THE HONOLULU MARATHON, DECEMBER 9, 2007

In the footsteps of the kings' runner.

Feel like running through paradise? Then run Honolulu. Granted, the weather at the start of the 35th Annual Honolulu Marathon was not the best (soaking rains for the first hour or so), and many of the complaints about this marathon on marathonguide.com proved legitimate (way too few "facilities" at the start for the nearly 30,000 runners, and way too long walks through the finish area to find your "key chain" medal and finisher's t-shirt); however, Hawaii offers so much for visitors that the marathon itself becomes just another tourist event during your stay on the islands.

The Honolulu Marathon is America's third largest marathon with nearly 30,000 runners registered. The marathon is unique because the course stays open until the last person crosses the finish line, which makes it a popular marathon for walkers, first time marathoners who may not have trained properly, and slow pokes like me. The course is a loop, and around mile 20 I spotted many couples on the other side of the cones approaching mile 13, holding hands and strolling along, smiling at those of us grimacing and sweating as we ran with blistered feet in soaking wet socks. Sort of put it all in perspective.

The last couple finished the Honolulu Marathon in 14 hours and 54 minutes, and although I didn't see them, I bet they were smiling. You can't help but smile in Hawaii. The Aloha Spirit is contagious.


Hawaii says "aloha" while you're still on the plane approaching the islands, and asks you to declare any fruit, plants, or reptiles you want to bring into the state. Amnesty bins in the Honolulu airport give you a chance to throw out your contraband oranges and snakes to avoid an ugly scene.

Banners in the Honolulu Airport greeted marathon runners when we landed on December 6th.

Thanks to my travel companion, my cousin Kat, we stayed in the beautiful Embassy Suites Waikiki, in the middle of the most gorgeous beaches, shops, and views on the south side of Oahu.

We awoke to a rainy December 7th, the 66th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Hawaiian stations televised the memorial services live from Pearl Harbor.

The view from Waikiki Beach of Diamond Head on the Southeast Corner of Oahu.

Kat and I set off exploring in the morning. Honolulu was fully decorated for Christmas, and Kat posed in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's Lobby.

Waikiki Beach is a popular spot to learn how to surf, unless its raining.

One of Hawaii's heros is Duke Kahanamoku, a full-blooded hawaiian born in 1890, who was an olympic medalist in swimming and helped to introduce the sport of surfing to much of the world. Duke Kahanamoku was known as the "ambassador of aloha."

Shuttles picked-up runners in front of the Duke statue on Waikiki Beach and brought us to the Hawaii Convention Center where the Marathon Expo was being held.

Number pick-up at the Expo was extremely well organized.

The Expo was not very large, with many of the vendors selling jewelry or other local wares.

Pictures taken during the previous 34 Honolulu Marathons were on display at the Expo. The pictures gave insight into how the marathon has evolved.

Can you spot the woman in this picture?

Here's the woman. She's collapsing.

The men are collapsing too. I hoped these pictures were taken before Gatorade and sports gels became commonly used.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is Hawaii's #1 paid attraction and was a sponsor of the marathon. The 42 acre Cultural Center introduces visitors to the culture of Hawaii and the major South Pacific island nations.

Representing the Cultural Center, Selene was weaving beautiful baskets and ornaments.

The Expo Shuttle back to Waikiki passed Niketown, a major sponsor of the Marathon.

A storm that brought high winds and waves to Oaho sat over the island for most of December 7th, but the forecast called for clearing skies by race day.

The shops along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki are both unique . . .

. . . and not-so-unique.

Felt a little like City Place in West Palm Beach.

Many of the local businesses had signs greeting marathon runners.

Mele Kalikimaka means Merry Christmas in Hawaiian.

Back at the hotel, I wasted no time attaching the SAI timing label to my shoes. I first saw the timing label during the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November, and although the system was quite new, the Honolulu Marathon organizers decided to switch from the Champion Chip timing system to SAI within one or two months of the marathon. As the Honolulu Marathon website reports, the SAI timing system failed during the strong rains of the Honolulu Marathon start, and approximately 3,000 to 4,000 marathon finishers did not receive finishing times. Ouch.

Marathon organizers are attempting to recreate finishing times by watching video taken at several locations during the marathon. I wonder if the SAI timing system can make a come-back.

December 8th and Kat and I decided to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. I felt a bit guilty standing at the bus stop and watching several runners getting a few last miles in.

Visiting Pearl Harbor is an emotional experience. A short video explains the history of the Harbor and the attack of December 7th.

Following the video, a Navy vessel transports visitors into the harbor where the USS Arizona Memorial stands.

The USS Arizona Memorial was built over the sunken ship, the final resting place for many of the ship's 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on December 7th.

A map shows how the memorial is positioned over the ship.

The USS Arizona Memorial is a beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

World War II came to an end on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri with the signing of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. The USS Missouri provided firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and was decommissioned by the Navy in 1955. It was modernized and called back into action in 1986, eventually deployed in the Persian Gulf War before retiring in 1992. The USS Missouri was moved to Pearl Harbor in 1998 and opened as a museum memorial the next year.

Back on the bus and headed from Pearl Harbor to Waikiki we passed the Dole Cannery. Cannery operations closed in 1991, but the site offers retail shops, eateries, and movies.

Honolulu's Chinatown

The busride took us past Ala Moana Park where start-time banners had already been hung in preparation for the marathon start tomorrow.

ABC stores (the Hawaiian Walgreens) welcomed marathon runners with displays of Red Bull - marathoners' drink of choice?

Kat and I relaxed on Waikiki Beach the afternoon before the race.

Marathon Morning. 3:00 a.m. and the view from our balcony looked calm.

I left the hotel just after 4:00 a.m. . . .

