A Big Participation Award – Honolulu Marathon 2016

Why do ‘participation awards’ get such a bad rap? Most people know the term – you get a prize or something cool if you just show up and finish whatever it is you signed up for. If that’s not something to be proud of, why do people make such a big deal about birthdays? Isn’t that essentially the same thing?

Ron turned 50 this year. The initial thought was to go to Kauai for the week and just hang out. Susan, with the best of intentions, wanted to motivate more friends to come join us and what better way to do that than to sign up for a race? The Honolulu Marathon was always around the week of my birthday and just an inter-island $49 flight away. There’s just the little detail that whenever anyone asks what I think of the race, the answer “the only part about the weekend I don’t enjoy much is the race itself.”

The first time I did Hono was in 2005 where I (unknowingly) had an 85% tear on the ACL in my left knee. The doctor I saw at Kaiser told me to stay off it, take some Advil and I’d be fine (which is why I’m no longer with Kaiser). I raced anyway. I started cramping at mile 10. The only highlight of the last 16 miles was just after the finish when I found out Susan had beaten me by less than 30 seconds after a really impressive negative split. After finishing RNR San Antonio the week before, I was probably 60-70% able to race because of my right knee. It took some pretty aggressive ice, foam rolling, electro-stim, Graston and anti-inflammatories to get me feeling mentally prepared for 26.2.

Friday December 2nd.
Flying west for a race from California and arriving around lunch time was a nice change of pace. Usually the 5+ hour flight means we burn an entire day traveling, but we landed in time for a room key hand-off as Sherry, Al and Annemika were headed to Kauai for a day trip. A quick Uber to the Sheraton and we had enough time for lunch before the Expo.

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As big as the marathon is, it was pretty deserted around lunch time. One of the sale items included a tech towel with the names of all participants printed on it, reminiscent of the Nike Women’s Marathon wall in Union Square.

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Al and Sherry had already picked up their bibs, but they left a message for us on the traditional graffiti wall.

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Susan and I went to Duke’s for dinner with a spectacular sunset view. We watched the Sheraton’s 3D light show by one of the hotel pools before turning in for the night.

Saturday, December 3rd
We were signed up for both the Marathon on Sunday and the the Inaugural Kalakaua Merrie Mile on Saturday (so named after the Merrie Monarch, King Kalakaua). The Mile started at 7:00 with the non-elite sub-8 minute milers starting first and 3 minute wave starts for every group after that.The elite runners took the stage around 7:30, just when the last of the mortals would be finished. We never stayed around for the RNR Savannah or Virginia Beach mile races, so this was actually the first mile race for Susan and Ron (so it was an automatic PR – yay!). The start line at the Honolulu Zoo was about half of a 2K egg from the hotel. Given the conditions, there really wasn’t much reason to push anyway, so we spent more time taking pictures and videos.

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The Post race refreshments included locally bottled, cold-pressed pineapple juice. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday (or ever).


We found perfect spots to watch the finish for the elites. Edwin Kiptoo ran a blazing 3:57.40 to take the first prize. Nicole Sefuentes and Shannon Osiku finished 4 seconds behind Kipto (4:29 with the 27 second headstart) to take second and third). I posted a live video of the final minute on Facebook.


We grabbed a quick lunch poolside after aqua yoga and visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. One of the highlights of the weekend was coming back from our visit to Pearl Harbor. Sherry had been img_0547having a rough few weeks at work closing out the year and was really starting to enjoy her first trip to Hawaii. She enjoyed it even a little more when Zach showed up at the hotel. He flew out from San Diego at the last-minute to surprise her. And yes, he paid the $320 expo registration for the marathon the next day.

Dinner at SKY Waikiki was spectacular. It drizzled a little, but the clouds always make the sunset more picturesque. We had an outdoor terrace table and shared a lot of appetizers and more than a few drinks.

