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Easter Island Marathon---Miles of Mystery
By Patrice Malloy
June 28, 2005

Ever since its Greek genesis in 490 BC, the marathon event has surfaced in every conceivable metropolis, latitude, longitude and crevice of the world.

But few 26.2-mile odysseys can compete with the Easter Island Marathon when it comes to combining the magic and mysteries of the marathon distance with a profoundly mythical and provocative locale.

One of the most isolated places on earth, Easter Island lies 2,300 miles from land of any significance. A tiny speck in the middle of the South Pacific, the island is roughly triangular in shape with it rocky shores measuring just 13, 11, and 10 miles in length. A Chilean territory since 1888, Easter Island has a population of 4,000 who live in primarily Hanga Roa, the island's only town.

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known by islanders, is famous for its more than 800 imposing stone statues which punctuate the landscape. On average, the colossal monoliths, or moai,, stand 13 feet high and weigh 14 tons -- human heads on torsos in the male form craved form from rough hardened volcanic ash.

The many enigmas of Easter Island have been a magnet for travelers and a puzzle for anthropologists and archaeologists since the first European explorers arrived here on Easter Day in 1722. Where did the original inhabitants come from? How did the Polynesians arrive at such an unlikely destination -- an estimated 1,400 years ago? What inspired them to build the moai? How did they move the statues from the quarries to other parts of the island? Theories abound, including off-beat stories of aliens invading the island via spaceships.

A nirvana for adventure-seeking marathoners, the 4th annual Easter Island Marathon did not disappoint those who went the distance to go the distance. "I've always been intrigued about the island's isolation, history, culture and statues," said Michael Ekern, a 44-year-old participant from Minneapolis, MN. "When I learned that there was a marathon on the island, I just had to be there.."

The June 12, 2005, marathon started with the 5K, 10K and half marathon races in the seaside town of Ranga Roa. The hilly out-and-back marathon course looped through town before heading out on one of the island's few paved roads - a sparsely-traveled path through the center of the island.

The challenging course featured some of the less celebrated but equally picturesque features of the island, including it lush green meadows and hillsides. Frequent encounters with the island's many free-roaming cattle and wild horses kept runners on their feet as did run-ins with some of the local canines, one of which ran the entire race with a small pack of Americans. Occasional sightings of moai served as a reminder that this was a marathon far and away off the beaten path.

Race-day weather was typical for the area - a 72-degree subtropical smorgasbord that started with sunshine and evolved into cloudy conditions, steady drizzle, wind and drenching downpours.

It was no mystery as to who won the races with decisive victories in both the men's and women's divisions. Erwin Valdebenito, a 42-year old ultramarathoner from Chile, led the men's race wire-to-wire for an uncontested victory in the course record time of two hours, 59 minutes and nine seconds. Luis Alberto Concha of Chile finished second (3:06:54) and Anthony Russo of the USA finished third (3:12:34).

The race was a family affair for women's champion Kristine Hup, a 24-year-old law student from Northfield, MN. Her father, 50-year-old Stanley Hup, stopped for ten minutes with one mile to go and waited for her to catch up. They ran the last mile together and finished, in 3:51:10. Angie Partin of the USA placed second (4:53:57) and Cynthia Paquette of Canada finished third (4:56:50).

Susie Rutherford of the United Kingdom was the overall winner in the half marathon race with a time of 1:35:04. Runner up and first in the men's division was Sylvain Gicquel, 36, of Tahiti who clocked 1:44:18.

Sixteen Americans joined the international field that included runners from Germany, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Tahiti, Chile, England and Canada. The weekend's accompanying 5k, 10k, sprint triathlon and mountain bike races were popular with the Rapa Nui locals.

For more information on the Easter Island Marathon, visit www.marathontours.com/easterisland or call 617-242-7845.


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