Dec 28

Race Report: Honolulu Marathon

Disclaimer: I started this post the night after the race and I was in a bitchy mood.  Apologies. 

Pre Race

It is currently 8:00PM (1:00AM EST) which means that I have been up since 2:00AM (7:00AM EST).  I am completely exhausted and a bit over served after sharing a bottle of Red Bicyclette Merlot with Jennie.  To be honest with you, we bought the wine based solely on the picture of a bike on the label.  Despite our coinsurer-like selection of the wine, it turned out to be really good.  Probably not the greatest time to compose a race report, but after the race today, I think I needed a bit of mental lubrication to get me going.

As you already know, I ran the Honolulu Marathon this morning.  We didn’t necessarily plan our vacation around the marathon, but since the two overlapped, I decided, what the heck, might as well run it while I am here.  Might not have another chance to check off Hawaii as a completed state.

Overall, it was an absolutely horrible race.  There was almost nothing good about it except for the fact that we were in Hawaii and I can’t complain about that.

The morning started at 2:00AM.  The race was scheduled to begin at 5:00AM.  We got ready and were out the door by 2:30AM.  Our destination was the Honolulu Zoo where there were shuttles taking runners to the starting line.  We had scoped out the area previously to see where good parking would be and we got really lucky with a spot less than a mile away from the shuttle location.  We were a bit worried about the fact that the shuttle service listed that it was for runners only and would only transport family members as space was available.  Luckily, with Jennie dressed in her best running clothes, she passed as a registered runner with no problem and we were off to the starting line.


We got to the starting line at about 3:30AM, so an hour and a half until the actual start time.  I couldn’t get over the fact that so many runners were doing warmup runs that far in advance.  With an hour and a half to go, all I wanted to do was find a place to sit and relax.  Jennie and I ended up finding a good curb to sit on and do some people watching.  This race is over 60% Japanese runners so seeing some of the cultural differences was interesting to say the least. 

All I wanted to do was sleep.  That is half of the Vancouver runner on the right.

The Japanese culture stereotypically embraces all of the latest technology and this certainly carried over into running.  It seemed like nearly ever one of them had some sort of “high tech” method to avoid muscle problems like kinesio tape or compression clothing (including long CWX tights despite the 80*F temps).  I also noticed that most had some sort of waist pack (fanny pack) where they could carry their camera, phone, and a plethora of other gadgets.  Definitely a unique experience.

While sitting at the start, a woman, didn’t get her name, but I think it was Mary based on the results, sat down next to us and we started chatting.  She was from Vancouver and we had similar racing backgrounds.  We had both had successful October marathons (she smoked hers at 3:08!) and at the time thought that a December marathon would be a piece of cake. We laughed over the fact that after the last marathon, it was hard to keep up the volume.  We both had the same goal; to finish while having fun and not killing ourselves.  My main goal was that I didn’t want to ruin the rest of our vacation by killing myself and being sore for a week.  Time-wise, my goal was 4 hours.


At 4:40AM, I decided that it was time to line up.  I really hadn’t done any warmup other than a few stretches.  It was way too congested to even get some strides in.  Saying that the starting corrals were a problem would be putting it mildly. The two corrals I saw were 2-3 hour one and 3-4 hour one.  Kinda big gaps, don’t you think?  Even though I probably should have been in the 3-4 hour corral, I noticed that the 2-3 hour corral was full of a bunch of walkers and runners who obviously were not 2-3 hour runners.  The Vancouver runner and I had a good laugh about the lack of organization of the corrals. 



Promptly at 5:00AM, the fireworks went off.  That’s right, the race starts with fireworks.  While it may sound cool, I have determined that it is the worst possible way to start a marathon ever.  You know how in a race, you generally get that surge of runners moving forward at the gun followed by a quick stoppage as everyone tries to squeeze across the timing mat?  Take that and couple it with thousands of runners stopping to try and take pictures of the fireworks.  Seriously.  It was crazy how many people were more interested in the fireworks than starting the race.

