The Ultimate Guide to the Honolulu Marathon 2023

Whether you’re in it for the malasada or to win your age group, here’s how to become a Honolulu Marathon 2023 finisher!


Imagine this: It’s 4:30 a.m. and you’re shuffling along Ala Moana Boulevard with thousands of other runners in the pre-dawn glow. The buzz in the air can only mean one thing—it’s the morning of the Honolulu Marathon! You suck down an energy gel, hoping the caffeine kicks in before you start running. Are you ready for the 26.2-mile journey ahead?


If you want to answer that question with a resounding “Yes,” then keep reading. From how to train to what to bring on race morning, this is the Ultimate Guide to the Honolulu Marathon 2023!


Table of Contents:



Honolulu Marathon

Photo: Courtesy of Honolulu Marathon


How to Train for the Honolulu Marathon

The best place to start is with a 16- to 20-week marathon training plan that gives you time to build up your mileage. Considering that the Honolulu Marathon is on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, you’ll want to start training by Aug. 20 or sooner.


If you’re a novice, find a beginner training plan that focuses on getting you to the start line healthy rather than on a finish time. And since the Honolulu Marathon has no time limit, this is the perfect marathon for beginners! Hal Higdon’s free training plans are very accessible, and novice runners should be able to easily follow them.


If you’re a more experienced runner who has completed some half marathons or even a marathon, look for an intermediate or advanced training plan. You can find training plans online or use a race widget compatible with your running smartwatch.*


Hiring a running coach is also an option. Not only will your coach be able to tailor a training plan to your goals and needs, but they’ll also keep you accountable, provide encouragement and help adjust your training should you get busy or face a setback like an injury.


If you’re on Oʻahu and looking for some tune-up races to prepare for the Honolulu Marathon 2023, you can participate in the BioAstin Readiness Series, which includes the HMSA Norman Tamanaha 15K on August 13, the Runner’s HI 20K on September 3, the Hybrid Design 25K on October 1, the Boca Hawai‘i 30K on October 22 and the Val Nolasco Half Marathon on November 12.


*Disclaimer: To train for a marathon, you should be in good physical condition. Consult your physician before starting a training plan.



Honolulu Marathon Runner 2018

Photo: Courtesy of Honolulu Marathon


Pro Training Tips

Whether you’re in it for the malasadas (like me) or you’re in it to place in the top 40 (like my husband), here are a few training tips that will help you prepare for the Honolulu Marathon 2023:


The most important component of your Honolulu Marathon training is your long run. Life happens, so don’t stress if you have to skip a workout or move your long run to a different day occasionally. Just don’t make it a habit or cheat on that long run!


There are some small uphills along the Honolulu Marathon course around Diamond Head, so be prepared for the heat and the slight hills by including some hill workouts in your training. For a scenic way to get hill training in, head to the paved trail up to Makapu‘u Lighthouse or Mānoa Falls Trail with its waterfall.


SEE ALSO: Kid-Friendly Hiking and Running Trails on O‘ahu


Anytime you train or race for more than an hour, you need to replace electrolytes lost through sweat by taking a hydration mix or electrolyte tablet, and this is even more vital when the temperatures climb. To prepare for running in Hawaiʻi’s warm weather, try to do some training in the heat.


Having a training buddy or group can help the miles fly by and push you to run faster than you would on your own. If you’re a solo runner, listening to music or a podcast can also give you a boost during those longer workouts. But whatever you listen to, don’t let it distract you from your surroundings, traffic or potential danger.


Every week, your long run will get a mile or two longer, with the exception of stepback weeks and the week before the marathon. Scheduled for every third or fourth week, mileage is reduced during the stepback weeks, allowing your body to recover and get ready for the next build. Rest and recovery are key aspects of your Honolulu Marathon training, so respect the stepback week. Your legs will thank you come race day!


In training (and on race day), there may be moments when you wonder if this whole marathon nonsense is a terrible idea. It isn’t! Sometimes, you just need to remind yourself why you signed up in the first place.


Names On Running Shoes

For an extra boost of motivation, write the names of the people you run for on your shoes! Photo: Sara Stover


Your motivation for running can be family or someone else you want to honor or a cause close to your heart. In fact, the Honolulu Marathon makes it easy to become a VIP Charity Runner, so you can raise funds for a charity and keep your motivation levels high as you build up mileage.


Looking for more reasons to sign up for the Honolulu Marathon? Many runners participate to be part of a legacy created by Dr. Jack Scaff, who brought a Boston-size race to Hawai‘i by transforming the Mid-Pacific Road Runners 30K into a marathon.