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With the marathon start at 5AM and a 15 minute walk to the shuttles, we backed up our wake up time to a mind-numbing 2:20 AM. It’s good to start early because of the temperatures, but even THAT translates to a 5:20 AM Pacific time wake up call. Those of us who like to roll out of bed late and sharing rooms with people who need 1 – 2 hours more prep time were a bit peeved.

Sunday December 4th. Marathon
Remember that forecast of rain? It didn’t happen. Not a drop. We’d be wishing for some near the halfway point, but when woke up, the streets were wet, but the skies were relatively clear. Hono has a ten-minute fireworks show before the starting gun. I remember the first year we were there, we were in the back of the starting corral, but since we were near the start for the Marathon Maniacs picture, we got an even better view.

They’re blowing up the porta potties!

Hono has no assigned corrals and no wave start, so it’s up to you to decide when to go.We waited about 5 minutes before jumping into the stream of people crossing the starting line. For the most part, the elites and real runners knew enough to be close to the starting line. We didn’t actually have too many people pass us for the first 5K, even though we were doing about a 16 minute mile, mainly to take pictures of the Christmas decorations in downtown.

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Sherry and Zack went out faster than us from the start. Susan realized that she had brought her prescription sunglasses while wearing contact lenses, so we took a quick pit stop at the hotel as we went by. Kamika and Al moved on ahead, no doubt depleting the island of Pokemon.

One of the best views of the ocean was climbing up the south side of Diamondhead at the 7.5 mile mark and seeing the sunrise. The flag in the foreground was a nice touch.

Getting to the Kalanianaole highway at mile 11 is the big accomplishment. I needed to mentally prepared for a 4 mile stretch of highway out and the same stretch on the return by finding ways to occupy my mind. This race is famous for having a lot of Japanese tourists who treat this as an excursion (like we would treat a trip to Disneyland when visiting LA). The people watching and counting down the kilometer markers actually made the race feel shorter. At this point, we saw the stream of 3.5 – 4 hour marathoners heading back the way we came.

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Susan and I caught Al and Kamika at Hawaii Kai drive just past mile 16 as the sun came out strong pushing temperatures into the high 70’s. We weren’t pushing the pace as it was, and there was even less reason then. The weather started taking its toll on some of the runners as a few ambulances came by. One gentleman in particular was so badly dehydrated that he was leaning to the point of falling over. Susan and I went ahead and let a policeman and the next med tent know to keep an eye out for the fellow, but Al stayed with him and firmly talked him into dropping out at mile 21 for his own safety.

The distance and the long downhill  at mile 24 were wearing on my knee, so Susan and I forged on ahead, down the west side of Diamonhead and into Kapiolani Park at the finish. I let Susan jog ahead of me to keep her string of Hono wins alive. Kamika, Sherry and Zach were waiting for us in the finish area. For future reference, the Honolulu app has a nifty selfie feature.

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2016 was our fastest time at Hono, so given the knee issues (again) I guess that’s a win. While I’ve been pretty firm that I’d rather never do the marathon again, something about heading out there for the mile and the 10K seems very appealing if we can swing it on another milestone birthday weekend. We’ll hope for continued health and good fortune and just be able to show up again and finish the distance.

If we’re back again in 5, 10 or 20 years and can still do this, I’d be more than happy with a participation award.


This was the 44th annual Honolulu Marathon and it was our last race for 2016. This year, Lawrence Cherono won the race with a course record 2:09:37. Hono consistently has over 20,000 finishers making it one of the biggest marathons in the world and is billed as the People’s Marathon. There is no time limit. The final finisher crossed the line past 9 PM with a time of 16:11:44. The volunteer staffing level is excellent, the water stations were frequent and the Gatorade was a little stronger, probably to address the higher temperatures. 

We’re in full recovery mode after a bout of a cold, bronchitis, ITBS and a couple of slightly smelly puppies at home. We have two more blogs to post for the year including the final Rock n Roll Heavy Medal standings and a top 16.

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