Cheers, smiles and high-fives abound at Keiki Run

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Kona Planas (21) and Wesley Moribe take off at the start of the Kauai Marathon Keiki Run Saturday at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Poipu.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    The chicken (Tyler McCandless) leads the way as boys in the Kauai Marathon Keiki Run, with Zachary Edwards giving chase, on Saturday at the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa. At left is announcer J.T. Service.

POIPU — Tyler McCandless is a world-class runner.

He has won the Kauai Marathon three times.

He ran in the 2016 Olympic marathon trials, and will likely be doing so again for the 2020 Olympics.

Today, he’ll be going for his sixth straight win of the Kauai half marathon.

So, how did he prepare on Saturday? One would think he rested, took it easy. Maybe relaxed with his wife and 7-week-old son and enjoyed the day.

Nope.

Instead, he put on a chicken suit on a hot, sunny morning, and ran six races with kids.

And yes, it gets pretty darn warm in that yellow outfit. And yes, Tyler McCandless gets tired. But race after race, he is there, setting the pace, the one they’re all trying to beat. Most of the time, they do.

Only on Kauai.

“It’s for this race. I wouldn’t do it for any race. It’s a special island, very special place. It feels good to give back to the island,” he said later at the expo, back in shoes and tank top and hat.

“These kids have so much happiness, and it’s fun to get kids excited about the sport and getting on the chicken suit and running in front of those kids, you can see them smile. Occasionally cry, but mostly smile.”

About 175 keiki turned out for the annual Keiki Run at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort &Spa, cheered on by a few hundred of their ohana.

It’s part of the 11th annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon that will have some 2,000 runners heading out at 6 a.m. today from the Poipu starting line.

It was a delightful day of proud parents and eager youth running different distances depending on their ages. Each was rewarded for their effort with medals, high-fives, chocolate milk and endless praise and hugs.

Wesley Moribe, 2, of Kapaa, was grinning at the start, and standing tall at the finish, giving out his own high-fives.

“He loved it,” said his mom as her son got another hand slap.

Same for Tori Bukoski of Omao, who gave it all she had in her race, then waited for friends at the finish to offer a good word.

A highlight was the comeback win of 11-year-old Zachary Edwards of Poipu in the final race of the day. He sprinted ahead just as he and another boy closed in on the finish.

“I’m just really proud of myself, and I’m really happy that I won,” he said, sweat on his face.

“It was really tough, but I knew if I could push, I could win. It was hard at the very end,” Zachary added. “The other guy would not give up.”

Dad Brady Edwards, who is running the full marathon today, was proud.

“He knew exactly what to do. He paced himself and took it at the end,” Brady Edwards said. “It was awesome.”

With the win, Zachary earned his family a gift certificate for a year’s worth of free milk — a half-gallon a week for 52 weeks, from Meadow Gold.

“I just love that our kids love to get out and be active and run,” Brady Edwards said as he held son Owen, 3, who was also in the Keiki Run. “They just love it.”

“They get the competitive side from their mom (Karen Edwards),” he added, smiling.

The day belonged to the keiki.

Adelyn Low came charging down the stretch to claim a tie for first pace.

“Good,” she said of how she felt.

Then, with a grin, the 3-year-old added, “I ran pretty fast, and now I get to have free milk for my family.”

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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