Nicole Chyr won the women’s division in last year’s Kauai Marathon.
This year, she did even better.
The Englewood, Colorado, resident finished first overall to win Sunday’s Kauai Marathon in 3 hours and 24 seconds. She became the first woman to claim the title.
She was surprised to find herself in front and pushed hard to hold off Hidemasa Goya of Japan, who led the men in 3:01:30.
“That is just a tough course,” she said. “For anyone to come out here and think they’re going to crush that course, they’re not going to.”
But Chyr came close. On a day marked by heat, humidity and little wind, and on a course known for punishing hills, she went out conservatively through the climb of the Tunnel of Trees from Popiu to Highway 50. She then cranked it up through the long downhill of Omao, ran alone most of the course through Kalaheo and Lawai, finished with a strong sprint and improved her time by 28 seconds from 2013.
It was never easy.
“You think you’re done with the hills and they throw in another one,” she said.
Which made the victory even sweeter.
“It’s wonderful to take home the win to my team,” Chyr said.
A record 1,830 runners registered for the sixth annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, including 651 Kauai residents, also a record. There were 1,435 registered in the half, another 395 in the full. A contingent of spirited volunteers handed out water and sports drinks, while others played drums, performed the hula and cheered on runners who started in the dark at 6 a.m.
Goya wasn’t even sure he was the first man to finish when he came in, but was pleased to learn he won in his first marathon on Kauai.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “Fantastic. It’s so good.”
The Okinawa man said the middle of the race, the 10-mile stretch from about mile 11 to 21 with plenty of hills, was difficult. But he, too, held back early and gradually picked up the pace to top the men’s field.
“I’m really surprised and so happy,” he said with a big smile. “It’s a really good memory for me.”
Tyler McCandless, three-time winner of the Kauai Marathon, entered the half marathon this year and was aiming to break an hour, five minutes over 13.1 miles and raise money for youth health programs on the island.
He came up just short, running 1:07:17, a course record.
“I really wanted to do it for the kids. I set a lofty goal,” he said.
But the hills of the Tunnel of Trees and the heat slowed his pace in the early miles.
“I pushed hard,” he said. “The last five miles I ran in like 24:10, but I could make it up.”
Still, he raised several thousand dollars and spent two weeks on Kauai visiting schools and promoting running, fitness and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
“I’m really proud,” the 27-year-old said. “I put every ounce I had out there. It just wasn’t going to happen today.”
“It’s a good lesson for the kids, too,” McCandless added. “Sometimes, you don’t achieve your goals but when you put everything into it, you should be very proud.”
He leaves Kauai Tuesday as he turns his attention to the USA Men’s Marathon Championship Oct. 5 in Minneapolis. His time on Kauai, he said, was special.
“I loved every second of it,” he said. “I feel like a better person and I’m going to bring some aloha spirit back with me to Colorado.”
Lauren Tippets of California defended her half marathon title in 1:26:53. She said she could tell within the first five miles she was going to have a good day.
And she did.
“It feels great,” she said of winning again. “I love running over here. It’s one of my favorite places. It’s a beautiful course, but challenging. And the aloha spirit and support are unparalleled.”
Derrick Ledesma of Koloa also defended his title as the first Kauaian to finish the marathon and was fifth overall. He covered the course in 3:10:22, slightly off last year’s personal best of 3:07.
“That was my goal,” he said. “I got it last year so I wanted to repeat.”
The 35-year-old laughed as he explained his first half split was about 1:30 and his second was 1:40.
“I felt so good coming down Omao and coming up, I think I just went too fast,” he said. “I didn’t train as hard this year. I wasn’t trained to the level I was last year and I could feel it.”
You can forget, too, how difficult the hills are in the Kauai Marathon, he said.
“Then you get out there and go, ‘oh man, this is rough,’” he said.
Next year, he vowed, will be different.
“I’ll slow down and let the people pass me and wait for the second half,” Ledesma said.
Others were pleased to finish, regardless of their time.
Glenn and Leilani Santos of Koloa were all smiles as they celebrated afterward in the park.
Leilani said it was her first race, ever. And she did no training. None.
“I did not train at all,” she said.
But she wanted to complete the half marathon before she turns 50 in February. There were times on Sunday she wanted to give up. She didn’t.
“I was the little engine that could and I made it. I’m so proud of myself,” she said, grinning. “I got it done.”
Glenn, too, was feeling great. He said he got hurt three months ago wasn’t able to train like he planned. The support of the volunteers and spectators, he said, gave him the boost needed to break three hours.
“With all those people encouraging me, that really helped,” he said. “I thank them.”
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.