POIPU — With about 400 yards to go in Sunday’s Kauai Marathon, Derrick Ledesma was closing in on his third straight title of being the first finisher from Kauai. He was relaxing a bit, easing off to enjoy the final stretch next to the ocean, when he looked back, one final time, to be sure no one was close to him.
And that someone, Renato Desouza, was charging hard and closing fast.
“He’s like right there, coming at me,” Ledesma said.
So he muttered a few choice words for his fellow Kauaian and sprinted for all he had to finish in 3 hours, 24 minutes and 52 seconds, just ahead of Desouza’s 3:25:04.
“As soon as I saw him, I was flying,” Ledesma said.
The Koloa man absolutely wanted to keep his title of Kauai’s first marathon finisher. If it meant a bit more pain over the last quarter-mile, so be it.
Ledesma carried off two Kauai Marathon plates and a bowl, awards for being third overall, first in his 35-39 age group and first Kauai resident.
“I love it,” he said. “I take pride in it.”
It was a day of pride and pain for many on a hot, humid Sunday, as about 1,200 people took on the 13.1-mile marathon, while another 300 or entered the full, 26.2-mile marathon. Some 700 volunteers offered cheers, motivation, water and sports drinks.
The Aloha State was well represented with 855 local registrants, 613 from Kauai. Runners came from 43 states and 17 countries. There were 63 participants who ran the full or half marathon for the 7th year in a row.
Allister Knox of Kihei on Maui overcame the challenging conditions to win the full marathon in 2:51:45. He ran with Tim Price of Bluffton, South Carolina for the first 12 miles before breaking away on the hills and extending his advantage.
“I thought he was going to give me a real run for my money,” Knox said. “The way things worked out, when we got on the hills, he started to slow down a bit and I was able to open a gap and hang in there.”
Price held on to finish in 3:23:19 and take second place among the men.
The 41-year-old Knox had driven the course before Sunday, so knew what awaited, and he knew he had to be patient. Coming in, he hoped to run in the 2:40 range, but adjusted his strategy after seeing how many hills there were after the full marathoners split from the half marathoners in Omao.
“I was kind of intimidated by it, he said. “This was a difficult course. I heard it was hilly. I didn’t know it was like this. It was truly hilly.”
While Knox, a triathlete, didn’t expect to win, he was pleased that he ran a smart, even pace and finished first overall. He called it the hardest marathon course he had ever run.
“I’m really happy to get a good result. It’s an honor,” he said. “I will always remember the exhilaration of crossing the finish line.”
Likewise for Sabina Piras.
The 26-year-old from San Diego was the first woman finisher — and second overall — in 3:06:36. She held off two-time winner Nicole Chyr of Englewood, Colorado, also the 2014 overall winner, who finished in 3:10:00.
Brooke Sugahara of Kapaa ran a strong 3:29:06 to finish third among the women.
Like Knox, Piras recognized that with the heat and hills this was not a day or course to set any personal bests, so she decided to back off the gas pedal. She cruised up the Tree Tunnel, ran well on Highway 50, and zipped easily on the downhill stretch through Omao. From there, she handled the hills of Kalaheo and Lawai.
“The first 11 miles, I felt like gold, ” said Piras, who ran her first marathon ever on Kauai three years ago. “Then, the heat started picking up and with the hills toward the end of the course, I ran a more conservative pace.”
Once she got through some of the longer, steeper hills, she cranked it up to maintain her lead.
“The rest of it was take it mile by mile,” she said.
Her strategy paid off.
“It’s awesome,” Piras said of winning.
More rewards wait.
She’ll spend the next week on Kauai recovering and spending time with family.
“My parents are here, now I get to go on vacation,” she said. “I’m happy.”
The Seventh annual Kauai Marathon took its toll on many.
Thomas Yee of Oahu finished in 4:08:42, 33rd overall, and said this about what kept him going: “To be so close to death and know that you’re alive,” he said, smiling.
Yee, who has run all seven Kauai Marathons, said as usual, the first half of the race was “really nice.” Not so much the second half that included seemingly endless climbs that left his quads aching and knees hurting.
“It’s quite a workout,” he said. “You’re going up and going down, so there’s never any relief.”
