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Kenyan Tradition At Honolulu Marathon Lives On

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IN HAWAII, US

Sitting at the bar at Hawaii’s Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, gleefully sipping away my cold Budweiser, I couldn’t avoid eavesdropping on a conversation between fellow patrons.

“Just when we are getting started, the Kenyans are already on their way to the finish,” an elderly woman, a fun runner, probably in her 60s, chats away.

“That’s what they do for a living,” her husband responded.

“And when you look at their bodies, they are so fit,” the old man added, and went on: “Last time I went to the start, and by the time I finished fixing myself a cup of coffee to watch the race, the Kenyans had finished!”

The talk was around Sunday’s Honolulu Marathon, and such is the respect Kenya athletes command here, revered as extraordinary.

The race is in it’s 47th edition and its President/CEO Jim Barahal has, once again, put together a strong Kenyan field to tackle the course at former US President Barack Obama’s childhood home city.

About 35,000 runners are expected to line up at the start in the Hawaii State capital of Honolulu for the race which has the enviable reputation of nurturing global marathon stars.

The Honolulu Marathon may not be part of the six-race World Marathon majors, but it’s a special race.

First because of its location in the Hawaiian paradise, then because of the hospitality of race organisers and fans alike.

Then again, it produces future stars.

While the World Marathon Majors races (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York), and other big city marathons, require runners to have attained a qualifying time before entering, the Honolulu Marathon doesn’t.

You simply sign up and run!

Barahal is happy to understudy the World Marathon Majors races, but excited that his race is the breeding ground for future stars.

Former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang won here in 2012, multiple Amsterdam Marathon champion Wilson Chebet was champion in 2014 with Chicago Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono completing a double in 2016 and 2017.

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On the women’s side, world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei honed her skills here, winning in 2016 and 2017, and holds the course record of two hours, 22 minutes and 15 seconds.

The men’s course best is by Cherono (2:08:27).