. . . and walked into a rainy Waikiki. Fortunately, my support crew on the mainland was watching the radar and warned me to bring a poncho. Thanks Bill!

To think I was afraid of finding the start on race morning. The procession from Waikiki hotels to the race start at Ala Moana Park stretched for miles.

Here's one of those "Small World" marathon moments. Walking to the marathon start along with 25,000 other people, most of whom were from Japan, I saw three women directly in front of me wearing Team in Training shirts with the words "Palm Beach" written on the back. Nikki, Aimee, Sharon, and I tried to keep our minds off the rain while we chatted about the Palm Beach running community and our first Honolulu Marathon experience.

I hope you had great runs, women! Thank you for your kindness.

See note above concerning too few facilities at the start. After standing in line for over 1/2 hour and being drenched by downpours, with only minutes before the 5:00 a.m. race start and with twenty people still in line in front of us, a few of us retired to the trees in the dark part of the park. Be warned: get in line by 4:00 a.m., or find other means.

I met a runner the following day who stood in line for 25 minutes on the course. With this complaint being so common, you would think the race organizers would make adjustments.

They did make one fantastic adjustment this year: rather than Amino energy drink, they offered Gatorade. I was so happy not to have to stop at water stations to mix the Gatorade powder I carried. Thank you!

Thank you for providing "cover" Ilana. It was great hearing from you after the race. Funny how dire circumstances bring people together! Hope to see you at another marathon - under better circumstances!

Fireworks mark the 5:00 a.m. race start. Kat later reported waking up in the hotel to the sound of fireworks.

Twenty-five minutes after the start, I approach the start line.

The stores along Ala Moana shine with Christmas lights.

Shaka Santa near the Iolani Palace. Miles 3-4.

Miles 5-6, along Waikiki Beach, and our first glimpse of Diamond Head in the distance.


Wonderfully excited voluteers lined the route up Diamond Head between miles 7 and 8, providing enthusiasm to help us get up the hill.

Approaching mile 9, the sun tries to peak out between the clouds.


There were plenty of people taking pictures to document their Honolulu Marathon experience, but contrary to reviews on marathonguide.com, it was not a dangerous situation.

A man wearing Japanese hakama pants, (once worn by samurai and now worn as formal attire for ceremonies or by Japanese dancers, artists, and martial artists), and Geta (wooden shoes).

"Karan-koron" is the Japanese word for the sound made by the wooden geta hitting the foot and ground. The sound was rhythmic and soothing as I ran near this man, though his poor feet looked the worse for wear.

Runners were asked to throw their sponges in the baskets lining the route - the baskets that are empty.


By mile 14-15, quite a few people were stopping to stretch near the water stations.

A costumed tour group guide - complete with red poncho.

A beautiful home . . .

. . . overlooking Maunalua Bay.

Mrs. Santa Rabbit?


Love the pants! See A1A Marathon, picture 10.

As evidenced by the full ashtrays outside the Marthon Expo, many of the Japanese runners were also smokers. I ran behind this women who was squatting close to the ground around mile 18 and wondered if she was okay. I ran past her and saw she was just stopped for a smoke break. Unbelievable.

With nearly 30,000 people, you can expect a prank or two on the course. As we approached mile 20, someone had turned the mile 13 marker around to face us. It got a few laughs.

That's better.

Bags of ice were piled near several of the last mile markers, and runners were stopping to fill their hands, hats, clothes, shoes, etc.

Fun and frivolity helps get you through the final miles.

This was the most awesome moment of the run for me. After running up the hill around Diamond Head for the second time at mile 24 (involving more than a little walking), I looked out over the ocean and the Hawaiian singer, Iz, began singing in my ears: "I see skies of blue, and I see clouds of white." He was singing about this view. The moment was spiritual.

Kapiolani Park was soaked from a week of rain, and the finish area resembled a mosh pit.

Many of the Japenese running clubs had tents for their runners . . .

. . . with soaking pools! Envy.

The famous apple and oatmeal cookies handed out at a tent somewhere in the finish area.

The morning procession from the Waikiki hotels to the start is repeated in the afternoon as runners walk from the finish back to their hotels.

Around 5:00 p.m. on marathon night Kat and I were on a bus headed for a whale watching dinner cruise (we later discovered the whales were waiting for better weather to be watched), when we spotted these marathon finishers just getting back to their hotel. They likely ran for 10 or 11 hours.

Marathon day comes to an end on the high seas . . .

. . . but not before some fellow tourists entertain us with their version of a hula.

December 10. The marathon is over, so the sun returns to Honolulu.

Less than 24 hours after the marathon finish, we walked back to Kapiolani Park where the marathon organizers had our finisher certificates and booklets available for pick-up. Thanks Geoff.

That evening, Kat and I took in a Luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

On our last full day in Hawaii, we flew to The Big Island. Here is a view inside the Diamond Head Crater. When the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, Fort Ruger was built within the Diamond Head Crater to provide harbor defense. Later, a four-level underground complex was built in the crater as a command post.

We landed at the Hilo Airport and started our tour of The Big Island. Religiously as in during a religious ceremony, or religiously as in conscientiously?

Rainbow Falls

We hiked over the lava flow that covered the Village of Kalapana in the 1980s, and headed toward the ocean.

The Kaimu Black Sand Beach


The view from Volcano House at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, looking into the Kilaueau Crater


Walking inside the Thurston Lava Tube

Our final stop on The Big Island was the most tasty.

Macadamia nuts in dark chocolate. Yummm.

Our final afternoon in Hawaii and Kat and I decided to try parasailing. What a fantastic experience!

Heading back to land we spotted one of Hawaii's famous double rainbows.

A perfect end to a marathon in paradise. Mahalo Hawaii (thank you)!

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