Kauai Marathon a world-class race

Today is the fifth running of the Kauai Marathon. Some 400 runners will take on the full 26.2-mile race, while another 1,300 or so will compete in the 13.1-mile half marathon.

Either way, they’ll be participating in what has become one of the Garden Isle’s most treasured events.

Kudos must go to the race founder, Jeff Sacchini. In its first year in 2009, when an ailing economy had hit Kauai hard, the marathon gave the island what it needed: a terrific event that united runners and nonrunners alike, and brought thousands of people here. It was upbeat, fun and challenging, a day filled with accomplishments and goals achieved.

The Kauai Marathon is becoming a world-class race, known for its Aloha spirit, its organization, its volunteers, its elite field, and of course, its stunning scenery. It’s been labeled one of the best road races in America. It’s been called the marathon on the most beautiful island in the world. All of that, true.

That’s not to mention the estimated $3 million economic impact.

Since that first year, support has increased, with volunteers working at aid stations along the course, or setting up before the race and breaking down afterward. Residents come out to cheer for the runners — and they need those cheers in the latter stages when the heart beats strong, the mind says keep going, but the legs are dying.

It’s not just race day that makes the Kauai Marathon magical. The expo at the Grand Hyatt and the guest speakers and programs were excellent this year. The fun run Saturday morning with “Ultramarathon Man” Dean Karnazes and Runner’s World writer and runner Bart Yasso was outstanding. The first Kauai Marathon Keiki Run on Saturday was a huge hit, with around 150 youngsters ranging from ages 2 to 12 charging hard around the field to the cheers of family and friends.

If you’re wondering what those who compete in this marathon have to say, here’s just a few comments:

• “It is doubtful I will ever run a more beautiful marathon. The Garden Isle surrounded the course with thick, green vegetation that swayed and waved to the gentle trade wind. That sentence could only be the start of a book I could write about this glorious marathon.”

• “Starting with the inaugural year in 2009 until now, four years in a row … I can honestly say that this marathon, its creators, directors, supporters and runners are what the Aloha spirit is all about!”

• “The organizers of the Kauai marathon live and breath the Aloha spirit. I’ve learned so many life lessons from this event due to the positive people that run the event.”

• “One of the hardest things I have ever done, but so worth it! The island is one big hill, I swear. It is hot, humid, at times rainy. Not one for trying to beat your PB, but the scenery is breathtaking, the volunteers and residents encouraging and enthusiastic and the race was incredibly well-organized. I’ll be back!”

We’re glad you founded this marathon, Jeff Sacchini. Congrats to you and your race director, Bob Craver, for a race well run.  

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