Despite calling it the most difficult course he has run, Yee rates the Kauai Marathon his favorite of all the island marathons and said he’ll continue to return.
“I really like the support. The race is so well organized, before and after,” he said. “I’m very pleased.”
Bill Rahn of North Little Rock, Arkansas, who placed second in his 60-64 age group with a 3:53:15, said he felt solid until about mile 20.
“Then, it got really tough,” he said.
Like Yee, he called it, “probably the toughest course I’ve ever run,” but was came away feeling good about his day.
“I was very pleased with the result,” he said.
Anna Gall of Woodinville, Wash., used a walk/run method that brought her home in 4:07:41, good for 30th overall in the full marathon. It was the first time she’s mixed walking and running as part of her strategy in a marathon.
“I thought, ‘If I don’t walk, I’m going to be dead because these hills are going to kill me,” she said.
“I didn’t kill myself,” she said. “This was the best.”
Tyler McCandless from Boulder, Colorado won the Kauai Half Marathon for the second year in a row with a time of 1:12:34. He was followed by Japanese runner and the Iwaki City Sunshine Marathon Champion Shun Suzuki at 1:22:30. Third place went to Martin Anders of Wahiawa, Hawaii with a time of 1:24:48.
Lauren Tippets of Pescadero, California won the women’s half marathon for the third year in a row with a time of 1:28:28. She was followed by the tightest race of the day between Jackie Reding of Kapaa, Kauai and Jaime Ross of Henderson, Nevada. Reding clocked in at 1:36:41 while Ross crossed the finish at 1:36:48
Brandon Jacinto and Jackie Reding were Kauai’s top finishers for the half marathon.
Kauai’s Dickie Chang, the voice and face of Wala‘au, finished in 3:12:24.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho finished in 4:34:56
1. Derrick Ledesma, Koloa, 3:24:52
2. Ronato Desouza, Lihue, 3:25:04
3. Mathew Mullahy, Kilauea, 4:03:49
4. Bill Buley, Lihue, 4:08:51
5. Bryce Bertoli, Koloa, 4:25:03
6. Elton Bukoski, Koloa, 4:30:37
7. Johnny Paleracio, Hanapepe, 4:36:01
8. Kawaihoola Curnan, Kalaheo, 4:36:05
9. Rocco April, Kapaa, 4:39:08
10. Tommy Vidinha, Kalaheo, 4:43:20
1. Brooke Sugahara, Kapaa, 3:29:07
2. Agnes Largo, Lihue, 4:47:45
3. Maria Gonzales, Kalaheo, 4:47:52
4. Angela Bresnahan, Hanalei, 5:02:31
5. Michelle Thomas, Princeville, 5:02:32
6. Natsuko Nishikawa, Kapaa, 5:09:51
7. Angela Petel, Kapaa, 5:15:42
8. Theresa Murray, Lihue, 5:56:23
9. Misuzu Nordmeier, Hanapepe, 7:44:05
Half marathon, men
1. Brandon Jacinto, Lihue, 1:33:55
2. Leo McCarthy, Kilauea, 1:35:49
3. Kiley Momohara, Kapaa, 1:36:39
4. Troy Keipper, Kapaa, 1:41:10
5. Said Espara, Kekaha, 1:41:15
6. Kekoa Kimata-Lopez, Hanapepe, 1:41:40
6. Chris Isonaga, Lawai, 1:41:44
8. Edmon Battulayan, Kalaheo, 1:42:44
9. James McDougall, Kapaa, 1:44:23
10. Dawson Okinaka, Koloa, 1:45:06
Half marathon, women
1. Jackie Reding, Kapaa, 1:36:42
2. Bridget Flynn, Kalaheo, 1:44:04
3. Zoe McGinnis, Kapaa, 1:47:10
4. Janet Snyder, Kilauea, 1:47:21
5. Tiffany Palama, Kalaheo, 1:47:55
6. Set Thach, Princeville, 1:49:56
7. Marissa Caliri, Hanalei, 1:51:50
8. Mary Emsdorf, Kilauea, 1:52:46
9. Erin Adams, Lihue, 1:53:19
10. Hildegarde Miyashiro, Kapaa, 1:54:47