Honolulu Marathon – Dec 10, 2017 (Patty P)
Thinking of a destination marathon? Consider Honolulu!
What better place to travel to than Hawaii in December? The Honolulu Marathon takes place at 5 am on the second Sunday of December every year. Whaaat? 5 am, are you kidding me? It starts early to get ahead of the heat and humidity that is the usual for Honolulu. Stay on Vancouver time, which is 2 hours ahead, and it won’t feel so hard to get up at 3 am for your 5 am start!
And it starts with a 20 minute fireworks show! You and 25,000+ of your closest friends are sent off with a bang. It is dark out and the sun doesn’t come up until close to 2 hours into the race.
I chose to do this marathon as my dear friend, BJ McHugh was running it to set the World Record for 90-year old women. BJ had her 90th birthday in early November and she has been doing this race every 5 years to establish the World Record for her new age group. Once she turned 80, she did the race annually as annual age records were now the mark to beat. And she did it again! It was wonderful to watch as she and her 4 adult children and 3 grandchildren accompanied her to the finish line, establishing the World Record for 90 years old, at 6:47!
We stayed in Waikiki so we could walk to the start line. It was about a 1 mile walk. I took a throw away “paper” jacket I had brought with me, a finish line warming garment from the First Half Marathon. I didn’t need it but I did leave it at the start line anyway. There is a suggestion of what zone you should start in but there are no controls so my recommendation is to squirm your way as far ahead as you can. The zone my bib was for was the 3:30-5 hour marathon finishers! Quite a range and even then, there were walkers ahead of me. There is also a 10 km race that starts with the marathon and follows the same route for the first 10 km. That makes the crowd even larger for the first part.
The first part of the race is a loop through downtown Honolulu. The Christmas lights are a great distraction. I must admit, I wasn’t feeling great for the first 10 km. It had been 18 months and a few injuries since my last marathon so I was having doubts about my ability to get through this. I have a mantra that I tell myself: “you know you can do this, your training went well, you know you can do this” The course at Diamond Head becomes an out and back along the H1 Highway with a couple of loops added on to make up the distance. The climb up Diamond Head began as the sun came up. The returning wheelchair competitors and early runners started coming through on the other side of the road. That was fun and inspiring to see. Volunteers hold up the tape that divides the road here and they were shouting encouragement and high fiving participants. There is some live music but it is mostly people putting out their own boom boxes at the end of their driveways. I find music inspiring and boom boxes don’t stop like human musicians do so I love it when spectators participate. The Honolulu Police were out in full force. You know why they are there but they seemed to enjoy high fiving people and posing for selfies with participants as we came past them.
On the way out along the H1 Highway, it began to rain and a head wind kicked up. Most people felt relief when the temperature dropped. I began to wish I had worn a top with sleeves! I told myself that a head wind going out would mean a tail wind coming back so I began to look forward to that. I saw Mark Shorter, a long time friend of the North Shore Lions, on his way back to the finish line. Then I saw BJ’s grandson, David, and then her son Brent. All looking like they were working hard. The rain lasted about an hour and when I got to turn the corner to head back to Honolulu, I saw all these participants taking pictures up towards the sky . I looked up and saw a beautiful iconic Hawaiian rainbow. It lasted at least 30 minutes. At the same time, I heard “It’s Raining Men” playing from some spectator’s boom box and I found another gear! That really gave me energy!
Then I saw BJ on the “going out” side of the highway, too late to call out to her. She was just passing the half way mark. I looked at the time and thought, “she’s going to break 7 hours!” (she needed to be under 8:53 but there was an unconfirmed report of 7:07 from San Diego, 2014, so we wanted her to be under 7 hours to be sure!)
Many runners in this marathon treat it like a social event, dressed in costumes, face timing friends, taking pictures. This can be a good distraction or maybe too much, depending on your own personal goals.
Japan Airlines is the title sponsor of the Honolulu Marathon so there are many, many people from Japan who come for this event. Much of the signage is in Japanese, and there is a lot of support for the participants who are with “team JAL”. On the route back into Honolulu, I saw a small truck up ahead with camera men and a large contingent of people following the truck. I thought it may be was the 4:30 “pace truck” so I aimed to catch up with it. At the point I did, the group following was so large, it was hard to get past them. Another woman and myself, had to swing out into the oncoming lane, by now empty, to get past. It was then I realized the group running behind the truck was being filmed for their own keepsake! Last thing I would want, a 4:30 video to watch later on! And they had to breathe in the exhaust from the truck as they ran along behind it!
