Katy Britzmann and Marisa Hurley can’t stop now.
They’ve run all eight of the Kauai half marathons and on Sunday, will return for their ninth go at running 13.1 miles.
Oh, they’ve thought about skipping. It crosses their minds. But neither of them will let it happen. Not now. Not when there’s a streak to keep alive.
“Neither one of us wants to say, ‘I don’t want to do it this year,’” Hurley said.
So they don’t.
“We kind of motivate each other to do it,” Britzmann said
“Neither one of us will stop,” Hurley said. “We’ll just keep on doing it.”
Their longtime friendship is linked by their careers. Britzmann is the director of sales at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, while Hurley is the director of events.
Running bonds them outside of work. Both are longtime runners, with community races to their credit. They sometimes run with fellow Hyatt employees.
“We show up at 6 in the morning because we know someone else is committed to showing up,” Britzmann said.
It’s the exercise and conversation that keeps them pounding the roads around Poipu. And their zeal for running is contagious. About 35 Hyatt employees are expected to run Sunday.
“I’m more of a social runner,” Britzmann said. “As I age up, it’s just staying fit and staying healthy. I think I’m a little bit crazy because I run with those people a lot younger than me.”
Younger, but not faster.
Britzmann and Hurley plan to start together, but after that, will part ways. They know where to find each other at the finish line, which they have reached every year.
“Katy’s faster, so she’ll be finished before me,” Hurley said. “I’ll find her at the beer garden.”
They’ll down a few cold brews as they recount their day, the hard climb through the Tree Tunnel, the relaxing downhill through Omao and the final glorious stretch to the finish line, this year at Koloa Landing.
Britzmann’s favorite part of the race is shortly after Omao (where friend and photographer Jo Evans has an aid station) and she can hear the taiko drummers.
“It’s a big highlight, seeing everybody there,” she said. “You’ve pretty much made it at that point.”
Hurley never thought she would run a half marathon. But that first year of the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, she and Britzmann both decided, “Let’s just try it. It should be fun.”
At mile 10, Hurley couldn’t believe how great she felt.
“I never thought it would be so much fun to run 13 miles,” she said.
Likewise for Britzmann.
“The first time I ran it, I had never run a half marathon,” she said. “I felt like I was in a parade.”
Not that it’s always nirvana.
Both have battled through injuries.
Back pain last year forced Britzmann to take six months off from running. She even contemplated bowing out of the half marathon but come race day, she was at the starting line. And naturally, she finished.
“Last year was the toughest year for me, I definitely toughed it out,” Britzmann said. “Knock on wood, this year I feel pretty good.”
Two years ago, Hurley injured her right foot and wasn’t sure if she could run the half marathon.
“There was a lot of pain,” she said.
Still, she toed the starting line — and she made it.
This year, she’s ready.
“I feel good. I feel really good,” she said.
At that Poipu starting line, with the torches, the blowing of the conch shell, the pule, Britzmann will be the one jumping and and down. She loves the fellowship and meeting people.
“I do get pretty excited with adrenaline,” Britzmann said.
“Definitely get chicken skin when thinking about that,” Hurley said. “On an island so small, 2,000 people in one spot, ready to run, that’s pretty exciting.”
Once they’re off and running, it’s not about trying to go fast. The goal is to enjoy the day. Smile. Laugh. Delight in each step.
That’s how running is, each morning, for both of them.
“It’s great to be able to get out and clear your mind,” Hurley said. “It definitely sets you up to have a better day.”
Britzmann agrees that morning runs are magical. The rising sun, the ocean, the breeze, can be perfect.
“It’s a glorious way to start the day,” she said. “Just beautiful.”
Finishing on Sunday may be just as good.
They’ll have those cold beers, talk story, and celebrate finishing yet another Kauai half marathon.
And they’ll agree that running 13.1 miles still feels pretty darn good. Just as good as it did nine years ago.
“What a glorious place to run, live and work,” Britzmann said.