SEE ALSO: The Man Behind The Honolulu Marathon


Getty Images Marathon Honolulu Events Cover

Photo: Getty Images


Marathon Training Gear

“Don’t try something new on race day!” is a well-worn adage in the running community. From drinking Gatorade to training in the shorts you’ll wear for the marathon, it’s sage advice. Here are a few of the essentials that I wear and bring on my long runs:


Rabbit Surf ‘N Turf Short

$64 at Running Warehouse

I wear my Rabbit Surf ‘N Turf shorts so often that my friends call them the “Sara shorts.” They have a classic board short style and dry just as fast. Lightweight and chafe-free, they have a brief liner and two pockets big enough for some gels or electrolyte capsules. With a two-way stretch fabric that is super comfortable, the Surf ‘N Turf shorts come in the most fun prints and are available with a 2.5″ or 4” inseam for women and a 4” or 7” inseam for men.


Brooks Distance Tank 2.0

$32 at Brooks Running

Available in an array of colors for women and men, the Distance Tank 2.0 by Brooks has an ultra-soft, quick-drying fabric that moves sweat away from the skin and a racerback cut that gives it an attractive, athletic fit. I never have to worry about adjusting the straps because this tank moves with me. And with a motivational message on the front and “Run Happy” printed on the back, the lavender tank is my current favorite.


Nike Swoosh Sports Bra

$26.97 at Nike

Made with at least 75% recycled polyester fibers, the Nike Swoosh Sports Bra supports sustainability while supporting me on 20-milers. Its Dri-FIT technology is essential for training and racing in Hawai‘i, wicking sweat away to keep me drier longer. There’s even an internal pad pocket that can fit a snack… or a phone for calling a ride share service after the marathon. And since I like options, I appreciate that this sports bra’s padding is removable.


ALTRA Escalante Racer Running Shoes

$140 at Altra Running

Happy feet can be the difference between an amazing run and the worst workout, and my feet are happiest in ALTRA’s! The Escalante Racer is a particularly breathable, lightweight shoe with a mesh upper as well as a midsole that’s slightly firmer and more responsive than the average shoe. This marathon-ready shoe gives my feet more space, so they sit naturally, no matter how many miles I pile on.


Feetures Elite Light Cushion Running Compression Socks

$18 at Amazon

Here’s a good rule of thumb for marathon training and racing: Avoid cotton socks at all costs! Cotton absorbs moisture and results in damp feet prone to blisters. Made with 96% nylon, the Feetures Elite Light Running Socks keep my feet dry and prevent chafing. With thoughtfully placed cushioning and zone-specific compression for arch support, these socks are free of seams across the toes that get more irritating with every mile.


CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest, 50 oz

$100.14 at Amazon

I used the same CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest for five years before finally replacing it … with the exact same CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest. It features Quick Stow pockets for hydration flasks, a zipper pocket for my phone and easily adjustable dual sternum straps, making the vest fit snugly without suffocating me. With storage for all my fuel, keys and other essentials, I have yet to find a better design for carrying everything I need on a long run.


Garmin Forerunner 45S Smartwatch with GPS

$169.99 at Amazon

I’m all about the new era of lightweight smartwatches like the Forerunner 45S from Garmin, which features GPS to track my distance and pace. And my husband appreciates the safety and tracking features, including a feature that uploads to Garmin Connect, inviting him to follow my live activity and sending my real-time location to him through my paired smartphone. The Forerunner 45S also monitors my heart rate at the wrist—no clunky heart rate strap needed.



2017 honolulu marathon

Photo: Tom Pennington via Getty Images


Sports Nutrition Products to Fuel Success

One of the best ways to ensure a memorable day of crushing your goals is to fuel and hydrate properly. And during a marathon, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel. Aim to take in 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour for the first three hours of the Honolulu Marathon, then bump it up to 60 to 90 grams of carbs per hour after that.


You can get these carbohydrates from energy gels or chews, sports bars or other sports nutrition products. Hüma Energy Gel – Plus and Clif Bloks Energy Chews are both popular among endurance athletes. My personal favorites are Honey Stinger Energy Chews, GU Energy Gluten-Free Stroopwafels and even the occasional banana when I just want real food. For replacing lost electrolytes, I stick with a Salt Stick Fastchew every 30 minutes.


Check the packaging of sports nutrition products to see how many grams of carbs they contain and how much you’ll need to consume throughout the marathon to get 30 to 90 grams per hour. Remember to check your sports drinks as well, which can pull double-duty as a source of hydration and carbs.


