by Brett Larner
The Honolulu Marathon is one of the biggest draws for the average Japanese runner. Prior to the Tokyo Marathon it was the race for those who wanted to say they had done a marathon in their life. It's still a major attraction, and in recent years Japanese runners have consistently been on the podium in at least the women's race thanks in large part to the Second Wind AC team. Second Wind runners are back again in force, with defending champion Kiyoko Shimahara, 2007 runner-up Akemi Ozaki, and former club member and 2008 runner-up Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) on the line. Second Wind runner Yuko Manabe, a 1:09:36 half marathoner, is also acting as pacemaker in the women's race.
Shimahara and Ozaki went 1-2 in the heat of August's Hokkaido Marathon, Shimahara setting a course record in a PB of 2:25:10 and Ozaki likewise recording a new PB of 2:27:33. Ozaki went on to win the Athens Classic Marathon in November in a controlled effort, while a week later Shimahara was 2nd in the inaugural Yokohama International Women's Marathon. How the pair fares a month later in Honolulu, never known as a fast race, remains to be seen. It's likely that Ozaki will be targeting Honolulu as her peak race of the season, with Shimahara along in more of a support role.
Their former teammate Kaori Yoshida has not performed up to the same level since leaving Second Wind in the spring but is still running well enough to be a challenge if the race runs in the mid-2:30's. Others in the women's field include two-time winner Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) and strong Kenyans Pamela Chepchumba and Margaret Okayo.
In the men's race, 2008 winner Patrick Ivuti (Kenya) is back to go for two in a row against the young Benson Cherono (Kenya) and a pack of other up-and-comers. Six-time winner Jimmy Muindi (Kenya) also returns for his 16th-straight Honolulu Marathon after being out of competition all year.
Click here for complete details on this year's elite field.
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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