Some 50 yards from the finish line of the half-mile race, Waituna Olores came to a stop.
The 9-year-old took a deep breathe, had his shoe tied, glanced ahead, and resumed running. He charged steadily, slowly. In the final stretch, he ran harder, the cheers of the crowd growing louder.
A few minutes later, recovered, the 9-year-old from Kalaheo was satisfied with his effort.
“I felt OK,” he said.
Family friend Denise Moriguchi brought the boy to the race .
“He wanted to run the race,” she said. “His mother couldn’t get here, and she mentioned to me that he wanted to do this. So he came with us. He did great.”
Olores was one of about 175 youth ages 2 to 12 who took part in the first Kauai Marathon Keiki Run on Saturday at the far west side of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa.
Marathon founder Jeff Sacchini said he had long wanted a run for keiki, but logistically, it was difficult to pull off. This year, on the fifth anniversary of the race, a run for children came together.
“I wish all of you a fabulous race this morning,” he said to the energetic crowd.
There was a 100-yard run for 2-4 year olds, a quarter-mile run for 4-7 year olds and a half-mile run for 8-12 year olds.
Each finisher received a medal, praise, countless high fives and applause from proud parents and grandparents.
Past Kauai Marathon winners Michael Wardian and Tyler McCandless were on hand to offer encouragement, as well as Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes, along with a costumed chicken, played well by ultramarathoning great Rich Hanna, as the pacer in each race.
“Who thinks they can beat me?” asked Karnazes. Many small hands shot in the air.
“Well, it’s a challenge. It’s an official challenge,” he said, smiling. “Oh yeah. OK, the game is on, let’s go.”
And they did. Boys, girls, big and small, raced for all they could.
“He did awesome,” father Ekolu Chong of Lihue said of son Makalii, 3, after they came across the finish line together.
Olin Claussen watched his son, Kobe, 4, sprint after that yellow chicken, grinning all the while. He didn’t care that he couldn’t catch the chicken.
“He was thinking about it all night. He wore special shoes just to come and do it,” Claussen said.
Taylee Yamamoto, 6, wore pink and blue Nikes as she dashed around the field. Later, the Hanapepe girl showed off her medal to family.
Mom Tasha Yamamoto liked the addition of the Keiki Run to the marathon.
“It’s a fun way to encourage the kids to be healthy,” she said.