Above all, train with what you’re going to use on race day. Since the Honolulu Marathon will have water and Gatorade on the course, it’s a good idea to practice drinking both during your training. As for recovery, BioAstin Hawaiian Astaxanthin with Turmeric is my daily go-to. It helps relieve muscle pain and enhances recovery after physically taxing training sessions.



The Honolulu Marathon 2023 Checklist

So now that you’re familiar with the essentials for fueling and hydrating, you might be wondering what else you’ll need and how you’re going to carry all this on race day. Here are some recommended products to add to your supply list.



2017 honolulu marathon

Photo: Tom Pennington via Getty Images


What to Expect on Race Day

“To ensure the best race experience, it’s important to read the entire event guide that will be emailed to you the week of the marathon,” says Honolulu Marathon race director JJ Johnson of what to expect on race day. “What to bring, where and when to pick up your race bib, color zones and any last minute changes. It’s all in there.”


The marathon starts at 5 a.m. on Ala Moana Boulevard, so expect to get up very early. Since Honolulu will warm up surprisingly fast when the sun comes up, starting in the dark is actually beneficial.


Expect a party at the start of the Honolulu Marathon. The 26.2-mile journey kicks off with an emcee, music that makes you want to move and fireworks to light up the sky. And expect to go out slowly. There are 30,000 runners participating in the race, so it takes some time for everyone to get going.


While there will be manned water aid stations with cups on the marathon course, the Honolulu Marathon supports the Green Initiative by offering seven self-serve water stations. Fill up your hydration device at these stations.


2017 honolulu marathon

Photo: Tom Pennington via Getty Images


On a clear day, you’ll be greeted by a spectacular sunrise as you run through downtown Honolulu, along the Honolulu Harbor and past the historic Aloha Tower. Soak up the magic of running past ‘Iolani Palace, radiant with Christmas lights and decorations, as well as the gilded King Kamehameha statue. The bridge spanning the Ala Wai Canal will usher you into Waikīkī. After you pass the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, take a moment to drink in the stunning view of Waikīkī Beach.


Around mile six, you’ll run by the Honolulu Zoo on your way to climbing up and around Diamond Head where breathtaking views of O‘ahu’s eastern coastline await you. Expect sunshine for the most part, but don’t be surprised if you hit a rainy patch during the marathon. It will be nature’s way of keeping you cool.


At mile 15, you’ll find ample encouragement in Hawai‘i Kai as the residents cheer you on from their yards and lanais. From there, you’ll loop around an inland waterway and see Koko Head looming ahead. This is on an out-and-back course, so expect to see everyone from the pros to the back of the packers as you turn toward Kāhala.


2017 honolulu marathon

Photo: Tom Pennington via Getty Images


Don’t panic if you hit the dreaded wall around mile 20. A lack of energy caused by depleted glycogen stores, the proverbial wall is something almost everyone will “hit” in the marathon. The good news is that your body is capable of finishing! Just focus on why you signed up for the marathon in the first place, and before you know it …


You’ll be at mile 24, circling back around Diamond Head and passing the lighthouse on your way to the finish line near the Kapi‘olani Park Bandstand. The party will be in full swing when you finish. Grab your Honolulu Marathon 2023 medal and wear it proudly as you head to the festival area in the park for your finisher shirt, malasada and a well-deserved celebration!


Honolulu Marathon 2017 Finish Line

Photo: Tom Pennington via Getty Images



How to Register

“From the top runners to those who walk all 26.2 miles, finishing this marathon is a huge accomplishment!” says JJ Johnson. “It’s a journey to finding out what you really have inside.”


Now that you have the inside scoop on how to train for the Honolulu Marathon and what to expect, it’s time to take the first step on your journey to finding out what you’ve got. Ready to sign up?


General registration is now open!



For detailed information about packet pickup, the course description, awards and divisions and more, visit About the Honolulu Marathon.


See you at the start line on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023!



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Honolulu Marathon Training Sara Stover

Photo: Sara Stover

About the Author:

Sara Stover has 20+ years of experience in editing, writing, and marketing. Passionate about shining a light on the events, flavors, faces and places that make Hawai‘i so unique and special, her work has appeared in Ke Ola Magazine, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and on the websites of an array of Hawai‘i organizations, businesses and publications. Sara lives on Hawai‘i Island with her husband, and together, the two coach high school cross-country and track. When she’s not writing, Sara enjoys exploring the islands, hiking, running, spoiling her cat and lanai gardening (which she blogs about at