Honolulu, Hawaii — Kenya swept the titles at the 46th Honolulu Marathon here Sunday as Titus Ekiru improved from fourth place last year to win in the second fastest time on the Hawaiian course with Vivian Kiplagat clinching the women's title.
In fact, it was a men's clean sweep with Ekiru winning in two hours, nine minutes and one second followed by Reuben Kerio Kiprop (2:12:59) and Vincent Yator (2:15:31).
Kiplagat's winning time was 2:36:22 and she was followed home by compatriot Sheila Jerotich (2:42:02).
Japan's Era Suzuki finished third in 2:47:53.
Ekiru ran pretty much alone from the 23-kilometre but Yator's third place was nothing short of a miracle.
On February 18 this year, he was involved in a nasty road accident at Kikopey, near Naivasha, when the matatu he was travelling in was rammed from the rear.
His fellow runner, Francis Kiplagat was killed in the accident along with six others.
Of the four survivors, only Yator's can walk today. The matatu had 11 people aboard and at the time, Yator was preparing for the Paris Marathon.
"For me to finish today is nothing but a miracle," Yator, who broke three ribs in the accident, told Nation Sport after crossing the finish line.
"This result has now encouraged me and I'm gonna work harder to improve on my personal best time. I'd like to run perhaps in Rotterdam next April. The course there is fast and I can get a good time there."
Ekiru, who trains in the Stanley Biwott camp in Kapsabet, was elated.
Not too many marathon runners come from Turkana County and since 2010 Commonwealth champion Samson Kelai, no one from the area has really made it.
"My victory should motivate others that they too can make it if they work and train hard," he said.
It was his second major victory this year after victory in Mexico earlier in the year.
The Honolulu Marathon is the fourth biggest marathon in USA after the Boston, Chicago and New York marathons.
Jimmy Muindi holds the record of six wins with pioneer Ibrahim Hussein, the first Kenyan to win a major marathon in USA, having broken ground with his hat-trick of victories in 1985, 86 and 87.
His brother Mbarak Hussein also hit a hat-trick with wins in 1998, 2001 and 2002.
The rich Kenyan race weekend tradition in Honolulu continued in the early hours of Saturday when Edward Cheserek, a Kenyan living in Flagstaff, Arizona, successfully defended his title at the third annual Kalakaua Merrie Mile in Waikiki.
This race usually curtain-raises for the main Honolulu Marathon.
Cheserek clocked the fastest-ever mile in the state of Hawaii: three minutes, 54.83 seconds.
Cheserek, 24, a 17-time USA collegiate champion when he competed for the University of Oregon, won by only 6/100ths of a second over newcomer Leonard Bett, 18.
Most certainly, Bett is one to watch, having made an auspicious road mile debut here in 3:54.89.
Cheserek, who only gained the front position as the pair leaned at the finish line won $4,000 (Sh400,000) in prize money.
This race uses a handicap format where the elite women are given a 26-second head start over the elite men.
In last year's contest, Cheserek overtook the women's champion, Miriam Cherop of Kenya, in the final 10 meters of the race to be declared the overall champion.
Honolulu Marathon leading results
1. Titus Ekiru (Kenya) 2:09:01
2. Reuben Kerio Kiprop (Kenya) 2:12:59
3. Vincent Yator (Kenya) 2:15:31
1. Vivian Kiplagat (Kenya) 2:36:22
2. Sheila Jerotich (Kenya) 2:42:09
3. Eri Suzuki (Japan) 2:47:53