Mainly Marathons race series underway on Kauai

Ray Charron was in a little bit of a hurry to complete his morning run Thursday. After all, he had a 10:30 appointment.

“I have to get to work,” said the owner of Aloha Images in Kapaa. “I’ll be there as soon as I finish.”

But this wasn’t your routine five-miler. Charron was in the middle of an ultramarathon, 50 kilometers, at Smith’s Tropical Paradise as part of the Mainly Marathons race series on Kauai.

“Today, it’s more just trying to get into a nice, comfortable pace,” Charron said. “Maybe I’ll run another marathon tomorrow. I don’t want to totally beat myself up.”

If you like to run long distances, Kauai is the place to be this week. Mainly Marathons is behind a series of races Thursday through Sunday. The main attractions are the half marathon, the full marathon and the ultramarathon. There’s also a 5K and a 10K.

Thursday’s and Sunday’s races are at Smith’s Tropical Paradise. Today’s and Saturday’s start at Kapaa Beach Park. Participants will go about a mile north on Ke Ala Hele Makalae before repeating that two-mile out-and-back stretch many times.

Perhaps a marathon or half marathon a day for four days sounds simply insane. But not if you’re one of those people trying to record those distances in every state.

“It’s a great way to do as many states fast if you’re trying to do all 50 states,” said Kamika Smith, an avid distance runner and Smith’s general manager who is helping with organization of the races.

“I wanted to make sure it goes over well and keep Kauai in a good light,” added Smith, who completed a half marathon on Thursday.

Most runners, carrying flashlights or wearing headlamps, were off in the dark at 4:30 a.m. and followed the paved path that winds through Smith’s gardens out for 1.1 miles before pulling a U-turn.

When the sun rose, green mountains, exotic flowers, lush landscape and swaying palm trees slowly came to life. Runners and walkers, many new to Kauai, were wowed by their surroundings.

“It’s beautiful,” said Bryndis Svavarsdottir of Iceland. “I like it very much. I love it.”

At one point, Svavarsdottir exchanged high fives with Smith.

“I’m halfway there,” she said, on her way to a marathon as she stopped at the aid station.

“I’m done,” Smith said, smiling.

Svavarsdottir was running and walking her 209th marathon Thursday. She loves to travel and has run a marathon in every state at least twice. Yes, it’s expensive, but she and her husband don’t have extravagant hobbies.

“It all comes down to choice, what to spend your money on,” she said.

In his running travels that have taken him to complete half and full marathons across the U.S., Smith has come to know others who share similar interests.

“It’s a small group of people that usually come and do these,” he said.

About 100 runners were registered for Thursday’s races, and about 75 for each of the other days.

It was a dedicated bunch. One man had more than 1,000 marathons and ultras to his credit. One woman, nearly 500 marathons. One person was scheduled to complete an ultra each day.

Some run fast. Others jog. Many walk with a friend, chat and enjoy the scenery. There was no clock counting down.

“It’s up to you, how you want to do it,” Kamika Smith said.

Henry Rueden of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has nearly 1,250 marathons and ultras to his credit. Since he was planning to complete four marathons in four days on Kauai, he maintained a steady walking pace.

“I do not do well in heat, so I walk quite a bit more,” he said.

For Rueden, who is retired and spent 29 years in the reserves, it’s about traveling, meeting people and seeing the world.

“If your objective is to finish, you don’t have to do much other than staying healthy,” he said.

Charron, a surfer before he turned runner, has completed about 80 to 100 ultras and marathons and a few cross country relays. This will be his 40th year with at least one marathon.

The 70-year-old is still fast. He ran the Honolulu Marathon in December in just over four hours. And he’s still strong and durable, as he may run another marathon in this race series.

He cruised along, steady, on Thursday, passing others on the course with an occasional wave.

Charron usually runs alone, he said, so running with a group in a gorgeous setting was a treat.

“I love the fact if you look at the age of most of these people, they’re not young people,” he said. “Marathoning and ultras are more of a pacing thing. Older people gravitate to it.”

Clint and Hanne Burleson are the owners of Mainly Marathons, which sets up races around the country. They started it about four years ago. This year, Mainly Marathons will be in 49 states.

“We take pretty good care of the runners,” Burleson said.

He credited Kamika Smith with bringing the organization to Kauai. Smith ran with Mainly Marathons in 2013 and asked then if they could come to Kauai. This year, it worked out — thanks to Smith’s efforts to host the races and get county permission to hold them on the path.

“We couldn’t have done it without him,” Burleson said.

Burleson called the enclosed, picture-perfect course at Smith’s Tropical Paradise an ideal location for Mainly Marathons.

“The most beautiful we’ve ever had,” he said.

To register for this weekend’s races, go to mainlymarathons.com or show up early at the race sites to register.

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