- 6 miles/10K, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Other
- Road Race
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I was so lucky to run Honolulu Marathon this year as a BiBRave Pro. It worked out that my best running friend, Tina, had her 50th birthday on race day so she and her boyfriend decided to make a big trip of it with the marathon starting our Hawai’i adventure. We also did the Merrie Mile (I did not get free registration for that). It’s a bit pricey for a 1 miler but it’s a great little marathon warmup on Saturday before the race. Tons of people are wearing costumes and walking/running with friends, family, little kid, and you get a medal and a little finish festival on the beach. Also, the general field goes at 7 and then once the course if clear they have an elite race where the women start about 30 seconds ahead of the men and the winner (male or female) gets an extra $ bonus. The winner this year (reigning champ I think) did a 3:53 mile. 😲
- the race finish, shuttles to the start, and the Merrie Mile race (day before marathon) all take place in Waikiki so that’s certainly the best place to stay. With over 200 hotels in 1 sq mile, not including air BnBs,there’s plenty of options. We stayed in an AirBnB a few blocks to the beach and the zoo (Race morning shuttles). It made everything really easy, but beware: Waikiki is really busy with terrible traffic. We were kinda amazed how crowded it felt during race weekend and were glad to leave after the race. Don’t stay in Honolulu any longer than you have to.
- there’s a free trolley that stops in several locations around Waikiki and takes you to convention center for expo. The walk wouldn’t be bad either but it’s quite hot and the sun beats down more in O’ahu than any other place I’ve been expect Israel. I spent the few days before race avoiding sun as much as possible and drinking more water and Nuun tablets my bladder could handle. I recommend doing the same. Save the fun for after the race.
- The expo is where you’re really reminded that thus race is a huge destination race for Japanese people. The expo is larger than I expected with some vendors you’ll recognize but many that are unique. In fact, many of the vendors and speakers are only in Japanese. It’s here you really feel like you’re at an international race. It’s very unique and interesting.
- You get the shirt for the Merrie Mile (if you choose to do that) at the expo, and the shirt for the marathon at the finish. You can also buy additional gear from the main swag sponsor, Descente. I’ll say, this is probably my only major negative from the race. I feel the Descente gear, including finisher shirts, are really poor quality. It’s the scratchy low quality tech material and the prints, while nice designs and graphics, are low quality and I imagine will wear off with just a few washes. My friend who was running his first marathon really wanted a finisher jacket but there really wasn’t anything worth buying, especially for the $80 price tag. Again, this is my only big negative point.
- Overall, expo gets a 7/10 for really interesting stuff and very easy to pick up bibs.
- Staying in Waikiki meant a 5 minute walk to the zoo to catch the shuttle buses. PS the race starts at 5am (because it’s hot...have I mentioned that yet?),so we went to shuttles at 3:30. Easy walk, tons of people with a line to get on buses but it moved very fast and was very organized. Easy.
- We arrived at start line by 4:15 allowing for plenty of time to use bathroom. They had tons of port-o-potties at start. However, I recommend using the ones closer to shuttles, further down from start because there was hardly any lines, while lines closer to start were really long.
- You are assigned a start corral based on expected finish time but you can basically self-seed anywhere. I started in my assigned corral closer to start and my friends (who had been assigned more in back) started somewhere in middle. Once the gun goes off there is no staggered start times for corrals; everyone just starts, so if you’re further back I heard it’s quite crowded for the first 4-6 miles. It was crowded at front but still plenty of room to run with no issues.
- The only issue at the start for me was that, while Honolulu marathon is famous for an epic firework show at the start, there was a bit of a snafu and it started 5 minutes after the first few waves started so I could hear it and see it if I turned around. My friends got to see it though, and that’s really all that mattered to me. I can say that it was a proper long show.
- the first 10k or so is through downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. They actually have a start to park10k option where you can start with the marathon field and finish at the park near the main finish area.
- After leaving Waikiki the course winds up and around Diamond Head. It’s a long hill but the most beautiful part of the course. You climb it once around mile 8 and then again at mile 24. The first time will be in the dark/sunrise, the second time will be in direct sun. Take your time and just enjoy the views. I actually enjoyed this part of the course the most.
- The course is mostly flat, low rollers with the big climbs up and back on diamond head. Pretty flat-ish by Atlanta training standards. If not for the heat I would have found this course very fast. If you only train on flat, I recommend some hill training.
- Even at 5am there’s still people out cheering and of course there’s Christmas lights everywhere, which is a cool thing to see in the tropics. A palm tree with Christmas lights is a pretty sweet thing.
- The first 2 water stops are about 2 miles apart and have only water I think. After that, the water stops are within 1.5 miles of each other with water and Gatorade performance. Even in the heat, the water and Powerade were always cold or cool-ish, never gross and warm.
- Most of the stops have a potties (I had to use several but never had to wait), first aid (plenty of opportunity to reapply vaseline - you’ll need a lot in the heat and humidity).
- Later stops also had water sprayers, sponges, and tons of ice. Yes, it’s a hot race but the course and volunteers seem well equipped to keep people as cool as possible. Many participants walk the entire race (there’s no cutoff time really) and are out in the hot sun for many hours. I felt the race did a good job keeping people safe in those conditions. Still, if you’re a walker be warned: you will bake. The lack of cutoff may be tempting but don’t be lulled into thinking you can fake it through this race. You can’t. Be smart and respect the distance and conditions.
- Gels were offered at several stops and there were extra goodies offered by spectators. I got banana ice cream, pretzels, and oranges.
- I planned to run as much as I could before sunrise. I ran comfortably the first half and only walked at water stops. Made it through first half before sunrise and then switched to a 3:1 walk run the second half to account for rising heat and eventual time in sun. Luckily, I only ended up in direct sun for about the last 10k but, as I said before, most people walk this race and would have been in direct, not a cloud in the sky, sunlight for many hours. Plan accordingly. The intervals allowed me to maintain a solid pace and only run about 5 minutes slower in the second half, including more picture stops and FaceTiming with my parents.
- One final thing that impressed me on course was the number of photo locations. There were race photographers all over the place with huge signs so plenty of spots to try to get a great shot. I actually got good race photos for once.
- nice long finisher straightaway, which probably feels much longer in the sun. You get a really nice medal and a shell necklace.
- Just past finish line are nice cold showers to rinse. Awesome!
- Water and bananas in finish chute.
- After finish, you make your way to a large finish festival area with t-shirts and the best of all, MALASADAS! These are a local Portuguese style donut and they make them fresh right at the finish area. YUM!
Overall, I really enjoyed this tropical, international feeling race. Train well, be prepared for the heat, and manage your pace and time expectations well and you’ll enjoy it too!