This year has been a running roller coaster from the roads of England to the trails of Easter Island with a few side trips thrown in for fun. Finishing 2014 with the Honolulu Marathon was the icing on the cake of an incredible 12 months – full of highs and lows – but I wouldn’t ask for anything else. Ok, well a marathon personal best (anything under 3:03) would have been the cherry-on-the-top but if I’ve learnt anything from this year it’s that you’ve just got to enjoy the ride, and roll with the punches.
A little over 22,000 runner’s lined up at 5am on Sunday morning for the start of the 42nd Honolulu Marathon. The dark skies were cloudy and it was raining lightly – the temperature was perfect (high 60’s/ low 70’s Farenheit) in fact, it even felt a little cold…
During the week prior to the marathon there had been lots of banter on and off-line between running friends about the weather! Oh the weather! And as fickle as it can be – the general census was that we should expect a head wind over the first half of the course, and possibly some rain. My race plan, therefore, was to go out conservatively – not fighting the wind – saving as much energy as possible for when the wind would be ‘at your back’ after around mile 17/18 – on the run for home.
And so, that’s pretty much what I did. At the start, I lined up with my coach Jon Lyau and a great group of running friends. Ahead of us were the tiny elite runners (I always feel like a giant next to elite runners) – and also the American 1500m Olympic medallist Nick Willis? It turned out later that Nick and another US middle distance runner, Will Leer, were pacing Canadian master’s runner Kevin Sullivan, who went on to win the master’s title in a time of 2:40:22.
The start of the Honolulu Marathon is famous for it’s fire works display, which go off with the gun, but in the rain and excitement I missed the starting my watch, and so missed logging the first mile split. Oh well – the fireworks were brill!
Over the first few miles I saw many friendly faces, chatting to folks along the way, and tried to just settle into a very relaxed pace, which is easier said than done when you just want to go! I started my watch at mile 2 and just began weaving through the streets of Chinatown and Honolulu until we hit Waikiki and then the 10km point. 43:43 – good news – I hadn’t gone out too fast. By this point a familiar face from the Honolulu running scene was close by, Odeelo, who I knew was aiming for three hours, which gave me a mini-confidence boost.
Next up was the first climb over Diamond Head, where I passed a Japanese man, with a very short stride length, running in a Mini Mouse costume – still running in the dark at this point – did I mention marathons are slightly surreal experiences? I knew the next big land mark was 11miles and the ‘gas station’, which signalled the turn out on the highway – into the wind. I’d taken a PowerBar gel around the one hour mark – washing it down with a cup of water – and tried to mentally prepare for miles 11-15 out to Hawaii Kai. My mantra was ‘Relax and Breathe’ – a running-yogi’s R&B.
Kalanianaole Highway is a long, fairly flat road out to the east side of Oahu. The Trade Winds, blowing strongly from a N/ NE direction, were sticking to their guns, but try as they might to hold us back – a few of us runners got together and took it in turns to battle our way through. I teamed up with Odeelo, the 3hr runner, and we ran/leap-frogged our way all the way to mile 15. Looking back now I can definitely say running with Odeelo made all the difference along that stretch – physically and mentally! It gave me something other than my-running-self to concentrate on, and prevented the slippery slope of worry being taken. By this point the sun had started to lighten up the dark sky, but the rain still hadn’t stopped. In fact – going around the Hawaii Kai loop at mile 16 I noted wrapped up spectators cheering from under umbrellas. Where was I? This was not feeling very like the Hawaii I knew, but then again, no matter – concentrate! Approaching an aid station I grabbed another gel from the pocket of my Oiselle distance shorts (best marathon/ ultra runnings shorts ever!), and washed it down with a cup of water (I’d hydrated with Nuun before the race).
But by mile 17 and 18, the Trade Winds suddenly became my best friend (who’s fickle now?!), and even Odeelo, who I was still tracking, whooped – and pumped his fist in the air – signalling ‘let’s go’. I smiled – and picked up the pace – spurred on by runners cheering as they were running out towards Hawaii Kai (interestingly mile 18 was my fastest in 6:36). Odeelo was off, and I tried to keep him in my sights but by mile 22 he was gone. At that point I saw Jesse, my husband/ official personal race photographer (or #husbandapp as Malia likes to say). It was a welcome relief to see a smiling face and I heard that my friend and long-run partner Katie (podcast interviewee, who went on to win the Hawaii resident prize in 3:03) was not far in front. Another friend also shouted out that I could break 3hrs – “Only 26mins”. This gave me a good jolt, and I tried to pick up the pace again, 6:46. But mile 23 (7:15) and 24 (7:46) caught up with me, physically and mentally – and even with the hilly runs around Hohomaluhia Botanical Gardens I had tried to add into my training – the last climb over Diamond Head was still a killer. The last mile to the finish was simply a case of holding on, and holding form!
Finishing the Honolulu Marathon in 3:04:43 might not have been the time I’d been looking for, but in terms of marathon running I’m not disappointed. I felt strong and relaxed in the second half of the marathon for the first time ever, Diamond Head aside, and managed to run even splits. Despite the wind and the rain, it was still a great marathon, sorry if that makes you cringe, but truly – I love the Honolulu Marathon! It was my first foray back into training with a coach, which I’ve really enjoyed – thanks Jon – and we’re looking at what works/ what doesn’t and what I need to do to improve.
Thanks everyone who has been following the ride of Retracing Routledge in 2014. It means everything to have you alongside. Thanks also to BioAstin, Zensah, Hemp + Honey, Oiselle Team and the Nuun Team for all the support!
Congrats finishers of the Honolulu Marathon, and wishing you all many happy trails in 2015.
PS. Just incase you’re interested – see below for my marathon GPS data on Strava!