by Bonnie Davies
The Honolulu marathon is a marathon available to entries without qualification times and there is no ballot. Entries provide a free weekly online training schedule with virtual trainer and support as the event approaches. Entries start at USD110.00 for early bird. I paid USD180.00.
The event is a winter run however arriving into Honolulu temperatures of 28° Celsius were a daily occurrence with upwards of 70% humidity and sporadic rain for short periods. Hydration is a must and must be taken seriously prior, during and following the event.
Race pack collection is at the expo held in the convention centre about 15 minutes by bus out of Waikiki and 5 minutes walk from the Ala Moana shopping centre. A free shuttle bus provides transport to and from the marathon expo from Waikiki.
The expo is large with an array of exhibits. As with all expo’s some exhibits will appeal others won’t. A large selection of Marathon memorabilia is available for purchase and my advice is due to it being expensive, is to restrain your excitement. You do get a lovely medal and nice finishers T shirt plus the memorabilia is also available at the end of the run if you really do want to pursue that particular item.
The Honolulu Marathon has a supporting event on the Saturday called the Merrie Mile. It is literally 1 mile (1.6km). This year was its inaugural year and participants receive a medal, T shirt, beach party, beverages and snacks. The event starts and finishes by Honolulu zoo in Waikiki (close to hotels). It’s suitable for all ages, costumes and is a bit of fun, additionally it’s a nice leg shake out for those running the marathon the next day. The cost for Merrie Mile was USD25.00 and it starts at 0700.
The Marathon is on the Sunday morning, and starts at 0500 from Ala Moana park (opposite Ala Moana Shopping centre). Free shuttle busses start ferrying athletes from Waikiki to the start from 0200 and the last bus leaves at 0400. 40,000 runners took part in this years event with 80% being Japanese.
Porta loo’s are plentiful and queues are minimal. The start line is divided into areas of estimated time. I selected the 3.00-4.00 zone (this was a mistake). My advice is if you are a runner, start as close to the front as possible.
The Honolulu marathon has no cut of time and therefore attracts a lot of weekend warriors, walkers, children and there was even a dog!
The start is spectacular with the starting gun replaced by a firework display which would challenge Hobart’s New Year’s Eve display. It’s a great distraction while you slowly edge to the start line.
Crossing the line, the run begins. Congestion was horrendous due to people not using the start zones properly. I hit very slow runners and walkers within the first 100m. Passing was difficult and I remained congested for the first 15km maintaining 6-7 min/km before hitting clear air. The course has a steady climb around Diamond Head (an extinct volcano) for about a kilometre in the first 10km and then a climb back over in the last 3km. Otherwise the course is fairly flat with minor undulations. Undulations prove advantageous to Tassie runners accustomed to hills, as this is where a lot of ground can be made up once free of congestion.
Aid stations providing water, gatorade, gels and water soaked sponges are plentiful. Spectators additionally offer peanut butter sandwiches, lollies and hoses to spray runners.
The course is lined heavily in built up areas with cheering plentiful. Many of which is spoken in Japanese for the majority of runners. Running straight down the Main Street in Waikiki was a highlight. Many turned out to cheer at 0530 in the morning. Still dark, it starts to lighten at around 0700 with a beautiful sunrise over the pacific greeting runners between 0730-0800. Once the sun rises the heat really hits and hoses, water soaked sponges and cups of water thrown over ones head provide a welcoming relief. I was wet in the first 5km from humidity alone.
Pacers were running but I did not see any until the last 100m. They wore a singlet. No flag, no balloon. This was not ideal as essentially they were not identifiable among the huge numbers. So be prepared to pace yourself.
The finish is back at the zoo in Waikiki where the bus journey began in the early hours. Approaching the line your name and where you are from is called out, spectators line the finishing shoot and crossing the finish, lays are placed over your head and a few metres later a medal. Actually it’s more like a saucer. It’s the biggest marathon medal I’ve ever seen. T-shirts are given along with a range of snacks and refreshments. Massages are available and a variety of memorabilia tents. Alternatively Waikiki beach is right next to the finish and since most runners finish very hot a soaked with sweat, many including myself opted to jump into the ocean and cool down.
The final marathoner crossed the line at 2145 that night. Sights included a running trombone, several santa’s, a traditional Hawaiian man with loin cloth and leaves, a dinosaur, several pineapples, and a fleet of Japanese airlines planes running in formation.
It is a very relaxed, picturesque and fun marathon, but at the same time extremely challenging due to temperatures and congestion. I certainly recommend it as a different marathon to try and one to cross off the marathon bucket list. It is a perfect marathon for beginners with no cut off time and it really isn’t a marathon for people with specific time goals.