in a disappointing 2:35:54.  She hasn’t run a marathon since.

Since then, Chepkirui has become both the African and Commonwealth champion at 10,000m, has run a blistering 30:37 10-K on the road (the #6 time in history), and has run 1:06:19 for the half-marathon.  Although she has the slowest marathon personal best of any of the elite women in the race, she has to be considered a favorite for victory given her impressive resume at shorter distances.

Also set to run is last year’s women’s champion, Ehitu Kiros of Ethiopia (2:23:39 PB).  Like Chepkwony, she won a close, two-way battle for victory against compatriot Woynishet Girma, 2:36:02 to 2:36:10.  She decided to wait for the long climb up Diamond Head Avenue from 38 to about 40 kilometers to strike.

“I can go more time at this pace, but I didn’t know how hilly,” she said last year of the last section of the course.  “So I decided (finally) to go.”

Also scheduled to run are Croatia’s Lisa Nemec (née Stublic), who placed fourth in the recent European Championships Marathon in Zurich.  She has a personal best of 2:25:44, the Croatian national record.  Diane Nukuri of Burundi, who lives in the United States, will rally back from the Amsterdam Marathon in October where she finished third in a personal best 2:29:35.  Valentina Galimova of Russia (2:30:30 PB), who won in Honolulu in 2012, is also slated to compete, as is Eri Okubo of Japan (2:26:08), who will be running in Honolulu for the second time (she was sixth in 2011).

Two more Kenyans have also signed up for the women’s race: Sarah Kiptoo and Isabellah Ochichi.  Kiptoo won Grandma’s Marathon in 2013 in a personal best 2:26:32, but in her five marathons after that has yet to break 2:30 again.  Ochichi, a 35 year-old veteran, is one of the most decorated Kenyan runners from the aughts, with an Olympic silver medal from Athens in 2004 (5000m), and two bronze medals from the IAAF World Cross Country Championships (2002 and 2005).  She’s only run one marathon so far: a 2:31:38 at Amsterdam in 2013.

The women’s course record is 2:27:19 by Russia’s Lyubov Denisova set back in 2006.