HONOLULU (11-Dec) -- On a warm and windy morning here, John Benner and Carmen Graves won the fifth edition of the Kalakaua Merrie Mile adjacent to Waikiki Beach. Benner, who ran for the University of Vermont during his NCAA career, clocked 4:17 to win by eight seconds. Graves, who competed for Roanoke College during her collegiate career, ran 4:44 and won by a comfortable 35 seconds. Nearly 800 runners finished this morning's race.
PHOTO: John Benner wins the men's division of the 2021 Kalakaua Merrie Mile in 4:17 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Benner, who has a 4:05.34 personal best and lives on the Big Island in Volcano, made a last-minute decision to enter the mile. He trained for, and will run, the Honolulu Marathon tomorrow. A middle distance runner at heart, he couldn't resist a chance to run the Kalakaua Merrie Mile.
"I kind of just made a last minute decision to sign-up for the mile, and I'm also doing the marathon tomorrow," Benner told Race Results Weekly. "I've been training for a while so figured might as well try to find a race to go to."
Benner's closest challenger was Benedikt BŁnz, a Swiss athlete based in California, who finished second in 4:25. Benner was never seriously challenged.
"I'm really happy," Benner continued. "I would never have imagined that I would have won this race before. Obviously there weren't any elites here, but it means so much to have won this race."
PHOTO: Carmen Graves wins the women's division of the 2021 Kalakaua Merrie Mile in 4:17 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Graves came to Hawaii to support her training partner, Canadian Olympian Lanni Marchant, who is competing in the marathon tomorrow. She got a bib for the mile and was very excited to test her current level of fitness. Her time wasn't far off of her personal best on the track, 4:40.04, and was her fastest road mile on a record-eligible course.
"It was amazing," said Graves, who lives in Denver. "The crowds were awesome. I just like the environment, waking up to the sunrise and just beautiful."
Graves said that she didn't have any trouble negotiating the sharp turnaround just past the halfway point because the roadway was completely dry (morning showers are common here). Without anyone pushing her, she simply ran her own race.
"It was OK," Graves said about her time. "It was definitely a rust-buster for me for the mile; I've been doing a bunch of 5-K stuff. So it was decent, a good time. I was kind of caught in no-man's land so I got a little lazy that middle portion. But I tried finishing strong, and that's all you can ask for."
Unlike in previous years, today's race did not have a formal invited athlete program. The course records of 3:53.3 by Edward Cheserek and 4:22.6 by Mirriam Cherop, both of Kenya, were never threatened. However, the race still served as a fun appetizer to tomorrow's main events, the 48th Honolulu Marathon and the fourth Start to Park 10-K. Many of today's runners, like men's winner Benner, used today's race as a warm-up for tomorrow. He wasn't worried that his legs would be tired tomorrow morning.
"I'll be OK," said Benner, who works as a botanist. "I'm not really a marathoner. I'm more of a middle distance runner, but I'm hoping to run under 2:40. I'd be really happy with that."