20 Years Running

Ed Gayagas readied for his first Great Aloha Run, the 45-year-old worried about
running the entire eight-mile course. Not that he was unfit. Gayagas ran a few
miles daily and had spent years in the Army, but the course was somewhat longer
than what he was used to.

“But it wasn’t bad at all, though,” recalls
Gayagas, who lives in ‘Aiea. “I ran in formation with the other military runners,
and there was so much camaraderie. I looked forward to doing it the next year.”

That was in 1985, the inaugural year of the Great Aloha Run, a benefit
for local charities. Gayagas did run the next year. And the next. And the next.
This month, Gayagas, now 65, will be running his 20th Great Aloha Run, along with
about 200 people who’ve participated every year since its inception.

lot of runs have come and gone, and it’s just so cool to see that there are 200
people who’ve been with us the entire 20 years,” says local entertainer Carole
Kai, who co-founded the event.

The Great Aloha Run has come a long way
from its less-than-auspicious beginning. It all started with the demise of the
three-mile running portion of the popular fund-raising Carole Kai Bed Race.

Saiki, Margie Clemente and
Ed Gayagas, 20-year veterans of the Great Aloha
Run. Photo: Courtesy Great Aloha Run

the early 1980s, the city decided to eliminate the run, because there were too
many races, and I remember crying, ‘I don’t know what to do,'” says Kai. “I went
to see [Honolulu Marathon founder] Dr. Jack Scaff, and it was like a scene from
The African Queen, with me crying and this crusty old man telling me, ‘Stop it.'”

and Kai met with Buck Buchwach, then the forceful executive editor of The Honolulu

“Buck had this cockamamy dream of creating this run from the
Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium,” says Kai. “I told him, ‘No one’s ever done that
before.'” But Buchwach insisted, and the Great Aloha Run was born.

had already obtained a racing permit for a training clinic he planned to lead
for the upcoming marathon. He applied that permit to gain clearance for the first
Great Aloha Run, Kai says.

Although the trio had just 10 weeks to organize
and promote the event, the inaugural Great Aloha Run attracted 11,592 walkers
and runners-a record as the world’s largest first-time running event. These days,
the race averages about 20,000 participants annually and, since its creation,
has raised about $6 million for more than 100 charities.

This year’s race
is dedicated to the military, Kai says. Commem-ortive bibs will be sold for $5
apiece, with proceeds benefiting military support groups.

Gayagas will
be there, although it’ll require a little more effort this year. For the past
two months, he has split his time between his home on O’ahu and that of his daughter’s
in Fort Hood, Texas. Gayagas and his wife are caring for their grandchild while
his daughter, an Army colonel, is stationed in Iraq.

“It’s one of my goals
in life to run the Great Aloha run as long as I can,” Gayagas says. “So I plan
to be there every year, no matter what.”

Great Aloha Run

20th annual Great Aloha Run, from Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium. Feb. 16, Presidents’
Day, followed by the Great Aloha Run Stadium Party.

more information, visit www.greataloharun.com