HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 23,000 runners were entered in the 38th annual Honolulu Marathon. But controversy surrounded the runner who was eventually ruled to be the top female finisher in Sunday's race.
Belainish Gebre was the first woman to cross the finish line of the 2010 Honolulu Marathon, which also was her first-ever marathon. She had a hard time breaking the ceremonial finish line tape, which could have been seen as an omen; confirmation of her win came only after race officials made a ruling on whether she received illegal assistance from her boyfriend.
"I know that rule. In our side, any manage or people no the outside, they give anything, you take it, you disqualified," said the boyfriend, Ezkayas Tsegaya. "We know that rule."
It was alleged that Tsegaya was her coach, and that he had given her water and other drinks from containers that he had on a belt around his waist while he ran alongside her. Tsegaya and Gebre denied that he was her coach.
"We don't have coach, we just train together" said Tsegaya. "She give me advice, I give her advice, something like that."
"Sometimes we help train each other, sometimes I do myself," Gebre said, as the two sat next to each other in the medical tent where Gebre was being treated after the race.
Second-place finisher and defending women's champion Svetlana Zakharova of Russia filed a formal protest of the race results because of the controversy.
Gebre is a 22 year-old from Ethiopia who now lists Flagstaff, Ariz. as her home. Even though she was a late entry and was running in her first marathon, she is still well-known in the world of professional running. "She's won seven road races this year," said David Monti, a reporter with the publication Race Results Weekly. "She's won her last five in a row. She has a 1:09:43 half-marathon personal best. I mean she's an elite athlete.
But she was not entered as an elite athlete for the marathon, which made a difference.
"What we finally realized was that because she wasn't entered as an elite athlete, she didn't have access to the elite athlete aid stations, every five kilometers," Barahal said. According to Barahal, elite runners have eight aid stations where they can have their personal drinks available.
As for the belt with the drink containers? Race officials looked at several photographs taken during the race.
"we saw at least ten instances in which her coach, who was running with her, gave her assistance or fluids, but they're all our Honolulu Marathon water cups or sponges," said Barahal. "We didn't have any photographic evidence of him giving her anything from his belt."
Barahal ruled that Gebre was the female winner of the marathon, which comes with a $40,000 prize. Her official time was 2:32:13. Zakharova was runner up with a time of 2:33:01. Kaori Yoshida of Tokyo, Japan, was third with a time of 2:39:02, and Teba Naser of Ethiopia was fourth, finishing at 2:41:08.
Meanwhile, Kenyan runner Nicholas Chelimo was the men's winner with a time of two hours, 15 minutes and 18 seconds.
The top five men's finishers were from Kenya. The 27 year-old Chelimo was followed by Richard Limo a time of 2:17:18. Solomon Bushendich was third with a time of 2:19:54, and Gibert Kirwa was fourth with a time of 2:20:58. Seven-time Honolulu Marathon winner Jimmy Muindi came in fifth with a time of 2:22:34.
A total of 22,806 runners entered the race. Of those, 13,490 came from Japan. Runners said that today's humid conditions made for a somewhat sluggish marathon, with times well below records.