One of my favorite states of all time…Hawaii!
When I first heard of the Honolulu Marathon, there were a few things that drew me in: 1) a marathon in paradise and 2) no time limit! (A back-of-packer like me needs all the time she can get.)
The Honolulu Marathon is in December, which is a fantastic time of year to escape Denver. There was snow on the ground and flurries in the air when we were departing. I gingerly packed away my puffy jacket and was super excited about warm temperatures ahead. All in all I spent a week in Oahu, enjoying the sun and the warmth. I had scheduled the marathon about halfway through the vacation, so it would give us time to enjoy the island but also relax after the race before flying back to Denver. All of the airports we traveled through were also decorated for the holiday.
The marathon expo was medium-sized. There were lots of vendors but very little freebies, so it’s a bit different than what I am used to. I loved seeing running shirts from local companies…there’s a lot of pride in being a runner from Hawaii! When you first walk in, you are greeted with a red carpet. That red carpet leads you to the registration and check-in booths. So luxurious and smart — there would be no way I could get lost.
I went to pick up my bib and goody bag on the first day of the expo, about an hour to close. I had just arrived in Honolulu a few hours before. I am glad that I went early, because that meant there was no crowding around the photo booths 🙂
I saw some banner stands and backdrops with the marathon course on it. I was completely intimidated since I had not gotten in a long run for months. My last one was in October…it was a 17 miler, but hardly enough to prepare me for a December marathon. However, with no time limit, I would not have to worry about the course shutting down, which was a huge load off my mind. Everyone seemed super friendly and helpful. The only thing I found extremely odd about this race was gear check. You had to check your gear the afternoon before the race, at the finish line. I couldn’t just show up on race morning with my things. I didn’t need to check anything urgent, so I opted to carry whatever I needed that day.
My Airbnb was a half mile walk to the start line, down the street and through the Ala Moana Center. On the morning of the race, I downed a Honey Stinger waffle before walking to the start. There were tons of people but for some reason, only 4 color waves. I decided to hang out towards the back since I had planned on going pretty slow. There were some beautiful, huge fireworks off in the distance that you could see from the start. Music was blaring. It was a nice way to open up the race.
As the race began, the walk/runners corral moved along. There were quite a few families, lots of power walkers, and older folks in this wave. What was incredible was seeing really young people do this marathon…I think the minimum age is 7! Can you believe it??? SEVEN YEARS OLD. I don’t think I even ran one mile. I think I may have walked it for school though. I can’t imagine walking 26.2 miles without throwing many tantrums, which I was pretty close to doing already as an adult.
The race started off fairly congested, but after about mile 5 (near Waikiki Beach) the crowds started to thin out a bit. Everyone still looked pretty jovial. If you were there, you’d be pretty thrilled at watching the sunrise over the ocean. I actually learned how to surf on this very beach back in 2013!
The race headed gradually uphill to the residential areas right outside of Waikiki. It looked so very familiar because I had once rented a bungalow for a weeklong summer stay. We continued on, past Diamond Head, taking the road close to Koko Head. We wound around a small bay, saw a Costco, and then headed back into town to Kapiolani Park.
Around mile 8, the gradual uphill was replaced with a more dramatic slope. It wasn’t anything like San Francisco, or the Great Wall, but it was enough to drain you in the hot Hawaiian sun. It was around that time that my group decided that it would be better to walk for a bit. We hoped that maybe the sporadic aches and niggles would subside, but alas…we kept walking, and walking, and walking. Whoever thought that walking a marathon was a good idea needs a talking to!
Crowd support was okay. There was a local running group that set up a real food stand somewhere between mile 20-23, right when I was getting delirious.
My stomach was turning because eating gels all day doesn’t really serve anyone’s GI tract well. The fact that I packed mostly gels and no waffles really did mean that I intended to run more than walk…or at least do my 30:30 intervals. Who knew that plain rice would be so delicious?!
Right around the same time, someone came walking through on stilts. STILTS. He was also wearing an Ironman Kona drawstring backpack, so oddly enough that made sense.
Shortly thereafter I saw the man who would be the last finisher of the race, an 88-year old man! He was looking pretty strong, and was walking along with a giant smile on his face. He was a complete contrast compared to me. I’m pretty sure that I was scowling the entire time, unless there was a camera pointed in my direction!
Right after I saw him, the route began heading back into the residential areas. Suddenly, the weather became much, much warmer as we wound around gorgeous, waterfront homes. The views were beautiful, but we had to earn every single vista.
By the time I made it towards the finish line, I was feeling haggard yet excited. The day was very long, and for all the cranky miles I was in good spirits as soon as I saw the finishers’ chute. I had a pretty spectacular ending to my marathon!
I hope to one day come back to Honolulu and redeem my performance. I’m pretty sure anything would’ve been better than how I performed that day! Nonetheless, it was a very memorable experience.
What’s interesting about the Honolulu Marathon is that you don’t get your shirt before the race. Only finishers can pick it up immediately after the finish line. Also, the post-race fare included bananas, mini bagels, and malasadas (fried doughy balls covered in chocolate). What it didn’t include was something to drink! Maybe they ran out, but there was no electrolyte drinks or even bottled water. After resting for a few moments, we headed to a burger place across the street for food and drink.
I would absolutely recommend this race! However, make sure you bring your own food and drink for the course. Towards the end of the race (after mile 17 or so), support was a little thin. The race gets harder at that point, and unless you are able to stop off at a local 7-Eleven on the course then you’ll be waiting a long time for refreshments. Also, if you decide to run with a costume or a lei be prepared to get itchy a few miles into the race.
Also, don’t eat the Vaseline. With my blurry vision, it looked like a drumstick.