POIPU— Before Sunday, Yuko Nakai had run a marathon on every Hawaiian Island except Kauai.
She stayed away because people warned her the course was hilly and difficult, and conditions were hot and humid.
“So I was scared to run,” she said.
But when the Eighth annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon started at 6 a.m., Nakai was there. And the 42-year-old ran without fear.
She took the lead about the 10-mile mark and ran the rest of the way alone. She was the first woman, crossing the finish line in 3 hours, 16 minutes and three seconds.
The 42-year-old from Honolulu outlasted the hills and heat by drawing energy from the volunteers and spectators who cheered her on under sunny skies.
“It made a difference,” she said.
The men’s field was led by Shou Sakuma of Japan. He pulled away early and cruised across the finish line in 2:30:51.
Sakuma, racing on Kauai for the first time, enjoyed the cool morning conditions. But he said going “up and down the hills” and the heat made things tough later in the race.
He fought through a rough spell about 15 miles and regained his momentum, so much that he felt confident and comfortable in the final miles.
He loved the support and hospitality on the course, he said, and it encouraged him to finish strong.
“There is no question that the nature of the course overwhelmed me,” he said. “However, the community of Kauai and their warm support is what drove me to win the race. Everyone’s energy was amazing.”
All told, 257 people finished the full marathon and another 1,352 completed the half marathon. A record, 2,044, registered for the event.
Tyler McCandless, three-time Kauai Marathon champion and three-time Kauai Half Marathon champion, set a course record in 1:06:47 in this year’s half.
The Boulder, Colorado man was patient through the early miles that included the uphill climb through the Tree Tunnel. He cranked it up later on the downhill through Omao.
“I flew the last six miles,” he said estimating he covered the final 10K in 29:20. “I was really flying.”
His winning performance, coming after seven straight 100-mile-plus weeks, is an indicator of his fitness level as he prepares for the New York Marathon in November.
“I had the confidence I was ready to go out there and kick butt,” he said.
Carrie Zografos of Portland won the women’s half marathon in 1:29:21, holding off Nicole Chyr of Englewood, Colo., in 1:30:43.
Derrick Ledesma was the first marathon finisher from Kauai for the fourth year.
The Koloa man covered the course in 3:38:24. He credited his performance to a competitive field — “This year, there were guys pushing me” — and the support.
As he passed through his hometown, he heard many calling his name and rooting for him.
“The best part of it is all the people out there,” he said.
Ledesma felt great for the most part.
“About mile 20, you always feel like you’re ready to quit, but you keep going,” he said.
He was pleased to defend his title as Kauai’s top marathoner.
“I take pride in that,” Ledesma said.
Brooke Sugahara of Kapaa was the first woman from Kauai to finish the marathon, crossing the finish line in 3:45:19.
Another local, Benjamin Prichard of Kapaa, had to overcome several challenges.
He was at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa waiting for the shuttle to the start at 6:01 a.m. because he thought the race started at 7. When he realized there was no shuttle, it clicked that the race started at 6.
Prichard ran to the starting line, more than a mile away, and started long after everyone was gone.
Still, he pushed on to finish in 4:32:29 , overcoming leg cramps that forced him to walk a long stretch.
“I was able to run the last three miles,” he said. “I caught a bunch of people who passed me.”
He also started the race sleep deprived, as he and his wife had a baby boy, Benjamin Henry, five days ago.
“He’s going to be the next runner in the family,” Prichard said, smiling.
Mathea Allansmith of Koloa, at age 86, was the oldest half marathoner finisher in 4:12:40 and was called up on stage to receive her award, earning applause.
She has completed all eight Kauai half marathons. She trained 10 weeks for Sunday’s race, which included running, gym workouts and upper body routines.
“I’m very pleased at being able to continue to race,” she said.
The husband and wife team of Dean and Kim Marth of Koloa also completed the half, with Dean edging his partner, finishing in 2:25:16 to Kim’s 2:26:29.
