LIHUE — Tiana Wong didn’t have much interest in running. She couldn’t figure out why people wanted to run.
Then, inspired after watching husband Brandon Wong running mile after mile while wearing a 20-pound vest, she decided she could at least give it a try.
“After a mile, I’m like huffing and puffing, thinking, something is wrong with me,” she said.
Not for long.
“It’s all about practicing. Consistency is key,” Tiana said. “If you keep doing it, you’re only going to get better at it. That’s what helped me and now I’m obviously better at it.”
The Kauai half marathon has been on Brandon’s bucket list and Sunday, he’ll run the 13.1-mile race, joined at the starting line by Tiana. It will be the Puhi couple’s first time competing in the annual run that starts 6 a.m. in Poipu.
“I’m just excited. I love running,” said Brandon, a fierce competitor and longtime athlete who recently returned to cage fighting. “I want to run it and see how I can do.”
Tiana won’t be trying to keep up with him, but is determined to finish.
“I think it’s going to be fun. I’m so proud of myself, the fact that I have been running,” she said.
She’s been running up to five miles a day to prepare for the race, as well as working out at home. And to her surprise, she actually enjoys running now, something she didn’t expect.
“I can’t believe I can just go out and run, it’s much easier for me,” she said, smiling. “I can get out and go for a run and I feel good after.”
Both Brandon, 32, and Tiana, 28, grew up on Kauai. He’s a 2003 Kapaa High grad, she’s a 2007 Kauai High grad. He was a three-sport star, playing football, basketball and running track in school, while she was a cheerleader.
They have three daughters, Briana, 9, Tiabre, 4, and Brynne, 11 months.
Brandon works in maintenance at Island School, and is an assistant coach. Both work on Brandon’s family’s taro field in Hanalei and are also distributors of Herbalife, which they use.
Between work, children and exercising, they have a nonstop schedule — which is how they like it.
“When we’re busy, we always have something to look forward to,” Tiana said. “It keeps the energy, it keeps you more full, right? You just feel good.”
They admit they are trying to take a step back, take a breather, and focus on family. They do their best to encourage and motivate each other, and to stay on task as examples for their daughters.
“I’m not a runner. I can work out but running is the least of my strengths,” Tiana said. “You know what? I might as well do it, conquer it. It doesn’t matter the time, get it done.”
Brandon, she said, is more of the go-getter, self-motivated and determined. She expects him to do well in Sunday’s half marathon and next year, probably the full marathon.
“That’s why he’ll do good. He has that mindset,” Tiana said. “He doesn’t care if he’s never done it before. He’s going to try, and he’s going to complete it.”
While they sometimes train together, each has their own workouts, too.
Brandon, who carries a solid 185 pounds on his 5-8 frame, always wears that weighted vest when running, most recently covering eight miles in it in about an hour and 20 minutes.
“When I first started, I barely could do a mile, it was like 11 minutes with a weighted vest,” he said. “Now I can run a mile with a weighted vest in 6 minutes, 20 seconds.”
He might, he said, run 13 miles today, without the vest, “to see where I’m at.”
He took up cage fighting after high school, got out of it for a few years before his recent return that saw him cut weight from 235 pounds to 172 in six months for his latest fight in June, which he lost in the final 10 seconds.
He enjoys working out with weights to build strength and plans to return to the cage.
Tiana pushes the stroller with Bryanne inside on some of her runs and visits the gyms when she has time.
“I’ve been running more,” she said. “If I’m not running, I’m working out.”
Working in the taro fields is demanding and both do that several days a week.
“That’s what keeps us physically going because taro is labor, so we’re in the field in Hanalei for hours,” Tiana said.
“That’s a full body workout, let’s put it that way. You’re bending, you’re pulling, you’re squatting for hours, nonstop, pulling 30 bags of taro.”
For Brandon and Tiana, it doesn’t really matter if Sunday’s 13.1 miles are difficult or easy. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or rainy. Doesn’t really matter if they don’t feel great.
What counts is finishing, giving it their best.
“We try to teach our kids, no matter what,” Tiana said, “we’re going to do it.”