Marathon founder looks to ‘raise the bar’

During last Sunday’s Kauai Marathon, event founder Jeff Sacchini was out there, driving the course on a Vespa and offering bottles of Gatorade and encouraging words to runners. For some, the assistance came at a time that helped them reach the finish line of the 26.2-mile full marathon.

“That’s when people really needed some electrolytes,” Sacchini said.

It was that kind of help that made the seventh annual Kauai Marathon a success, as more than 250 runners completed the full marathon, and more than 1,100 completed the half marathon.

More than 600 volunteers helped out, while the marathon raised more than $7,000 for local nonprofits. It’s economic impact is estimated at $3 million. The overall unity, priceless.

Despite heat and humidity that raised the difficulty of reaching the finish line, the race went well. In fact, it was “stellar,” Sacchini said, with the biggest problem being with a few port-a-potties.

“We’ve improved it over the years to a point when it’s pretty sufficient now,” he said. “Without any hesitation, I can say it was the smoothest event we’ve ever done.”

In fact, the only thing he would change, if he could, was the weather.

“I wish I could control the heat and humidity,” he said.

New this year was the use of a drone to capture a video of the race, start to finish. It’s expected to be released soon, scored with music. The footage of the runners taking off from the starting line, making their way through the Tree Tunnel and then the final stretch to the finish, is spectacular, he said.

Sacchini, relaxing on a vacation with family several days after the marathon, believed this year’s race had what might be the most positive energy he has felt. The encouragement from the local community was wonderful to witness, he said.

This year’s event also featured a two-day sports and fitness expo, health and wellness seminars, a fun run with three-time Kauai Marathon winner Tyler McCandless and the third annual Keiki Run sponsored by Wilcox Health energized over 140 children from the ages of 2 to 12.

Sacchini, owner of Living Foods Market & Cafe in Koloa, is already thinking about the eighth annual Kauai Marathon, scheduled Sept. 4, 2016, and any possible changes to make it better.

“We’re constantly trying to raise the bar for the following year,” he said.

The start, on Poipu Road, and finish, on Ho‘onani Road, will remain the same, and the courses for both distances will likely remain the same, too. One goal would be to boost participation to more than 2,000 for 2016 and make it the largest Kauai Marathon yet.

He hopes to raise the number of runners in the full marathon to 500, and one way to do that, perhaps surprisingly, may be to market the course’s difficulty.

It is, said Runner’s World’s Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso, one of the toughest road races in the United States because of the seemingly endless hills through Kalaheo and Lawai.

It’s not a course to set a personal record in the marathon, Sacchini said, and it’s probably not a course you’re going to qualify for Boston.

But it is a course that when you finish, you will have a huge sense of accomplishment and you will, in the end, embrace the spirit and camaraderie between volunteers, the community and runners.

“It’s damn tough,” Sacchini said. “We need to market that.”

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