Runnin’ with Rani: Hawaii runners among Honolulu Marathon’s elite

Thousands of runners from around the globe took to the streets of Ala Moana Boulevard on Sunday to compete in the 46th annual Honolulu Marathon.

The 26.2-mile footrace is the fourth largest marathon in the United States with an estimated 27,000 runners lining up for the 5 AM start time.

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The race began with the skies lit by magnificent fireworks over Queen Street and Ala Moana Boulevard before traversing through the festive Christmas light displays throughout downtown Honolulu.

The course then headed east along Kapiolani and Ala Moana Boulevards, through Waikiki via Kalakaua Avenue, and on to Kahala Avenue and Kalanianaole Highway. Runners continued into Hawaii Kai before doubling back to the finish line banner waiting at Kapiolani Park.

The elite field of Kenyan runners have certainly made their presence known over the 46-year history as an astounding 27 Honolulu Marathon winners have all hailed from Kenya.

And over the last four years, the Kenyans have dominated both the mens and women’s marathons at Honolulu. This year was no different.

But prior to Sunday’s legendary footrace, strong and sustained winds of 15 to 25-mph were expected, with possible gusts up to 40-mph. The only good news was knowing that challenging headwinds for runners heading east could equate to some much-appreciated reprieve, by having a wonderful tailwind on their return trip to the finish at Kapiolani Park.

Yet no matter how you cut it, running 26.2-miles in subpar race conditions was bound to be a sufferfest. And then, there was Titus Ekiru.

At last year’s event, the 26-year-old from Kenya placed 4th overall in his Honolulu Marathon debut — not too shabby considering the high caliber of professional running talent on the start line every year.

The 2017 winner, Lawrence Cherono, posted a new course record of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 27 seconds in what many considered to be “perfect race conditions.”

But on Sunday, after running with a pack for the first half of the race which helped to buffer some of the effects of strong headwinds challenging them at every step, somewhere around the 17-mile mark, Ekiru pulled away and began the 9-mile trek back to Kapiolani Park — solo.

While commentators on the KITV 4 News Live Coverage thought it might be a gutsy move to pull away from the pack so early in a race, Ekiru looked confident and his stride fluid, as he consistently clicked off a sub 5-minute pace per mile.

And once on the final stretch in Kapiolani Park, Ekiru was still alone and narrowly missed setting a new race record by a scant 34 seconds to win the 46th edition of the race in a blazing time of 2:09:01.

Reuben Kipropkerio surged past fellow countryman Vincent Yator to finish second in 2:12:59. Yator finished third in 2:15:31.

This is the second marathon victory of 2018 for Ekiru. He also won the Ciudad de Mexico Marathon in 2:10:38, and was also first in the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon, posting a personal best 1:01:02 for 13.1 miles.

Fourth overall and top American was Don Cabral from Hartford, Connecticut, a two-time Olympian in the Steeplechase (2012, 2016), who finished in a fantastic time of 2:19:16.

Cabral, who is majoring in finance at Princeton University in New Jersey, told the KITV 4 News team that not only was the Honolulu Marathon his 26.2-mile debut, but he was also in between completing his finals before winter break.

Top Hawaii resident and second American to cross the finish line was Oahu’s Ben Williams, who finished in 7th overall with a stellar time of 2:33:18.

Williams, who is a former Hawaii professional triathlete and owns Hawaii Triathlon Center in Oahu, was also this year’s 2018 Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Champion.

Japan’s Masazumi Soejima won the wheelchair division. Soejima claimed his 12th Honolulu Marathon win and sixth consecutive title in a time of 1:39:12.

In the women’s competition, Kenya’s Vivian Jerono Kiplagat dominated the women’s race after building a sizeable lead during the second half and finishing unchallenged in a time of 2:36:22.

The strong headwinds during the first half of the race also took its toll on Kiplagat as shortly after crossing the finish line, she staggered a bit then sat on the ground as volunteers rushed to her aid.

Sheila Jerotich was second in 2:42:09, with Japan’s Eri Suzuki rounding out the women’s podium in 2:47:53.

Top Hawaii Female Resident honors went to Kaneohe’s Polina Carlson, who finished an impressive 4th overall in a time of 2:53:30.

Both Ekiru and Kiplagat each won $25,000 for their first-place finishes.

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Of course, our Big Island also represented well with bragging rights going to Volcano’s Lyman Perry and Noe McMahon for taking home top male and female honors with their times of 3:04:43 and 3:39:33 respectively.

Congratulations to all who finished!