The two stayed together most of the way, until Dean pulled away late to earn a one-minute victory.
“The last mile or half mile is anybody’s game,” he said, laughing, as they sat on the lawn during the post-race party.
Will Kim get him next year?
“Probably,” she said, smiling.
“We’ll do the half,” Dean added. “I don’t see the full marathon in our future.”
The race featured a true blue patriot, too.
Shalisa Davis of Suffolk, Va., carried the American flag for the full marathon and still finished in 5:01:18.
Along the way, people clapped and took pictures of the 24-year Marine Corps veteran as she completed her 112th marathon.
Hawaii was her 50th state where she has completed a marathon, so she decided to carry Old Glory for the first time.
“It feels like it’s a million pounds,” she said.
It was a battle, especially through the hills of Kalaheo. Still, she persevered.
“I’m very proud,” Davis said.
• The 2016 race features runners from 44 states and 13 countries. The Aloha State was well represented with 1,051 local registrants of whom 737 were from Kauai. There were 65 participants who ran the full or half marathon for the 8th year in a row.
• It has reached about 600 keiki through its youth running program.
• There were 130 volunteers on the course, as well as at the start and finish lines for parking, course directionals, water distribution, and other tasks. There were 22 aid stations with about 20 people helping at each station.
• Getting everyone through the courses on a hot, humid day required some 1,600 gallons of water, another 8,000 pounds of ice and hundreds of gallons of Powerade.
• The Kauai Marathon has had an estimated $20 million economic impact since its inaugural year in 2009 and has contributed more than $100,000 to local nonprofits.
1. Derrick Ledesma, Koloa, 3:38:24
2. Jimmy McDougall, Anahola, 3:43:51
3. Bill Buley, Lihue, 3:48:32
4. Phil Mashek, Kapaa, 4:21:35
5. J. Wayne Burris, Koloa, 4:23:27
6. Johnny Paleracio, Hanapepe, 4:30:15
7. Kawaihoola Curnan, Kalaheo, 4:31:02
8. Benjamin Prichard, Kapaa, 4:32:29
9. Derek Johnson, Kalaheo, 4:37:28
10. Bryce Bertoli, Koloa, 4:38:44
1. Brooke Sugahara, Kapaa, 3:45:19
2. Hillary Schaber, Kapaa, 4:28:10
3. Chelsea Masters, Koloa, 4:28:25
4. Trish Bratton, Lihue, 4:42:11
5. Kasey Ozaki, Hanapepe, 4:45:13
6. Dorrie Michioka, Lihue, 4:49:24
7. Agnes Largo, Lihue, 5:07:25
8. Mary Jane Naone, Lawai, 5:08:06
9. Emily Lucente, Koloa, 5:42:27
10. Erika Valente, Koloa, 6:02:38
1. Brandon Jacinto, Lihue, 1:32:53
2. Dutch Fairbanks, Lihue, 1:32:57
3. Troy Keipper, Kapaa, 1:39:43
4. Chris Isonaga, Lawai, 1:42:43
5. Makaio Pereza, Koloa, 1:43:10
6. Eric Wortmann, Kalaheo, 1:43:12
7. Woldekidan Tegegne, Kalaheo, 1:47:43
8. Dawson Okinaka,Lawai, 1:47:45
9. Chase La Madrid-Engel, Kapaa, 1:51:09
10. Kekoa Kimata-Lopez, Hanapepe, 1:51:41
1. Jackie Redding, Kapaa, 1:33:46
2. Katie Stirrett, Kalaheo, 1:43:41
3. Tiffany Palama, Kalaheo, 1:49:13
4. Angie Bestwick, Koloa, 1:49:54
5. Lucia Kerr, Lihue, 1:49:54
6. Mimi Ditusa, Kapaa, 1:55:35
7. Amy Christiansen, Koloa, 1:56:03
8. Rachel Flores, Kilauea, 1:56:20
9. Angela Uno, Kapaa, 1:56:26
10. Lauren Hunt, Lihue, 1:57:36