The darkness and the fireworks were confusing the hell out of the camera. 
Although an “accident”, I thought this picture was really cool.

The First Half

And we were off.  Despite starting in the 2-3 hour corral, I spent the first 2k weaving in and out of traffic.  I actually hopped up on the sidewalk and ran with a couple people doing the same thing.  At about mile 2, I really had to take a leak.  I really didn’t want to stop because I knew that it would be a mess trying to get back in position.  Nevertheless, I decided to find a bush that looked thirsty and took care of business.


At mile 3, I saw Jennie.  YAY! This would be the last time that I would get to see her before the finish because it was difficult to drive to different parts of the course.  Throughout the first 6 miles of the course, there were people lining the road pretty much the entire way.  The was a brief break for miles 7-8, but after that it started to pick up again.  Overall, the crowd support at this race was definitely above average.

Mile 7 began the long climb up Diamond Head, an extinct volcano.  Now, I thought I was a decent hill runner.  Hills have always been a strong point for me in local races.  Apparently hills are different than volcanoes, because this thing whooped my butt.  When I made it to the top, I had already told myself that no matter what, I was walking up the volcano on the return trip.  No way was I going to attempt running up it again.


After the volcano, the route turned onto the main stretch of highway.  This was a mentally and physically difficult portion of the race because it was an out and back section on a straight section of the road.  Not only that, but it was the road where our rental house was so I had to pass by it twice (at miles 13 and 18) and keep going. At mile 18 I really just wanted to call it a day and stop.

On the out portion of the course, we had the wind in our face the entire way.  It was so demoralizing and drained even more energy from me.  By the halfway point, the sun had started to rise and with that, the temperature started to increase.  Soon, it was 80+*F with 90% humidity – not fun.  I was totally unprepared for the Hawaiian race weather, but living in Michigan, I don’t think there was really any other way to prepare for it. 

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Revel in my pasty whiteness.  If I lived in the 1500’s, it would be considered a sign of great beauty.

Starting at mile 16, I started to walk through aid stations.  The aid stations were spaced about every two miles versus every 1 to 1.5 miles that I am used to.  Couple that fact with the heat and I wanted to make sure that I got as much fluid as possible.  I ended up taking a water, Gatorade, and sponge at pretty much every aid station going forward.  In hindsight, I probably should have brought my handheld water bottle, but I really didn’t do any research ahead of time to know how the aid stations were going to be configured.  Lesson learned.

The Second Half

The final 10 miles were a real struggle for me.  I was bargaining with myself just to keep moving forward.  “Run to the next intersection and then you can walk for a driveway or two,” I’d tell myself.  At mile 18, I stopped at first aid and had them spray on this stuff called Satohap which must be something big in Japan because all of the Japanese runners had their own bottle in their packs.  It is basically a spray on icy-hot.  I really didn’t know if it would work or not, but I was willing to try anything at that point.  It took a minute or so to kick in, but it gave me a good 5 to 10 minutes of less pain. 

Around mile 23, I ran into the Vancouver woman again.  She was hurting just as much as I was.  She commented on the fact that we just don’t have weather like this in Michigan or Canada and that it was sucking the energy right out of her.  She was able to muster up a bit more energy than myself and picked it up for the final 2 miles.

Mile 24 was the last hill of the course.  Back up the volcano we went.  I walked it.  Bottom to top.  Didn’t even try to run it.  Once I made it to the top though there was only 1.2 miles to go.  I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to run the rest of the way.  And I did! The final stretch seemed to take forever and I had absolutely no kick left in me so I just jogged across the finish.


In the final stretch, I was paying special attention to try and find Jennie.  I knew that she would be looking for me based on the bright orange shirt I had been wearing at the start.  However, the heat and humidity forced me to shed the shirt at about mile 5 and I had it hanging off the back of my head under my hat.  Despite trying to find her, I ended up missing her at the finish line.

