Did This: Maui (half) Marathon

If you’re a longtime Hawaii runner, you remember the Maui Marathon when it was held in March, during whale-watching season, making it not just one of the most scenic marathons in the world, but an amazing experience as whales breached along the course. Several years ago, the marathon moved to September — when Hawaii travel is slower, which helps with traffic and the ability to get a room.

You may not know, however, that the Maui Marathon is one of the three oldest marathons west of the Mississippi River. And, it originated on Oahu in the early 1940s as the Hawaiian A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union) Marathon. During the 30s and 40s, Hawaii’s top runner was Norman Tamanaha, who competed successfully on the mainland and was considered one of America’s top marathon athletes. Long story short, some time before 1971 Tamanaha convinced the newly-formed Valley Isle Road Runners to bring the event to Maui. In 1971, Oahu runner Johnny Faerber was the winner of the inaugural Norman Tamanaha Marathon, and in 1974, the event was officially renamed The Maui Marathon.

I was thrilled to get a sponsored invitation to run it, but am nowhere near the shape I need to be in to run a full marathon. Turns out, the event has blossomed into a weekend-long event, with a 10K, 5K, and one-mile run on Saturday, and a full and half marathon on Sunday — so I opted for the half. It’s a hot course, so thankfully, it’s essentially flat, but not completely. There are sneaky little inclines along the way, like the kind you encounter when running on military bases, but at least there’s no Heartbreak Hill.

Maui Marathon 2012

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Staying at the Westin Maui is the best thing to do for the Maui Marathon, so get your room early. I’ve run marathons and half marathons all over the world, but this is the first one where the starting line is right outside the hotel. I literally waited until 5:10 a.m. to go downstairs, walked two minutes, and still had time to stretch with the crowd.

As you can see, it’s as scenic as they say it is. Since you hug the shoreline, it’s a gorgeous distraction from the pain.

For those of you who prefer smaller marathons, this is for you! The field is a fraction of the size of the Honolulu Marathon, so there is lots of elbow room. About 1000 people ran the full marathon and 1400 ran the half; on Saturday, there were 300 running the 10K, 500 in the 5K, and 700 in the one-miler. There’s also no time limit that I know of: when I checked on the people coming in after seven hours, I was told that there were still about 75 people still out on the course.

Since it’s a more intimate marathon, the Westin — as one of the big sponsors — headquarters all of the pre- and post-race events in the hotel. The expo, packet pickup, carbo load luau, and after party are all located conveniently in one place. Here are some shots of the carbo load luau, if you decide to attend this event next year.

Maui Marathon 2012

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Joe Tiepel, a staple at the Honolulu Marathon, has been the Maui Marathon’s official emcee for the last three years.

Mahalo to the Maui Marathon for bringing me over! I would probably do it again, time permitting. It’s definitely a race that embodies everything we love about living in Hawaii.