Kenyans Sweep in Obama's Birthplace

Honolulu Marathon women's winner Margaret Muriuki is congratulated by her manager Joke Van de Veen of Volare Sport after winning the race on December 8, 2019.
8 December 2019

Honolulu, the city that brought forth USA's first black president - Kenyan-American Barack Obama - continued to celebrate Kenyan stories with Titus Ekiru and Margaret Wangari leading a sweep of the Honolulu Marathon titles on Sunday.

And what's more, defending champion Ekiru, 27, set a new course record, defending his title in two hours, seven minutes and 59 seconds to become the fastest man over the Marathon in the Island of Hawaii.

The win came after another Kenyan, US-based Edward Cheserek, won the curtain-raising mile race on Saturday in four minutes and 53 seconds.

It was 33-year-old Wangari's marathon debut, and she dedicated her 2:31:09 victory to her ailing mother, Agnes Muthoni Kenyua.

"My mother was diagnosed with kidney failure but despite her illness, she has been praying for me a lot," said an emotional Wangari, who left the track (5,000 metres) to focus on the road, making her 42km debut on Sunday.

She also dedicated the win to her four-year-old daughter Lynnolive Jemutai and husband Jacob Kipchum Yator.

Fellow Kenyan, US-based Betsy Saina, who has been training in Flagstaff, Arizona, was second in 2:31:51.

Saina blamed herself for underrating the tough course in the Hawaiian State capital.

"I came here as favourite and I thought I'd push later in the race, but I think I underrated the course a bit," the Iowa State University running legend told Nation Sport.

In the men's race, Ekiru led a clean sweep of the podium and said there's no time to celebrate as he heads back home to prepare for his entry into the rich World Marathon Majors circuit.

He plans to attack the Tokyo Marathon on March 1 and will be knocking on selectors' doors for an Olympic ticket.

Former winner Wilson Chebet was a distant second in 2:13:13 after experiencing some problems with his right thigh muscle in the second half, with Edwin Koech (2:14:19) completing the Kenyan sweep.

"There's very little time between now and the Tokyo Marathon so I won't celebrate too much this Christmas when I get back to Kapsabet as I have to start early preparations," said Ekiru, who shattered the course record of 2:08:27 set in 2017 by fellow Kenyan Lawrence Cherono.

Ekiru's story has been that of battling poverty to make a living through sport.

The rising star from Turkana didn't finish primary school education, dropping out of primary school at Kosirai in Nandi County due to his family's state of poverty.

He got a cheque of $40,000 (Sh4 million), with $25,000 (Sh2.5 million) for the win, $10,000 (Sh1 million) for the course record and a further time bonus of $5,000 (Sh500,000) for running a sub-2:08 time.

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