HONOLULU (22-Nov) -- Matthew Centrowitz, the 2016 Olympic 1500m gold medalist, and Heather MacLean, the 2022 USA Track & Field 1500m indoor champion, lead a world class field for the sixth edition of the Kalakaua Merrie Mile on Saturday, December 10, the warm-up event for the 50th anniversary of the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday, December 11. Both athletes will be running the flat, out-and-back mile route on Kalakaua Avenue adjacent to world famous Waikiki Beach for the first time.
PHOTO: Matthew Centrowitz winning the 2018 USATF 1500m title in Des Moines, Iowa (Photo credit: David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Centrowitz, 33, who grew up playing soccer in Maryland before having a stellar athletics career at the University of Oregon where he won the NCAA 1500m title in 2011, has been getting back into shape after undergoing knee surgery last May to fix a torn meniscus. He spent the summer doing rehab exercises, like pool and anti-gravity treadmill running, and gradually got back to regular training this fall. The Merrie Mile will be his first high-level competition since his surgery.
"I'm looking forward to my first race in Hawaii at the Kalakaua Merrie Mile," said Centrowitz, who has won five USATF 1500m outdoor titles. "I am still working my way back to fitness after surgery in the summer and hope this will be another step forward for me."
MacLean, 27, who grew up in Peabody, Mass., and competed for the University of Massachusetts during her collegiate career, had a breakthrough year in 2021, finishing third in the 1500m at the USA Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. In the Tokyo Olympics she advanced to the semi-finals where she finished 12th in her heat. She closed out her 2022 track season with a series of fast 1500m races, including two sub-4:00 performances in Monaco (3:58.89) and Brussels (3:58.76). She is the seventh-fastest American 1500m runner of all time according to Track & Field News.
PHOTO: Heather MacLean competing in the 1500m at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., where she finished fifth (Photo credit: Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"I'm excited and honored to be racing my first-ever Merrie Mile in one of the most beautiful places on earth," said MacLean, who is coached by 1996 Olympian Mark Coogan. "Thank you to the Honolulu Marathon for hosting such an amazing weekend of events."
In all, 19 athletes will compete in the Merrie Mile's professional division which features a sex-based gender challenge. Athletes running in the female division will head off first, and 27 seconds later the male athletes will give chase. Prize money is based on the overall order of finish for all athletes.
On the men's side, Centrowitz will be challenged by 2019 USATF 1500m champion Craig Engels, 2021 USATF 5-K road running champion Drew Hunter, USA high school 1500m record holder Hobbs Kessler, and 2022 European Championships and Commonwealth Games 1500m finalist Neil Gourley of Great Britain among others. In the women's division, 2021 NCAA 1500m champion Sage Hurta should be in the thick of the fight, along with 2021 USATF 5-K road running champion Weini Kelati, and two-time Fifth Avenue Mile runner-up Nikki Hiltz. Hiltz identifies as non-binary, but will be competing in the professional women's division in accordance with USATF rules.
The complete professional fields are posted here with photos and short bios: https://www.honolulumarathon.org/elite-fields/2022-kalakaua-merrie-mile-elite-field
The Merrie Mile was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, and in 2021 there was no professional division. Everyone in Honolulu is excited about the return of top-level athletes to this year's race which will also feature an open field of about 2,500 athletes who will run before the pros then can stay to cheer their favorite runners.
"We are excited to bring back the professional division of the Kalakaua Merrie Mile on December 10," said Dr. Jim Barahal, the president of the Honolulu Marathon Association. "It is our deepest and most internationally accomplished field yet. With ten men chasing eight women, who have a 27-second head start, it should be an incredible race to the finish line."
The course records are 3:53.3 for men by Edward Cheserek of Kenya in 2019, and 4:22.6 for women by Mirriam Cherop, also of Kenya, in 2018. Both marks are the fastest-ever mile times in the state of Hawaii.
The Kalakaua Merrie Mile is the first of three events of the 50th anniversary Honolulu Marathon weekend. The mile kicks things off on Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m., then on Sunday both the Honolulu Marathon and Start to Park 10-K will begin at 5:00 a.m. An announcement on the professional field for the marathon will follow in the coming days.