Post Race

After crossing the finish line, there was no stopping.  It felt like we had to go another half mile or more just to get everything.  First, after crossing the finish line, they gave us a shell necklace, but with no medal on it.  Then it was off to follow the massive line of people over to pick up my finishers t-shirt.  With the finisher’s t-shirt, they were handing out the actual medal as well.  Kind of weird to have the medal separate from the necklace.  For making such a big deal about it being a finishers shirt and keeping it a secret they didn’t even check my name or number when I got my shirt.  Anyone could have easily walked away with more than one shirt or even walked away with one even if they didn’t run.  The shirt is decent, don’t know way they make such a big deal about keeping it a secret.  If I had know that the shirt was going to be blue, I would have bought a red one at the expo.  Now I have two blue Honolulu Marathon shirts.


After getting my t-shirt, I started to feel really nauseous and light headed so I sat down in the shade by the t-shirt tent.  The tent was mine and Jennie’s meet up point after the race so I figured I would just stay put and wait for her.  However, because I didn’t see her at the finish line, she didn’t know I was done yet.  I ended up borrowing a cell phone to call her and let her know that I finished.  The girl who let me borrow her phone was hesitant at first because she was afraid I was from Australia or something and it would cost and arm and a leg.


Jennie helped me walk over to the “food court” (their word, not mine).  I really wasn’t at all hungry but thought that maybe sometime would look good and I could choke it down.  All they had was cookies and apples.  Seriously?  For $250, all you can hand out is cookies and apples.  Major fail.  I tried an apple, but couldn’t get it to go down so I stuck with water.  There wasn’t even Gatorade after the finish line.

After sitting for a bit, it was time to make the walk back to the car.  This was the worst I have ever felt after a race.  My legs were actually pretty good but I was nauseous and my head was spinning.  It took a long time before I was able to stand.  We got the heck out of their as quickly as possible and walked to the car.  That walk took what seemed like forever.  If I moved too fast, I thought I was going to blow chunks or have the worst case of trots ever.  The worst part of the walk was the fact that my shorts had started to dry and were chafing my thighs.  Lovely.  I can run 26.2 miles chafe free, but am done in by a mile walk. 

With all the road closures and not fully knowing the area, we were a bit worried about navigating traffic after the race.  Luckily, we made it out of the downtown area without any problem.  However, the race was in front of the rental house and the police weren’t letting anyone through.  One cop said it would probably be 4 hours.  Mind you, the house was at about mile 18 and it was already 11:00, so 6 hours into the race.  We went to Mickey D’s down the road to kill some time and to try and get some food in me.  We decided to try another officer to see if he was more accommodating.  He was hesitant, but eventually let us through the barricade as long as we promised to wait by the driveway for a big enough gap and not cause any runners to stop.  There were plenty of gaps by that point so we pretty much turned right in.  There were still runners going by at noon.  I’m really not a proponent of cut off times, take as long as you need, but it seems like you have to make some allowances for houses on the race course especially 6 hours into the race.

If you are keeping track, this is the 2nd McDonald’s meal in a week. 
Good thing I don’t have a coach to yell at me for eating this crap.

Once we got back, I stood in the ocean for a bit to cool off my legs and then walked down the beach to stretch before getting in the shower and promptly passing out on the couch for an hour and a half.  Sadly there was no tub at the rental house so no chance to do an ice bath.

By 3:00, I felt about 100%.  More like I did a long run than a race.  I think I was more beaten down by the heat and humidity than I was by the distance.

Overall time was 3:53 which is definitely not a PR, but is also not my worse.  It was slightly better than expected actually as I had told some people my goal was 4 hours, no faster.  The main goal was to enjoy the race and not kill myself for the rest of vacation.  Sadly, I really didn’t enjoy myself, but I think I’ll recover quickly and won’t be sore all week.


