Field Notes: These People Will Help You Complete Your First Honolulu Marathon

Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: Honolulu Marathon Clinic.
Honolulu Marathon Clinic
The Marathon Clinic in October.
Photos: Aaron K. Yoshino


What it is

Since 1974, the Honolulu Marathon Clinic has helped tens of thousands of people—from sedentary office workers to experienced runners—train for and finish their first marathon. Founded by Dr. Jack Scaff—a cardiologist who also helped to start the Honolulu Marathon the year prior—the clinic was based on a simple premise: Anyone, even Scaff’s heart patients, could complete marathons with proper training.


“If you go at your own pace, follow the rules and stick with your group, you’ll have a great [finish] time,” says Bruce Mulliken, Honolulu Marathon Clinic board president who joined in 2001 to run his first marathon at age 50. (He finished in 5 hours, 25 minutes.) “And you’ll have a lot of fun. That’s really what it’s all about.”


How it works

The clinic, which is free and run by volunteers, meets at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday from March to December, when the annual Honolulu Marathon is held. (The clinic is not affiliated with the Honolulu Marathon Association.) To join, you just fill out the registration form at and show up. You don’t have to be a first-time marathoner. Only about a quarter of the roughly 200 runners who show up on Sundays are rookies.


The group meets at the restrooms at 3833 Pākī Ave. at Kapi‘olani Park. The clinic starts with a 10-minute informative talk, most often by Scaff, about training and topics ranging from proper footwear to plantar fasciitis. Then, participants split into three groups: beginners (people new to running), intermediate (those already running but not for long distances) and advanced (avid runners who don’t have marathon training experience). Experienced volunteers split them into subgroups categorized by pace and distance. You pick which group you want to be in and you can switch groups at any time. The clinic also offers training schedules to help you stay on track with your running during the week.


Who participates

Anyone can join the clinic and, ultimately, finish the marathon. Ages range from teenagers to octogenarians. A longtime clinic participant, Gladys “Gladyator” Burrill, who turns 100 this year, holds the world record as the oldest living woman in the world to complete a marathon. (She took up running at age 86.) “We’ve got butchers and bakers and candlestick makers,” says Mulliken, 67, a retired senior customer service engineer with Xerox. “We’ve got everybody. You meet a lot of interesting people.”


What to bring

Arrive at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday in comfortable running attire and shoes. The clinic sets up water stops along the routes.


The payoff

Not only will you be prepared to cross the Honolulu Marathon finish line in December, you’ll likely make new friends, all who share your affinity for long-distance running. It’s not uncommon for participants to meet up socially outside of the scheduled Sunday runs. “For some reason, runners never fight,” Mulliken says. “It just never happens. In my 18 years of doing this, there haven’t been any arguments. It’s just amazing. It’s a wonderful environment and everybody gets along.”


About a third of runners in the Honolulu Marathon have never participated in a marathon before.


Scaff’s rules

  1. Base before pace: Train for at least an hour three times a week.

  2. Run smart, not hard: Train no more than four times a week.

  3. Breathe: You should be able to talk while running.

  4. Drink often: Drink water every 20 minutes.


Meet the Runners


Anna Chung

Anna Chung
45, environmental engineer, Honolulu


“I was never a runner, but since I’ve started, I really enjoy how I can just relax and zone out. I don’t think about time and just keep moving.”


Micah Wada

Micah Wada
27, UH student, Kāne‘ohe


“I enjoy seeing the ranges of ages that the clinic has, from kids to grandparents, because it brings me motivation and tells me that if they can do it, so can I.”


Gladys “Gladyator” Burrill

Gladys Burrill
100, retired, Waikīkī


“This is just a way of life. I love bonding with different people. It’s just one big family.”