Edwin Kiptoo Claims Inaugural Kalakaua Merrie Mile By Five Seconds
By Chris Lotsbom
HONOLULU, HI, USA (10-Dec) — Overcome with emotion, Edwin Ngetich Kiptoo ran down Kalakaua Avenue next to Waikiki Beach and didn’t stop at the Kalakaua Merrie Mile finish line despite winning the race.
After chasing down all the elite women, who had been given a 27-second head-start, and crossing the finish as champion of the inaugural race in 3:57.4, the Kenyan kept his pace up through the finish chute, blowing past cheering spectators and race volunteers. Kiptoo wouldn’t stop until reaching the Waikiki beachfront, when his manager Davor Savija flagged him down and got his attention. On his first trip outside of Kenya, Kiptoo didn’t want to slow down until he was assured that he had indeed won the gender challenge and its $3500 first prize.
“I chased the ladies and caught them. I wanted to push,” Kiptoo said, surrounded by spectators wanting selfies. “This is my first time. It’s a very nice place.”
In what may be America’s only pro road mile with a handicap format, organizers only added a prize money purse last Wednesday, paying $3500-1500-1000 for the first three athletes to cross the line. Honolulu Marathon Association president, Dr. Jim Barahal, came up with the 27-second gap and hoped for a tight finish.
Nicole Sifuentes, Shannon Osika, and Dominique Scott-Efurd led the women’s race from the gun, running three wide with Aisha Praught Leer and Erin Finn several steps back. Wanting to build a concrete buffer on the men, Sifuentes charged early figuring a cushion would be necessary with the likes of Kiptoo, Olympic 1500m finalist Nate Brannen, and 2014 NYRR Wanamaker Mile champion Will Leer in the field.
“We just went out hard from the gun, so the whole thing was hard. I didn’t necessarily feel like I could speed up at any point because I was gunning it,” Sifuentes told Race Results Weekly.
When the men started, Kiptoo promptly took the lead and wanted to front the male charge. He entered the race with a bold strategy. “I wanted to catch them before the turning point,” he explained. That was my plan.” Kiptoo quickly left the rest of the men’s field, which also included New Zealand miler Hamish Carson and USA steeplechaser Mason Ferlic, behind.
By the turn-around point –approximately a kilometer into the course– Kiptoo had accomplished his goal in part. He’d already caught up to Finn, and Sifuentes, Osika, and Scott-Efurd were only another 12 seconds ahead. The rest of the men were another eight seconds behind Kiptoo.