Honolulu Marathon #42for42 Achieved!


Disclaimer: While I generally like to write my race reports immediately following, this race was the start of a 3-week vacation, including both Hawai’i and Japan. I’ve had no access to a computer until now, but that means the time has finally come!

It started on a whim – the thought that I should challenge myself to my first marathon (i.e. 42 kilometres) the year I turned 42. The Honolulu Marathon was to be held just a week after my 42nd birthday, and in January 2014 I got an earlybird notice and was able to sign up for just $50! How could I say no? I ended up completing the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May – a ‘practice’ run – but Honolulu was the true goal. #42for42

We arrived in Honolulu on a direct flight from Vancouver on Friday night. Saturday morning’s errand was race package pickup at the Convention Centre, just a block from our hotel. The expo was extremely organized and efficient – bib pickup in under 5 minutes, and multiple vendors with everything from crafts to pain relief to running gear. I kept my shopping to a minimum but enjoyed myself nonetheless. See for yourself!

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The Honolulu Marathon starts exhaustingly early at 5am. Part of our hotel plan was to be close to the start line in Ala Moana, and we had some stunning views from our hotel balcony. This was the pre-race day sunset:


I had set my alarm for 3:30am, but awoke even before that. First I checked the weather…um, rain? And then I looked out the window. People were already gathering, lining up for the toilets, and doing their warmups. I made my instant oatmeal, drank some peppermint tea, and pulled myself together before heading out into the dark morning.

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Oh, the crowds! A total of 21,815 people finished the race, so I can only assume that a few more than that started. I found my spot, watched the crowds, squinted into the rain, and soon it was time to begin – with fireworks! Most exciting race start ever!

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Because this event is self-seeding, there were no corral restrictions. As such, while I seeded myself in the 3- to 4-hour corral, it was clear from guntime that many runners were not aiming to complete the race in 4 hours or less. Many people were running at a significantly slower pace, or even walking within the first kilometre or two. As such, I expended a good amount of energy over the first 5k dodging people (and puddles) to try to get up to a reasonable pace – I struggled to get below 6 minutes/km until the 4k mark.

The first 10k took us on a loop through Downtown Honolulu – which was fantastic due to all of the Christmas lights dotted through town – and then on to Waikiki. The main strip was remarkably crowded with spectators, given that it was only about 5:30am. There were a few drunken revellers who likely hadn’t been to bed yet (I got a very sloppy high 5 from one of them), but overall the crowd was simply there to cheer us on.

We rounded Kapiolani Park (where we would eventually complete the race) and then started the tough slog up and around Diamond Head – the ancient volcanic cone visible from Waikiki Beach (see photo below). This was probably my favourite moment of the race, and I hope I can describe it well enough to do it justice:  Diamond Head Road curves up and around the crater. All along this stretch were volunteers, mostly high school students, holding a long yellow police tape – one person every couple of metres. EVERY ONE of them was smiling, cheering, encouraging, high fiving – and creating the most positive, enthusiastic race energy I’ve ever experienced.

Diamond Head from Waikiki during the day.

I chose to put #42fo42 and my Twitter account (@bjcjapan) on a bib on my back. Somewhere around 14km, a guy came up to me and asked if it was my 42nd marathon! I explained my philosophy of 42for42, and chatted with him about his marathon experience (he was from Oregon, currently living in Hawai’i, thought he’d give the race a go). Unfortunately, I never got his bib number, so I wasn’t able to see how he did in the end!

After a few twists and turns through residential neighbourhoods, we found ourselves at the 20km mark on Highway 1 heading east. And that’s when the real weather began – the rain started coming down in sheets, and the wind (from the east!) buffeted us. It was a tough slog. At one point, I thought I felt something really heavy in my left pocket (my iPhone was in my right pocket…), but then I realized it was just my soaking wet shorts slapping against my leg. THAT’s how wet it was!

Even before reaching the halfway point, the lead runners came towards us, on their way back from the out-and-back loop around Hawai’i Kai, a good 15km ahead of me and those around me. Though dripping wet, they looked like they were flying – simply amazing. I love it when a race route allows you to see what the true professionals look like when they’re doing what they do best!

The Hawai’i Kai loop (kms 25-29) took us through some more residential neighbourhoods, where the locals were out in full force, and offering up pretzels, snacks, oranges, and the like. The community spirit was amazing – and while the weather continued to be very damp, I couldn’t help but smile (or grimace? Hard to be sure).

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Hawai’i Kai – and rainy mountains all around

And then we were back on the freeway – and now we were seeing all the runners and walkers coming from behind. Costumes, great enthusiasm – even a couple who ballroom danced the entire route (it took them 11 hours!) – followed by one of the best rainbows I’ve ever seen! Turning towards the ocean, we ran by some beautiful homes and estates – at this point, a woman approached me about #42for42 – again assuming that this was my 42nd marathon! I guess the Americans can be forgiven, though, as they would see the marathon as 26.2 (miles, of course)!

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A ray of hope!

At 39k the return ascent over Diamond Head started, and I truly thought I wasn’t going to make it. My reserves were very low, despite having stopped at every water and gel stop along the way. I had long since given up on the idea of improving on my Vancouver Marathon time, but suddenly it occurred to me that I might not make it to the finish line at all. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to bursting into tears during a race, and probably the longest 2 kilometres of my life. At this moment, I determined I would never again run another marathon.

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And then I was there. Finish line. Cool shower. Puka shells. Sweet treats. Finisher T-shirt. Medal. So happy. Wearing my Honolulu Marathon finisher shirt around town and having total strangers congratulate me – and likewise congratulating others wearing their shirts! This is what it’s all about – and why #42for42 was an unequivocal success!

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And will I run another marathon? We’ll just have to wait and see…

Final results

Chip time: 4:14:24
Average pace: 6:01 min/km
Place overall: 2188/21815
Age category place: 259/1302

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  1. egercke

    Thanks for the synopsis! Sounded like the rain was really a factor- you did great! I too swore off marathons after mine this past December (just as I did after my first two a couple years ago). Not sure whether this time will stick or not…see you soon!

  2. Lucy

    Be proud Bradley! I didn’t know your marathon started so damp…that makes two wet marathons in one year. Great post and photos, really enjoyed reading it 🙂

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