Kauai Marathon captivates

POIPU — When Tyler McCandless set foot on the Kauai Marathon course on Sunday morning, he had all the motivation he needed to break his marathon goal for the day at 2 hours, 22 minutes, 22 seconds.

But it wasn’t the $15,000 purse at stake for breaking the 2:23:19.9 course record set by the 26-year-old Boulder, Colo. resident nearly two years ago.

The two-time Kauai Marathon champion said he received a little extra push this year when he made a presentation at the marathon’s inaugural Keiki Race the day before.

“To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about the money,” McCandless said following his closely watched finish that day. “I was thinking about the kids who I presented to about how great it is to achieve your goals. I was thinking about how if I can do this today, they get to see the example in person.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

McCandless, who led the entire race for the first 11 miles, broke his marathon course record with a 2:21:08.62 finish.

“It’s a much more redeeming feeling breaking it this year, because I was so close last year,” McCandless said in reference to his nail-biting finish last year, when he came up 33 seconds short of beating his record. “I really wanted to get it this year, so it’s a wonderful feeling.”

At least 1,700 marathon and half marathon runners from 13 countries and 40 states nationwide joined McCandless on Sunday in Poipu, where they braved an early morning traffic rush to see the South Shore from a different view.

“It’s very beautiful,” said half marathon runner Emily Van Houten of Poipu, who has run in the annual event for four consecutive years. “It’s fun to go on that journey up the tree tunnel and through Omao.”

The first 11 miles of the race, according to course maps, meanders through Poipu, Koloa and Omao — mainly along Ala Kinoiki Road, Maluhia Road, Kaumualii Highway, and Omao Road — before half-marathon and marathon runners split up at the Omao Road and Koloa Road junction.

At that point, half marathoners continued down Omao Road to the finish line at the Sheraton Kauai, while marathon runners turned onto Koloa Road on a loop through Kalaheo before taking Koloa and Omao Roads to the same finish line.

In all, race organizers said about 910 Hawaii residents — 615 of whom are from Kauai — took part in this year’s run.

Kauai Marathon Co-founder Jeff Sacchini said this year’s attendance was slightly down compared to other years after about 300 runners from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and the Army National Guard pulled out of the race.   

The goal for next year’s race, he said, is to attract at least 2,300 runners to the budding event, which is now in its fifth year.

“This race should really be at 2,300 to build it up, but it’s a great size,” Sacchini said.

“We can’t get much bigger than probably 3,000 anyway with this finish line, the logistics on the road and the amount of rental cars on the island, so we have to be cognizant of that.”

Basil Scott of Kapaa, who was the second Kauai resident to complete the half marathon with a 1:28:22.39 finish, said he matched his personal goal for this year but came up short on beating the 1:27:39.7 record set by Hanalei resident Leo McCarthy in the 55- to 59-year-old male age division three years ago.

“This course is interesting, because it’s hard on your legs — the hills take a lot out of your thighs and the downhills will be really hard on your legs,” Scott said. “In the last two miles, it feels like you have weak lead holding you down.”

Nicole Chyr of Englewood, Colo., who won Denver’s Colfax Marathon in May with a record time of 2:57:18, said the course is, in some ways, similar to those in the Rocky Mountains, marked by steep, sharp turns and inclines.

Chyr, who was the first woman to complete the marathon and the sixth overall marathon runner to cross the finish line with a 3:00:32.42 chip time, also said intermittent rainfalls complicated course conditions.

“The bottom of my feet and socks are soaking wet, so it makes your shoes a little bit heavy,” said Chyr, who has also run the Maui and Honolulu Marathons in previous years. “I think you just have to know this course to be able to run it, so I would love to come back and run it again now that I know what it’s all about.”

Many of the runners, however, took the challenges in stride and were already setting their sights on next year’s race.

McCandless, in particular, said he is seeking to beat his new course record again next year.

“I’m just living in the moment,” McCandless said.

For more information, including awards and results, visit the Kauai Marathon website at www.thekauaimarathon.com.

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com.

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