Kauai Marathon countdown begins

Four and a half weeks.

That’s how much time we have to the Ninth annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon on Sept. 3. I bring this up now because if you haven’t registered, you still can. And there’s still time to put in some training that will make a difference on race day. This is one of the island’s best running events and if you have the drive to be part of it, you won’t be disappointed.

This is Kauai’s only full marathon, which is 26.2 miles. This course is a doozy. Only a few hundred will complete it. It’s a bugger, with a whole lot of hills. Late in the race, when it heats up, it can be brutal. An easier option, with far fewer hills and half the distance, is the 13.1-mile half marathon.

More than 1,300 completed the half last year and it’s expected about that many will be at the starting line this year. This is a terrific course that includes the Tunnel of Trees and a wonderful downhill stretch through beautiful Omao and a glorious finish line.

Against my better judgment and despite a lack of serious distance training, I’ll be running the full marathon for the fourth time. It’s not about how fast, but it’s about survival over the hills and the heat that sucks the life out of you late in the race. We’ll see how it goes. A slow earlier pace and salt tablets later will, hopefully, keep me moving. I’m optimistic it will go well, though I don’t know why.

While the basic course is the same, new this year is the oceanfront finish. Finish line festivities will be moved to the grounds of the Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu. Koloa Landing is on Hoonani Road and provides the perfect backdrop and amenities for participants and their families as they finish their adventure in paradise. Finish line activities include the awards ceremonies, food, refreshments and live entertainment.

Start line festivities will remain the same at Poipu Shopping Village. The actual start line will be moved back a quarter-mile to accommodate the change for the finish. What this means for participants is that they will line up .2 of a mile west of Kiahuna Plantation Drive on Poipu Road.

The start of this race is magical. The finish, spectacular. In between, well, it depends on how well you prepare. You still have time to train for the half. The full marathon, that’s another animal entirely.

Koloa Plantation Days runs

One thing I love about running races on Kauai is the chance to see how others are doing. For Sunday’s Koloa Plantation Days, there were some strong performances that made me realize I need to train harder to stay ahead of these fine folks. I clocked a 1:15:57 for 10 miles, four minutes slower than last year (because I didn’t train well, not because I’m older!), but nearly identical to what I ran in 2015.

My friend Dawson Okinaka completed the 10 miler in 1:16:55, one of his best races and a sign of just how fast he’s getting.

Edmon Battulayan, another local runner, crossed in 11th place in 1:17:35 and ran well throughout.

He is if anything, steady and sure.

Dorrie Michioka ran particularly strong, finishing in 1:19:46, for 13th overall and second among women. She seems to be improving each time out.

Michael Moule, biker extraordinaire who works for the county, was fourth overall in 1:12:14.

My good friend Basil Scott clocked a 1:13:49, not as quick as he planned, but still excellent for the old guard. He paid a price late in the race, he later told me, and probably went out a bit too fast. Still, the man remains one of Kauai’s best runners.

One of the day’s best performances went to Joe Rand of Kapaa, who recorded a fine 34:55 to win the 10K. Considering the heat, humidity and hills on the return, that’s outstanding. He ran alone, too. Second place was nearly seven minutes back.

Roy Yamagata, an ageless wonder, finished the 10K in 1:09:57.

Kauai’s Dodger Middlebrook blew away the field in the 5K, crossing the finish line in 18:53 to win by nearly two minutes.

Dr. Joel Punzal, showing good speed and strength, was 10th in 23:37.

My friend James Benkert, who completed the 3,000 meter Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge the day before, finished the 5K in 24:13 as he returns from an injury.

Long run

Saturday morning, I’ll be running long to train for the marathon, aiming for 25 miles or so. If anyone cares to join me, I’ll be running from Lihue to Kilauea — and if my legs are willing, beyond to Hanalei for a beer at Tahiti Nui. There is no better finish line.

•••

Bill Buley is editor of The Garden Island. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com

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