Tomorrow will see the running of the 40th Honolulu Marathon and one of the final big name fields of 2012. The race will have more than 31,000 entrants – the biggest field in 15 years, and has the added interest of a number of big name professionals who entered the race after the disappointment of New York.
Headlining the elite field is Olympic bronze medallist and second fastest official marathoner of all time, Wilson Kipsang. Kipsang was a surprise entry in the race after missing out on the ING New York City marathon and would on paper surely be an odds on chance of breaking the course record if conditions were favourable. His personal best of 2:03:42 was admittedly set in the much cooler climate of Berlin last year, however still has some seven and half minutes on the 2:11:12 set by compatriot Jimmy Muindi in 2004.
While Muindi has again entered Honolulu, his 20th time, he is not likely to be amongst Kipsang’s challengers with his recent best in Honolulu falling off to 2:24:40. Muindi has won the race seven times with his last win in 2007.
Most likely to challenge Kipsang will be 28 year old Ethiopian Markos Geneti who set his personal best of 2:04:54to finish third in the now well renowned Dubai Marathon in January this year.
Kenyans have won more than half of all Honolulu Marathons with 21 wins and there will be a number of Kenyan challenges in addition to Kipsang and Muindi. Two-time defending champion Nicholas Chelimo will wear the number one bib, however his recent best of 2:16:44 in the Eindhoven Marathon in October was some nine minutes of his personal best 2:07:38 set in the same race in 2010. Other Kenyans include 2008 and 2009 winner Patrick Ivuti (PB 2:07:46) and 2011 third place finisher Josephat Boit (2:15:40).
In the women’s field it is very much an Ethiopian affair with both the defending champion and second place getter returning for another crack. Woynishet Germa won the race on debut last year in 2:31:41, beating out Misiker Mekonnen by 12 seconds (2:31:53). The most likely challenger is a pace setter from last year and 2012 Gold Coast Marathon winner, Japan’s Kaori Yoshida. American Stephanie Rothstein is also a chance, aiming to be the first American winner since 1988 with a personal best of 2:29:35 set in the humid 2011 Houston Marathon.
The factor likely to protect course records for another year is the unique Hawaii phenomenon known as vog – volcanic smog and gases from Kilauea. Vog makes the air more moist, increasing humidity and attracting pollutants, making it harder to breathe. Race president Dr. Jim Barahal has already flagged that the increased vog present in Honolulu at the moment will lead to slower winning times and he has pleaded for the amateur entrants to run to the conditions.
“When the weather is bad, hot, humid and voggy the best thing to do is slow down you’re not going to run a personal best, just accept that from the beginning,” Dr Barahal said.