KAPAA — John Sadlowsky was there for the first Mayor-a-thon in 2009. And he was back again Saturday for the 2016 edition of the event that promotes fitness and fun.
“I’m not going as far as I used to, but I’m here,” he said as he glanced down at the brace protecting his right knee.
It was right then that Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. walked up as the crowd milled about at Kapaa Beach Park.
“Remember that back then?” he asked Sadlowsky as he looked at his Mayor-a-thon tank top from seven years ago.
“Oh yeah, ” Sadlowsky said. “Look how much it’s grown.”
Despite gray, rainy skies, an estimated 800 people — including toddlers, teens, thirty somethings and seniors — arrived by 7 a.m. Many who preregistered received free T-shirts, water bottles and cinch bags. Other checked out the health information booths, grabbed a cup of Kauai Coffee, and huddled under the big tents to stay dry.
The rain didn’t last, and soon, Get Fit Director Bev Brody took the stage to lead everyone in warm-up exercises. As the song “Born in the USA” boomed out, people pumped their arms, raised their legs and jumped around on command.
Lisa Shimazu held her daughter’s dog, Buddy, throughout the warm-up and still was able to keep up with the crowd.
It was her second time at the Mayor-a-thon.
“It brings the whole community together,” she said. “We’re having fun and it’s for a good cause.”
This year’s theme was “A Tribute to Tropic Care and our Troops.”
“Thank you for being here,” Brody said to the men and women of the military.
Then, it was time to head out on Ke Ala Hele Makalae for a bike ride, walk or run of anywhere from one to eight miles.
Veronica Sakaguchi and others with Ho‘ola Fitness Center greeted passersby on the path with their own workout routine. It was Sakauchi’s fifth year of taking part in the Mayor-a-thon.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, smiling.
Add in a healthy breakfast, games and more than $10,000 in prizes, even bus rides to get people there, you had an inspired group enjoying a morning of exercise.
Many were laughing and grinning as they followed the mayor as he once again led a festive performance of the Electric Slide dance.
“I love the fact that everyone came out — kupuna, keiki, being active and having fun on this beautiful day,” said Joy Barua, who was in the front row during the warmup routine, keeping pace with Brody. “This is just awesome.”
Carvalho, who biked the path with wife Regina, said the Mayor-a-thon has become what he hoped when it started in 2009. It unites the community toward a common goal of physical activity and improved health. More people are biking, walking and running on Ke Ala Hele Makalae, which is targeted for expansion.
“We are moving in the right direction,” he said.
He recalled the Mayor-a-thon was only going to be a one-time event that first year, when about a hundred people turned out.
“But I said on stage, ‘This will be an annual event,’” Carvalho said.
And it grew from there.
“People just wanted to participate,” the mayor said.
Like John Sadlowsky.
“It’s a great event. So many people from the island,” he said. “All walks of life are here and just enjoy each other. That’s fantastic. And Bernard has been the big push.”
Sadlowsky had surgery on his right knee about three years ago, so has had to slow down a bit, but he rose early Saturday and walked the path for a short stretch before the crowd set out.
“I don’t want to get in anybody’s way. I don’t walk so good anymore,” he said, raising his right leg, held steady by a brace. “I’ll be wearing one of these forever.”
“But I’m not about to lay down,” he added.
His wife, Ruth Ann sitting next to him, nodded in agreement.
“This isn’t going to stop him,” she said.