Random things I saw in this race that I haven’t seen before:

  • Gender specific porta potties (not sure if this a cultural thing for all the Japanese runners or not)
  • Tons of costumes.  More than I have ever seen in a race. Bride and Groom.  Lots of Santa and elves.  Minnie mouse.
  • A guy with a marathon race bid smoking before the race.  Gotta get in one last smoke before the gun goes off I guess.
  • Multiple fans holding up laptops with webcams and Skype running

The Costumes

As I mentioned, there were a ton of funny costumes.  Here are some of the ones that Jennie caught.

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The Pros

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I’m not sure if this made national news or not, but there was a bit of controversy over the female winner of the race.  Belainesh Gebre was denied pro status for the race for some reason despite winning her last 5 half marathons.  So, because she was not a “pro”  she was not allowed the additional aid stations award to the official pro athletes.  Instead, she had her boyfriend Ezkyas Sisay ran with her and helped her at aid stations.  The controversy was that Sisay was carrying energy drinks on his belt and giving them to her.  However, because officials could not verify this and only had pictures showing Sisay giving her cups from official aid stations (which is apparently OK), they did not strip her of first place. I, however, can definitively say that I saw her take fluid from Sisay’s belt as she flew passed in the opposite direction.  I thought it was a bit odd at the time, but really didn’t think anything of it.  Regardless, I’m glad they didn’t take first place away from her even in Sisay was giving her energy drinks.  Had they just granted her a pro entry she would have essentially been given the same amount of help in an official capacity and probably wouldn’t have even needed Sisay.

For a full article on the controversy check out: http://www.letsrun.com/2010/honolulu-1212.php

Official Results

Total Time: 3:53:57
Overall Place: 1,096 / 20,412
Gender Place: 875 / 10,584
Age Group Place: 102 / 1,163
10k: 50:33
21.1k: 1:48:02
30k: 2:36:28
40k: 3:41:19
Run Pace: 8:55 min/mile

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2010/12/28/race-report-honolulu-marathon


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  1. Jon

    awesome race report and AWESOME time despite the heat and humidity. 5am start? Dang….

    Cool photo of the start!

  2. Morgan

    Oh my! Way to push through and still finish in a respectable time despite the heat and humidity. It honestly sounds straight out of my summer training in Orlando. We’d be up for training runs at 3am to beat the sun but it would always be at least 80* with 100% humidity anyway. I’m glad you were able to nap it off once you got home. Lots of lessons learned here for sure!

  3. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    Wow…that heat and humidity would have done me in for sure! Way to push through and get it done!!

  4. Jeff

    About freaking time you got to the dang RR (-: A sub-4 is awesome bro, especially on vacation! I made a mental note from your post: “Note to self – do not run up volcanoes!”

    Dude you seriously need to come visit us in August. Just for the laugh. You’d be like, “Hey Jennie, do you remember that coolish mary I ran in Hawaii?”

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Haha! Now you are playing the weather card???

      In all honesty, the weather wasn’t much different than what we get in Michigan in the summer either. It was mainly the fact that I haven’t trained in that weather for going on 4 months coupled with the lack of handheld water bottle that really did me in.

  5. Matt Oravec

    Yeah soooo, how bout that heat 🙂 If you didn’t go from snow to that heat it might have been managable I feel for ya.

    In the end… no lie, we hiked up Diamond Head Crater… Props to you bro. Dead serious, I hope everyone reads my comment, that is no joke… and you had to do it at the end of the race too?!?!?! COME ON??? No lie, that is brutal, to average a 9min pace with 2 trips up that bad boy, you flipping rock man.

    I love the costumes. I always try to remember them all because a ton of them I have to look up to see who they were supposed to be later.

    Nice job, way to push through and pull it off!

  1. Paradise in 11 Parts~ Part 5: Honolulu Marathon

    […] Sunday, marathon day, began early. We were out the door around 2:30 am! The stars over the ocean were amazing! I’m going to leave most of the marathon recap to Kevin. After all, his version is much more exciting than mine, having actually run the marathon. So be sure to check out his race report! […]

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