It was getting very hot towards the end. Shade was minimal. I kept hoping there would be one more aide station as I was getting very thirsty now. Thankfully, there would be another aide station and then one more aide station! I decided I didn’t need to stop at the 1 km-to-go aide station, I could make the finish line without additional water. Then you round the corner and see the finish line so far in the distance…really??? I tell myself in every marathon the last 3-4 miles are the hard part and then they are! It’s a straight run to the finish at the Honolulu Park where the Zoo is. My friends were waiting at the tennis courts and then there is still 200 metres to run!!!
The finish is interesting. It is shaded, and bottles of water are handed to you. Then you get your medal, but after that, good luck trying to find the finisher shirts, food, more water. We found shirts by asking those who had the shirt on but we never did find food or more water! All of the many tents were for private run groups with JAL having the biggest. Fortunately, Starbucks and a ubiquitous ABC store were close to exit so we went there to get extra supplies. Be sure to put $20 in your pocket so you can buy stuff at the retail store. Then back to the tennis courts to wait for the rest of the gang and BJ to finish! Best and hardest thing in the world to do is to move after a marathon. Bending over to pick up a fallen object, walking to Starbucks, to the washrooms to change into the finisher shirt, lying down on my stomach to hold a beach mat in place, doing a “cobra” to see who was running by, all good for the old muscles to get stretched out.
The traditional dinner for this group, after the Honolulu Marathon, is pizza, so pizza and beer it was and it never tasted better!
The fee for early registration is a ridiculously low fee…I seem to remember $60 (U.S., yes of course) so go to the Marathon website and pre-register so you will be notified when registration opens. It currently says February. So plan ahead and go to Hawaii!
Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon – Oct 15, 2017 (James G)
When the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half was cancelled, I was offered to switch to any affiliated race and I chose the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon full marathon! The race begins in Cascais and follows the scenic coastline along the Tagus River to Lisbon, and finishes at the Praca do Comercio.Â It is a very nice course and well organized but be prepared for the warm weather if you are not used to running in the heat!
My advice? Follow Laura’s do’s and don’ts before any Marathon race. If you don’t, you’ll pay for not heeding her advice!
Bellingham Bay Marathon – Sept 24, 2017 (Ron D)
You know that this will be a positive review. This is the second time I have run Bellingham Bay, so I liked it enough to come back. And yeah, they may see me again soon.
- It’s local. This race is a little earlier in the season than Victoria or Okanagan, which are the standard, targeted, Lower Mainland choices. There is no ferry or day-long drive so this is why I chose it.
- I like a larger downtime gap before I start winter training, so the slightly earlier timing suits me over other fall choices.
- Reasonably flat, fast course.
- Point to point. I like to actually go somewhere when I run.
- The Lummi Nation. The run starts out of the longhouse miles north of the city, which means you are warm and happy until you make the short trip to the start line. A warm welcome and opening drum and dance ceremony really moves your heart. The marathon is an important event to the band, and they have many runners who race.
- Further to the above point. I have frozen my butt off for hours on airport tarmac, with no shelter, waiting for a race start in Tacoma (still recommend that race though). I. Love. The. Longhouse.
- Further to the above point, the Longhouse has flushies.
- The shirt. They are fitted and nice and I actually wear them. Some of my favorites.
- Well organized with plenty of aid stations and enthusiastic volunteers.
- Race expo is small but efficient and well organized.
- Half marathon is an out and back and starts later. If friends run the two distances, it means they may end their races around the same time.
- It has all I want. An Oceanside run with seabirds, and a view and local fishers. Long rural stretches amongst Farmer’s Fields. A run through urban Bellingham with cheering crowds. My favorite part is the run on the waterfront on the pier in Bellingham itself; it is a unique experience.
- I like the big city marathons, but my favorites will always be these smaller town races. With the smaller towns I find myself connecting more with runners and people involved with the race itself.
- You cannot go there from Vancouver and pick up your race package at the start line the same day. You have to go unreasonably early to pick it up at the finish line, which will mean you have to get up an hour earlier than necessary (to get back to the start by bus). We left Vancouver at 4:30 AM, which is the earliest I would want to go (3:30 AM is a nope). The race director was very sympathetic to my objections to this but ultimately unhelpful. I did a separate day trip in to get my package the day before. Too bad because allowing package pickup at the start where it belongs might put this race on more Vancouverites radar. Alternative: stay overnight in historic Bellingham, which I did the first time I ran it. There was not much left in the way of hotels this time because I signed up quite late.
