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Honolulu Marathon Cultivates a Growing Number of Elite Runners

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The very first Honolulu Marathon race debuted in 1973. The catalyst wasn't exactly athletic warfare or competition, but more as a way for a maverick cardiologist to show the benefits of long-distance running, primarily for his cardiac patients.

34 years later, it's the fourth biggest marathon in the world. And while there's still a laid-back vibe, the competition aspect has grown. In recent years, there has been a recent influx of world-class record-breakers and elite runners.   

"We're very excited, for the first time, with all the great runners we've had here, the actual world-record holder in the marathon toeing the line on Ala Moana Blvd." say Jim Barahal, CEO of the Honolulu Marathon. 
      
That would Dennis Kimetto, who set the world record of 2:02:57 at the Berlin Marathon in 2014. Toe-to-toe with Kimetto is fellow Kenyan long-distance runner, Wilson Chebet."

Chebet won the Honolulu Marathon in 2014, took second in 2015, and in 2016, he ran the second fastest ever time in Honolulu. Now he's back for that gold medal. 

 "I was also happy about last year's performance, and i'm praying and willing that this year, i will try my best to make something good again in Honolulu," says Chebet. 

Chebet and Kimetto may be buddies, but they hit pause of that friendship for those two-plus hours on the course. 

"We are friends, yes. But there are some things you cannot move around maybe until you finish the race."

As far as finishng races, the "aloha spirit" ensures that everyone can complete the course. There are no cut-off times.

"We love the fact that we have athletes at both ends of the spectrum. We get the fastest possible time, and we often get the slowest possible time," says Barahal. 

 And the two groups actually get the opportunity to come face-to-race on the course. 
   
"We have such an out and back nature of the course, especially on Kalani Aulean highway. People actually get to see those leaders run right by them. It creates a connection that's very exciting. Someone's on their 25th mile, and thousands are on their 7th mile, and to see those two juxtaposed is really amazing," he says. 

"And anybody that says that the average out there runner doesn't care about the pros, they're wrong. They go crazy."
 
"We see a lot of crowd coming to us on the course, and you feel really humbled. They're clapping. They're cheering me. They're calling my name. So I feel proud and get more energy," says Chebet.  

But whether you're first place or the very last body to cross the finish line, The 26.2-mile trek is a feat worth celebrating. 

"[I will] make sure that I'll win so that I'll come and shake hands with last person who will complete the race." 

"More than 30,0000 participants will be gathering at the start location on Ala Moana Blvd. and Queen St. on December 10.