Amazing race — To the starting line

  • Photo courtesy Karen Donaldson

    Karen Donaldson at the starting line of the Kauai Marathon.

If Karen Donaldson can stay away from the emergency room come Sunday’s Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, she’ll be delighted.

A little less pre-race madness and driving to the hospital, and a little more relaxation and rest, would be nice, too.

“I’m not leaving anything to chance this year,” she wrote.

When the starting gun goes off at 6 a.m. in Poipu, the Realtor from Maryland will be running her fourth Kauai Half Marathon. She’s ready and thrilled to be returning to one of her favorite places and races.

“You really do have a support system along the way,” she said. “For first-timers, this has to be the most amazing race.”

Last year’s amazing race, however, came with more challenges than even the spirited Donaldson might have hoped.

It started with flight cancellations that more than doubled her traveling time from back East to Kauai that usually takes about 18 hours to 37 hours. So when she arrived, she was bushed.

Then, the morning of the race, another mishap.

Her brother, Don, woke up about 1 a.m., read the clock wrong, and rushed to wake Karen because he thought they had overslept. Karen assured him it was still early.

“No, we have a couple more hours to sleep,” she said.

As Don walked back to his room in the dark, he tripped on the carpet, fell, and hit his head.

It wasn’t just a bump.

“I heard this voice, ‘Karen, you really need to help me,’” she said.

Karen turned on the light and saw blood dripping down her brother’s hands and face.

“Holy snot!” she thought.

She treated the wound as best she could and tried to convince her brother he needed to go to the hospital. He agreed to go — but only if Karen went with him.

Off they went.

The dark roads didn’t help, and she needed directions, but she managed to find her way to Wilcox Medical Center about 3 a.m. After a short wait, they got him in, cleaned him up and Dr. Christopher Elliott checked him out.

“They did a really amazing job,” she said.

Karen, wearing her running clothes, watched the clock tick.

“When it hit 4:30 a.m. I started sweating it because he had numbed my brother’s head but didn’t want to start stitching yet,” she wrote.

About 4:45, assured her brother would be fine and she could leave, she headed back to the race, promising her brother she would return as soon as she could.

She picked up her son, Rick, who was entered in the full marathon, and they made it to the starting line with minutes to spare.

The first miles, it was tough to focus, as her thoughts were with her brother. But about mile five, she started to relax, knowing he was in good hands. She enjoyed the beauty of the course and the aloha of the spectators and the volunteers.

“I told myself to get my head in the run and have fun and I did,” she wrote.

She finished the 13.1-mile half in three hours, 14 minutes, while Rick completed the full 26.2 miles in 5:47.

“I ran with three hours sleep out of the last 72 hours, but it was still the most fun, amazing run possible,” Karen said.

Her brother, who made a full recovery, ended up getting a ride back to Lawai Beach Resort.

Donaldson, who turned 63 Sunday, has been a runner for five decades. She recalled buying men’s tennis shoes to run in high school, as no stores carried running shoes for women then.

“This has been my exercise I have always gone to,” she said.

While she’s busy with her real estate career, she makes time for running as she finds it relaxing. She usually covers about three miles every morning and once a week goes longer. She also hits the gym for more intensive training that includes weights, rowing and stairs.

This year, Karen plans to arrive early with family, including her daughter and two grandchildren, who are looking forward to the Keiki Run on Saturday.

Despite last year’s troubles, Donaldson said the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon is one of her favorites.

“That’s why I keep coming back,” said Donaldson, who has completed two full marathons, both in Baltimore. “That’s why I think it will keep on growing. The community camaraderie keeps you going.”

Her daughter, Christa, will be running the half marathon, too.

They like to enter races that support nonprofits and give back to the community. Karen noted the Kauai Marathon does both.

“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” she wrote, “and I have been blessed to be able to see that scenery and listen to those drums four times and counting.”


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or


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