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Rani Henderson: Hawaii versus the world

Updated: 
April 18, 2014 - 12:05am

Chase, or be chased down? That was the question on my mind going into Sunday’s Hapalua — Hawaii’s Half Marathon on Oahu. Yet, the answer wouldn’t come until the final mile of the race.

Two years ago, race organizers from the Honolulu Marathon association decided to create Hapalua, a 13.1-mile race with an exciting twist. They gathered 24 of the fastest male and female runners in Hawaii, put them up against three world-class Kenyan runners, and had them all duke it out in a sprint finish over the last ¼-mile straightaway of Kapiolani Park. Sounds fun?

Of course, no runner in Hawaii could ever beat a world-class professional runner, one who once held the world marathon record, and who can hold a 4:42 minute pace per mile over the 26.2-mile distance like it’s a walk in the park.

Kenyan Patrick Makau set the jaw-dropping record time in Berlin’s 2011 race at 2 hours, 3 minutes and 38 seconds. If that’s not enough, Makau also has a half marathon personal best of 58:52.

Peter Kirui, 26, recorded his best half marathon split by winning the 2012 New York City Half in a blistering 59:39.

The third professional, Isabella Ochichi, made a comeback to competitive running in 2013 after a seven-year layoff. Her half marathon best is a sweltering 1:08:38.

Race organizers thought of an ingenious idea to even out the field a bit. Hawaii runners would be given a handicapped start time ahead of the Kenyan trio — and among each other — based upon their best race performances over the past few years.

On top of that, race organizers set the bar even higher. Why not dangle a carrot with a lucrative prize purse of $11,000 split among the top 10 overall male and female finishers? With $5,000 going to first place, it’s like dangling red meat in front of a pack of hungry wild wolves as Hawaii runners don’t often get a chance at a “piece of the pie.”

The field of 24 Hawaii runners ranged from age 20 to 49. Most had race resumes a mile long that would intimidate anyone with one glance. Luckily for me, this was the third year I was sent an invitation. And, lucky for me along with five other women, we were given a 21-minute head start on the Kenyans.

I did not have a game plan or any expectations going into Sunday’s race. In 2012, I ran a bit more conservatively and landed in 13th place. Last year I didn’t participate — my baby shower happened on the day of the race and my son arrived three weeks later.

This year, I wanted a different outcome. However, any hope of making the top 10 was a bit nerve racking especially while having so many talented runners in the field.

I’m sure many have been in similar predicaments before a big race. There’s absolutely nothing you can do, but run your own race. And that became my game plan as I lined up in front of a spectator and media frenzied start at the Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki.

What happened next felt like a blur. I was in the lead by mile three and became “the chased.” While the race winded its way through Waikiki, Mother Nature also had a plan of her own. A blustery swirl of head- and cross-winds, accompanied by bouts of rain, beat down on the field. Instead of fighting it, I pushed on at my own pace.

The most challenging part of this course starts at the base of Diamond Head hill near mile 9.5. It’s basically a grind from bottom to top that will wreck havoc on one’s quads when you descend on the opposite side. And before I knew it, a former Punahou girls track and cross-country star, Eri Macdonald, was right next to me.

“There’s no one behind us,” said Macdonald after looking over her shoulder. “I’ve been thinking about Diamond Head.”

Well no wonder. It’s only the toughest section before the final flat mile of the race. And, I knew it would come down to that.

We continued to trade positions, pushing each other, knowing that we both had a great shot at winning. I allowed my mind to drift for a moment to wonder, “What if it’s me?” Instantly, that thought became, “I want it to be me!”

With just over a mile left in what has become the largest half marathon race in the state, with nearly 5,000 participants, and being invited to run in the most talked about Hawaii versus the World “chase race,” the unexpected happened.

Both hamstrings cramped, forcing me to slow in hopes to work through the pain. From being “chased,” I became the “chaser.” I tried with all of my might to keep pace with her as I could sense the Kenyan runners closing in. I managed to grit out a second place finish — just 29 seconds back at 1:25:51 — with Kirui close behind in third, and Ochichi in fourth. Whew.

If you have ever wanted to do a fun, exciting, and scenic half marathon race with a first-class experience from start to finish, then the Hapalua – Hawaii’s Half Marathon race is a must. Having a live band, hot malasadas, shaved ice, a stylish finisher’s shirt, and a well-earned medal waiting at the finish line, the Hapalua race makes everyone feel like a winner.

Hawaii Cycling Club’s Team Training Time Trial:

On Saturday, Hawaii Cycling Club hosted the second annual Team Training Time Trial near Waikoloa Beach Drive on Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The teams consisted of three or four riders in male, female and mixed divisions.

For each male and female team, finishing times were based upon the top two riders to finish. The top male and female times determined the mixed teams finishes.

Seven teams showed up to take on the 16.7-mile course.

The mixed team, Kiser Works, made up of riders Maxfield La Fortune, Kym Kiser, Rich Bell and Luis De La Torre, had the speediest time of the morning, finishing first in a stellar time of 34:35.

Second to cross the line was the all male team, Lavaboys, of Thomas Vonach, Helgi Olafson, Chris Prater and Rip Oldmeadow in a great time of 36:33. Third went to another all male team, Three Old Guys, made up of Layne Howard, Harry Yoshida, Paul Knoetgen and Cam Batty in 39:39.

Senior Project 5K Fun Run & Walk:

On Sunday, nearly 30 people gathered at the Kona Community Aquatic Center to take part in Marissa Bryant-Manago’s fun 5K. The free community event was a requirement for Bryant-Manago’s senior project to obtain the prestigious Board of Education diploma.

Sunny conditions greeted participants for the out and back course along Kuakini Highway and Alii Drive. Kona’s John Ferdico claimed the overall win in a swift time of 20:25. Not too far behind was Jose Franco in second at 20:49. Rounding out the men’s top three was Tim Wiley in 26:19.

Kona’s Karlyn Pipes topped the women’s division with her speedy time of 21:04. Next was Melissa Braswell, who hasn’t skipped a beat after a lengthy layoff from running, finished second in 23:17. Keeping it close was Susannah Roy in third at 23:39.

Coming up:

Saturday: The 33rd annual Mac-A-Thon 5k & 10K races will begin at 7 a.m. on the Old Government road fronting Honaunau Bay. Early morning race registration will be at the Keoua Halau on the north side of the beach road. A post race pancake breakfast, entertainment, silent auction and awards ceremony will follow. For more information and registration details visit keouacanoeclub.com.

Saturday: Hawaii Cycling Club presents the Hapuna Beach Training Time Trial at the entrance to the beach park. Start time for the free 12.7-mile course is 8 a.m. with morning registration from 7 to 7:40 at the mauka end of the beach parking lot. For more information visit hawaiicyclingclub.com.

Sunday: Frozen Pea Productions presents the Carboman 10-mile Mosey, Road Runner 3.5-mile Romp, and 1-mile Mighty Mouse Scamper running events along Alii Drive. All events are free and will begin at 8:08 a.m. next to Kailua Pier. No registration is required. Contact Peaman at 938-2296.