Honolulu Marathon plans underway though future uncertain

HONOLULU — Organizers are planning for the Honolulu Marathon, even though it’s not clear government officials will allow it to be held in December.

While Honolulu is easing pandemic-related restrictions on large events, organizers are frustrated that neither Hawaii Gov. David Ige nor Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi have given clear messages whether the marathon, one of the biggest sporting events in the state, can be held with the thousands of participants it normally draws, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

Citing improving public health data, including rising vaccination rates and declining number of COVID-19 cases, Ige and Blangiardi announced last week that starting Wednesday, outdoor venues may have up to 1,000 attendees or fill up 50% of capacity — whichever is smaller.

Honolulu Marathon President Dr. Jim Barahal told the radio station he recognizes the announcement was prompted by pressure to allow fans at University of Hawaii football games.

In 2019, there were more than 33,000 marathon participants, including more than 16,000 from Japan.

Barahal, a physician, said he’s disappointed Ige and Blangiardi don’t clearly allow the marathon to happen and don’t go as far as to encourage participants from abroad.

About 70% of the marathon’s revenue comes from Japan, through entry fees or sponsorships, Barahal said. After the first entry deadline, fewer than 200 people from Japan registered. Mostly Hawaii residents are expected to participate.

“We have a lot of planning to do to put on a major marathon and I thought it made it more difficult for us,” Barahal said.

Organizers purchased 20,000 masks for the race’s start and finish, Barahal said. Other plans include personalized water bottles so runners can carry their own fluid to limit human interaction at self-service water stations.

Plans are for participants to start the race at 5 a.m. in waves of 500 at a time, but they can’t spread them out too far because of the heat, Barahal said.

Other large marathons in Boston and Chicago were held recently.

The Ironman World Championship, usually held in Kailua-Kona, recently announced it is moving the competition from Hawaii to Utah this year because of concerns about COVID-19 restrictions.

That event, along with the Honolulu Marathon, normally bring millions of dollars into the state economy.


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