That’s the best way I can sum up the unbelievable experience of running the Honolulu Marathon with my Saucony 26 Strong Cadet, Kailey.
I thought about breaking this up into multiple posts but then I decided to just let it all out in one. This is long so grab some coffee and snacks, you are going to be here for awhile.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Dark and early, Friday morning, Kailey and I along Ron, started our 12+ hour journey to Hawaii. You guys, 11 hours on a plane is a long ass time. Definitely not the most ideal situation when you’ll be running a marathon in 1 1/2 days, going through 5 time zones and a completely different climate. But, we were going to freakin’ Hawaii so it was all good. Kailey’s flight probably felt A LOT longer since she was stuck next to a guy who talked non-stop for hours.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel too bad once we landed in Honolulu. A little dazed and confused, but my legs were fine. I crashed hard later that night after meeting all the other Saucony 26 Strong teams and our peeps from Saucony (Brandon and Sean) and Competitor Magazine (Erin). After months and months of emails, it was so amazing to actually put faces and voices to the names. We also got some sweet 26 Strong gear and two new yet to be released pairs of shoes (both quickly became my new favs while walking all over Oahu after the race).
Saturday morning we all met up again for photos, a shake out run and breakfast. The first thing we noticed – it was hot! Kailey and I both commented that we were sweating even before we ran.
Our first indicator that this was going to be a very, very interesting race was at the expo. Walking into the expo was like being on a Japanese game show. Everything was written and spoken in Japanese. Anime characters were everywhere. Just a precursor to what was to come race day. I spent the rest of the day hanging out on the beach with my feet up.
I was up before my alarm at 2:45. The first thing I heard? The wind. And then I saw the rain. My rainy marathon streak continues!
We got dressed, ate horribly dry bagels with almond butter and made our way downstairs to meet our teammates. Before we knew it, we were off in the dark, windy rain for a 1.5 mile walk to the starting line.
It was mass disorganization the closer we got to the starting line. There were people everywhere. Maybe I was just sleep deprived and didn’t notice but all the signs I saw were in Japanese. I had not idea where the starting line was or where the pace groups were. I just followed the crowd. We lost everyone in our group pretty quickly. Kailey needed to use the port-a-potty before we lined up so we started off toward the field where it looked like there were massive lines and not a whole lot of bathrooms. Before we could get to the field we had to cross a canal. A canal that had two bridges and as we soon found out – an entrance and an exit. We were at the exit. We backtracked against the crowd to the entrance. I tried to convince Kailey to just go behind a tree. I did and eventually Kailey tried to with no success. Race day nerves were running high for Kailey.
Our shirts are soaked and we haven’t even run yet! (photo courtesy of Kailey)
We went across the correct exit of the park and tried to find the starting line. I somehow got behind a guy who had the same idea so we tagged along. We got up pretty close to the front which did us no good. Once the fireworks went off signaling the start, almost everyone around us was too busy taking videos of the fireworks to actually run or move for that matter. So we trotted for who knows how long. Runners (walkers?) were tripping over barricades and on the wet pavement. Pandemonium. Surprisingly, it cleared out relatively quickly.
The first 5 miles flew by as we ran through the empty streets of Honolulu and Waikiki. Christmas decorations were out in full force. It seemed out of place since we were running in tanks and shorts. It felt more like August! The rain and wind were still coming down. At times it was a mist which was nice. Others, it was pelting us in the face and hurtful. Thankfully, at least the temps were warm.
There were so many people dressed up in characters that it felt like we were running a Disney race. Nothing was off limits – including running with a stuffed pig on your head or wearing a giant cat costume complete with matching head. A group of Japanese high school boys also kept us entertained for those early miles. They had so much energy and excitement. I’m not sure they realized they had 20+ more miles to cover!
I was feeling really good for the first 16 miles. Kailey was not. Her nerves were still in high gear. She kept telling me to leave her, but there was no way. We were a team. That meant stopping for bathroom breaks as needed, walking through water stops and just keeping it easy. Just as Kailey was beginning to feel better, I started to feel nauseous. It wasn’t in my stomach but more up high in my throat, like I was ready to throw up at any second. And then the calf cramps started around mile 20. It was the kind where my calf would just tighten up and not release. We ended up run/walking quite a bit the last 6 miles. I begged Kailey to leave me and to finish the race strong. But she refused. We were in this together!
After walking (and literally being pulled by Kailey) up Diamond Head at mile 24, it was time for a sweet downhill to the finish. At that time the sun came out too. I told myself DO NOT WALK till the finish line. Just as we were about to enjoy the downhill, we saw Erin, Brandon and Sean cheering us on. Nothing is better than seeing familiar faces to get you out of a funk.
The last 2 miles were long. Like really long. Finally the finish line appeared. We crossed the finish line and I told Kailey – YOU ARE A MARATHONER!
Finish time – 4:33
I’m so proud of Kailey for not giving up and pushing through. She didn’t give up on me either. I had a number in my head about what our finishing time would be. If everything had gone as planned, I truly believe we would have reached it. But things happen. Plans change. We did the best we could with what we had. And I think that’s pretty marvelous.
What followed after the finish was more mass confusion. It didn’t help that I still wasn’t feeling the greatest. Thankfully, Ron found us relatively quickly. After that we were shuttled to the finisher’s area where we were handed a cup of water. Yes, one small cup. I was still nauseous so Kailey went to find us food as I sat down with my head between my knees.
I tried to choke down a bagel but couldn’t do it. And then I started to get really cold. My soaking wet clothes were now making me shiver, my teeth chatter and my fingernails turn blue. I pulled on my cotton finisher’s tee just to get a little warmer as we started our 1.5 mile walk back to the hotel. I finally started to feel a little normal during our very, very slow shuffle.
Later that night, Saucony and Competitor put together a great post race dinner for the whole team. It was fun to hang out, relax, enjoy celebratory drinks (a margarita never tasted so good!) and reflect on this amazing experience.
I can’t thank Saucony and Competitor enough for this opportunity. Words can’t even begin to describe my gratitude. My mind is officially blown. I was a fan before I was even asked to participate in 26 Strong, but now, you’ve got me for life.THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!
Going into this, I was unsure of why I was asked to be involved as a coach. My marathon experience isn’t like the other coaches – I had only done one prior. And it was a really horrible experience. I didn’t feel like I could give a whole lot of words of wisdom to a newbie. But after this, I know that one thing is sure. No matter how many marathons you’ve done, one thing stays the same.
Marathons are freaking hard!