For Will Stedman, Sunday’s Kauai Marathon “was perfect.”
The Kilauea man ran his second-fastest marathon in four hours, three minutes and one second. He was never passed after the eight-mile mark, clocked his fastest miles late in the race, and coming down the stretch, was joined by his 10-year-old daughter for a strong finish.
“It was just so much fun,” he said. “I love it here. This is a great race.”
In his fifth Kauai Marathon, Stedman “felt fantastic” and that was no accident.
“I trained specifically for this race, how to run this race, because it’s hard,” the 42-year-old said.
The 10th annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon went off well, said founder Jeff Sacchni, from the 6 a.m. start to the finish line in front of Koloa Landing and a record field. Nearly 250 people completed the full marathon, and nearly 1,600 finished the half marathon.
The weather, cool and cloudy early, was about as good as it gets for a race here, there were no mishaps and everyone seemed to enjoy the day, he said, right from the starting line.
“That energy at the start is unlike anything you could experience,” Sacchini said. “It was electric.”
Runners from 48 states and 17 countries participated. The Aloha State was well represented with 1,235 local registrants of whom 909 were from Kauai, which were both event records. Additionally, there were 61 participants who ran the full or half marathon for the 10th year in a row.
Jennifer Goldstein of Pacifica, Calif., won the women’s marathon in 3:22:46. It was the 36-year-old’s first time running the Kauai Marathon and she loved the beauty of the course, the spirit of the volunteers and spectators, and didn’t even mind the seemingly endless hills of Lawai and Kalaheo.
On her return in the second half, she was high-fiving and encouraging runners still heading out.
“I’m used to hills, so that wasn’t too bad. Twenty to 30 degrees warmer than I’m used to running in, but I think we had a great day with the weather,” she said.
Shinya Ohashi of Oshinomaki, Japan, won the overall marathon in 2:33:35.
Oshinomaki was hit hard by the 2011 tsunami, so Ohashi was running in honor of thousands who perished and are still missing.
He is a two-time winner of the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon, a sister city of Kauai, and earned the trip to run the Kauai Marathon.
Last year, he was battling an injury, so he ran the half marathon. This year, healthy, he was determined to win the full.
“Honestly, I am very elated and happy,” he said through an interpreter.
Ohashi said the course was tough, but he never had any doubts, and coming down the stretch, knowing he had it, was a wonderful feeling.
“Oh man, I was relieved to see the finish line,” the 24-year-old said.
The second-place finisher in the men’s field for the full marathon was Marty McCormick of Arlington, Va., with a time of 2:52:05.
Tyler McCandless of Colorado won the half marathon for the fifth year in a row with a course record time of 1:06:41.
He said he was patient in the early miles and went out slower than in the past. It paid off when he cut loose around Omao and ripped off the last five miles well out in front.
Winning again was “just so special,” said McCandless, a three-time winner of the Kauai full marathon. The spirit, the venue, the people, keep bringing him back.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said.
Varinka Barbini Esminger of Lexington, Ky., won the women’s half marathon crossing the finish at 1:28:51. Jackie Reding of Kapaa was second at 1:33:20.
Kauai’s top finishers were Karl Israelsen and Connie Lutkevich for the full marathon and Harrison McMillen and Reding in the half.
Many locals enjoyed the day.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. finished the half marathon in 4:46 and came across with a big smile.
“I made it through, felt good, talked story along the way,” he said. “Once I made it through the tunnel and got to the highway, then it was all OK. I wanted to finish, cross the line, and I did it.”
Nalani Taylor of Koloa completed the half in 3:48. It was her third year running the event.
“It was wonderful and I love all the support and everybody really helps to motivate you,” she said.
She trained three months for the race and called it “a wonderful adventure.”
“It feels so good to be able to achieve what your goal is,” she said.
JJ Bostick of Kekaha had a rough day, finishing the half in 2:46. He said he started strong and held steady through the Tree Tunnel, but by Omao, began to bonk.
“Things for me just kind of started falling apart,” he said.
At the finish, Bostick had to lie down and rest with ice on his head to cool off.
“I’ve never felt like that before,” he said.
But that didn’t stop him from returning to the finish line later, smiling and rooting for others still coming in.
Maria Gonzales of Kahaleo did the full, her fifth, in 6:16, while her sister Mercedes Casticimo of Lawai finished the half in 3:31.
Gonzales said it was her sister’s idea to run the full marathon to celebrate the 10th anniversary.
“My sister wouldn’t let me off the hook. I was going to sign up for the half, she was like, ‘No, no, you’re doing the full.’ So I said OK.”
Casticimo, however didn’t register until Saturday afternoon — for the half.
Another sister, Cornelia Gonzales Works of Eleele, also finished the full.
“I’m so proud of them,” Casticimo said. “I feel so bad it was my idea and I didn’t do it.”
Sacchini said it was an emotional day. He was asked to speak at the awards ceremony, but couldn’t.
Later, he said he was delighted by the support and turnout.
“We really set the bar high this year,” Sacchini said. “We wanted to create a special event on the 10th anniversary. We met the bar and maybe even exceeded the bar. I was so pleased.”