- It seems the only serious hill on the course is in the last mile. Its direction is due up. It doesn’t bother me, but it is not where many racers would put a hill if they had a choice. No big deal. A proper race needs a tough part or two no?
That’s enough important stuff. Now let’s put this run into perspective:
I have been on a several years journey of trying to understand this most enigmatic race: The marathon. It is the distance to which all other races are compared. Half marathons, ultra-marathons, even iron distances use the marathon. And who hasn’t been asked how their 10k marathon went? If baseball is the beautiful game then the marathon has to be the ugly race. You don’t have to believe me that it is special. But don’t try to tell me it’s not because I will argue with you to the death.
Bellingham Bay was marathon number 12. This is what I have learned:
- Vancouver marathon: Marathons are hard.
- Vancouver marathon: Less is not more.
- Vancouver marathon: Over hydrating is not good.
- Portland marathon: Those who talk about the wall do not know what they are talking about.
- Boundary Bay marathon: A makeup marathon is a bad idea.
- Eugene marathon: Turning training on its head can be a great idea.
- Bellingham Bay Marathon: Marathons can be magical.
- Boundary Bay marathon: A recovery marathon is a really, really dumb idea.
- Tacoma marathon: Never, ever forget your throwaway.
- Marine Corp Marathon: The body can adapt to anything just not everything.
- Woodland Marathon: Abandoning sensible pacing can be bloody liberating if kinda dumb.
- Bellingham Bay Marathon: Marathons are hard.
So after twelve races, I have figured out that the total wisdom I have gained from the experience is essentially zero. Other than those little tidbits above, really I have nothing worthwhile to pass on. Sorry. Much of this could have been learned by listening to sensible coaching; although, some not. Unfortunately it is generally agreed that I am un-coachable.
I think thirteen is the answer. It’ll crack this nut and I’ll finally have this damned race figured out
OK, so I’m no smarter. Here is how they day went down:
- Friends make the race more enjoyable. Tony came with me to run the half. Irene and Ali came for support and to enjoy the day. Their presence at the start helped me to be more excited than anxious for this race. They watched the opening ceremony with me and then drove to Bellingham to get Tony set up for his start. Perfect day for running; it was partly sunny with perfect temperatures.
- I went out with the 3:45 bunny. I didn’t really have a solid plan this time. I felt like I was in great running shape, but I had only had one long run. This is not my normal plan, but I accelerated the training because I needed a break. Not a physical break but it feels like I never stop training and I needed a mental break. So rather than be determined for a specific time, I was more curious to see what I would have in the tank in the last quarter of the race.
- I didn’t stick with the bunny, as usual, but rather ran slightly ahead. I spent a lot of time chatting with other runners and enjoying the pace. I ran much of it with a very experienced Surrey runner who had paced a lot of races. He too was less than ideally trained for this particular one, and we would pass each other a few times in the later stages offering encouragement.
- It was an awesome run. And of course (say it with me) it was awesome until it sucked. The suck came at mile sixteen. I found myself with sharp, abdominal muscle cramps, which stopped me dead. The aid station was close, so I parked myself there and drank and took electrolytes as fast as I could. This got me back, and I had no further problems, but the bunny would have had a quarter mile on me by then, so I was on my own.
- The next suck came at mile twenty heading into town. This is when I realized the marathon was not going to give me any gifts today. My hips tightened up. I felt good otherwise, but my legs slowed down. I talked to them saying “go legs go” as Irene would say, but they wouldn’t listen. It was a tough, frustrating last six miles. I was passed by the four hour bunny on the final death hill. I let him go.
- I could see that my time was going to be seconds over four hours, and could probably have made it, but I denied myself that satisfaction. Stupid maybe but I thought maybe that would help motivate me better for the next one. It won’t. I’m always motivated.
- With the finishers medal around my neck I found myself overwhelmed with dizziness that was not letting up. Irene betrayed me and brought over the medic. She knows I’ve been known to run away from them. But sitting in the tent and drinking electrolyte for ten minutes did me a world of good.
- The expo food and beer looked tasty, but what did me more good was local beer and organic food at a local tap house with my friends. I love the area around Bellingham and Burlington and it was nice to relax after the race.
So it was hard but fun. It didn’t reveal the great secret: the one essential thing, which will allow you every time to run that consistent, fast race. It did reveal something: You can’t cut training. Gosh that’s surprising.
If you are choosing a fall race, this one may not be Victoria or Okanagan, but it is Bellingham. It is definitely one to try.