Friday, 17 December 2010

Honolulu marathon

It may be tropical, but it's still Christmas.

The start line.

Fireworks go off at the gun.

Heading back and seeing all the runners heading out.

Just a quick update now I'm (unfortunately) back from Hawaii and a great few days of relaxation. The Honolulu marathon was fun, although the 5am start was a bit earlier than I'd have liked. But when you consider the heat, even in December, it certainly makes it easier to have the first 90 minutes in the dark. And sunrises in races are always one of the best features possible.

I arrived the day before and once I started looking at the course in a bit more detail, realised it's a huge race, often with over 30,000 entrants, making it one of the ten largest marathons in the world in most years. This year there were around 25,000 runners according to the local paper.

So with that many people and no seeding pens, it was a free-for-all at the start. I managed to get within about 100 feet of the start line and it reminded me of what big city marathons feel like for 99% of the runners - a huge scrum. Most race these days have seeding pens and make you prove your past times to stop people pretending to be a lot faster than they are, but not Honolulu. London, New York and other massive races have seemed much smaller than this did, because I got to start almost on the start line and among people who run off at speed.

So it was a different experience to be forced to walk a bit for the first quarter of a mile and to keep jumping on the kerb to pass people who were jogging slowly. It wasn't really hot, but it was humid, so I was sweating heavily even before the gun went off. However, I didn't mind the humidity or slow start since this was my equivalent to the standard 'long, slow run'. I don't really believe in that type of training run, so my version is a marathon at 85-90% of race pace. Slow enough to feel fairly easy, but fast enough that it has some training benefits specific to marathons and ultras other than just purely logging miles.

I'd originally planned to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest Santa (2h55m) since I set this a couple of years ago straight after running the Marathon des Sables and someone had beaten it the following year, both records set at the London marathon. But the Honolulu marathon organisers weren't willing to provide the minimal evidence requirements, so I binned that idea.

I still felt like the 2h55m time was about right, especially after a hard run the previous week at TNF 50k. So that's the speed I kept to over the first few miles, making sure I took photos whenever anything looked photo-worthy. Just after mile four, the course went past our hotel and I gave Amy a kiss when I spotted her in the crowd (spectating at 5:30am on her holiday :)). Then I jogged off and just enjoyed the sights along Waikiki Beach and the Diamond Head crater.

The elite guys and girls were chasing a $40,000 first prize and were professionals, including the fastest marathoner of the year (Patrick Macau who ran a 2h04m at Rotterdam) who was acting as the rabbit for several fellow Kenyans with PBs well below 2h10m. Behind them, the field was spread out thinly and the masses were well back, further than usual for a road marathon. I'm guessing this is partly due to the conditions and partly because this is an obvious choice for those wanting to take it a bit easier and enjoy their vacation instead of feeling wrecked for the week after the race.

After about ten miles I could only see a handful of people ahead or behind, which I hadn't expected. I hit halfway in 1h26m as the horizon just started to light up, and considered that to be fine given the rising temperatures would make the second half harder, no matter how slowly I ran.

Around 14 miles I saw a group of Kenyans coming back the other way on the return leg. Behind them, I saw very few people until I hit the turnaround at 16-17 miles. By now the sun had just come up and it was undoubtedly pretty. The course isn't as beautiful as I'd hoped due to lots of roads with little view except the mountains in the background. Sections are very scenic, especially around Diamond Head, but the main entertainment for the second half was seeing all the runners coming in the other direction. I usually like this as it gives a better sense of the scale of the race and everybody gets to cheer for everyone else.

The last miles felt fine and I cruised down the finish straight feeling like I could have kept going a lot longer. I finished in 2h53m01s and my legs felt better over the next few days than at any long race since around May, which I take to be an encouraging sign. I almost caused a crash at the finish since I stopped a foot from the end to take a photo of the clock, but didn't realise there was a wheelchair athlete bearing down on me. I had to jump out his way, as can be seen in the last couple of seconds of this video:

You can just see the wheelchair guy who swerved round me - sorry!

I'd say the conditions, especially the humidity, but also the headwind until the turnaround, add about ten minutes to the time, so I feel like I probably ran a 2h45m effort, which is a harder run than I'd planned. The winner ran 2h15m and only two other guys (both Kenyans) broke 2h20m. Somehow I was 32nd overall, while that sort of time in a similar-sized race would normally be lucky to be near the top 500. So that was a pleasant surprise. And in true Hawaii (i.e. IronMan) fashion, the results were split into elites and 5-year age groups. I came 2nd in my age group of 30-34, which just goes to show how age groups make no sense, especially when they apply to the under 40s.

I enjoyed the race, but enjoyed the whole trip more. The race was generally well organised, but the main improvement would be to have some sort of seeding to avoid the walker/joggers from getting trampled on the start line. Not sure I'd do it again, but I will do another race in Hawaii one day. Maybe even the IronMan, if I can ever be motivated to train for two other sports.

The biggest racing memories I'll have from the trip will be the sunrise runs along Waikiki Beach and the fact that I found out I was lucky in both the Way Too Cool and Miwok lotteries, so I get the opportunity to enjoy both of those in 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Close call dude! Broken ankle might have slowed you down a bit...but probably not for long. I remember seeing you with your santa world record certificate just after the finish in 2008. Hadn't realised it was you underneath the beard.

    Just caught up on your ever entertaining blog. Awesome year. Must be very proud. 2010 was a bit hit and miss for me, injuries, niggles and age I think catching up on me, usually before big races. But I've been fit & training well for a couple of months now, looking forward to stepping it up for the Namib Desert Challenge with some MdS buddies in a few weeks and then back to Comrades in May. Damn your eyes for telling me about that special double novice medal! Jonathan from MdS joining me again - he wants that medal as well. I'll see you in the start pen before you disappear off! Graham B.