Confession: I have signed up for the Honolulu Marathon three times.
The first year I hurt my back.
The second year I fractured my ankle.
The third year, well, I just didn’t want to do it.
I really have no desire to run a marathon. It’s 26.2 miles of pain and repetitive motion. I prefer triathlons, where you are doing something different every 30 minutes. (At least the ones I do.)
But there has always been a little of intrigue surrounding the marathon.
Mostly because I never, ever believed I could do it.
Yes, I run fairly often, maybe about three times a week. But I hate every step. The best part about running is stopping, and it would take more than six hours before I would be doing that in a marathon.
Still, I’ve signed up for the past three years.
This year, however, I told too many people about my registration — and they bugged me about for months.
I’m not kidding when I say this: I didn’t decide to run the marathon until the night before. I pulled out my Body Glide, blister bandages, Advil, lip balm, sunscreen and Luna bars. I drank a glass of water — hey, you gotta start hydrating sometime! — and went to bed at 7:30 p.m. I figured if I didn’t feel like finishing, I could stop at anytime, even walk home. (I live on the marathon route.) There’s no shame in quitting.
So I met up with my two much younger friends, Hisae and AJ, who were doing their second marathon. They had a plan: to run two miles and walk one for the entire distance. At 15 miles per hour, you can cover the 26.2 miles in six and a half hours. That means we could finish the race before noon.
“C’mon, Cat, you can do it!” said the peppier one of the pair — and with a little gig.
“But I haven’t trained.”
“Neither have we!”
“Yes, but you’re 10 years younger than me. You could do this hungover. I can’t.”
Yet, they were so positive and almost convincing, I decided to run as far as I could.
We got to Ala Moana Beach Park at around 4:45 a.m. for the 5 a.m. start. There were long lines at the Porta Potties and we waited for about 15 minutes to empty our bladders one last time.
The fireworks went off, the announcers started yelling at everyone to run, and the Kenyans were gone.
The marathon had started.
We didn’t actually cross the starting line until more than half an hour after the official start of the race. I mean, there were 30,000 of us, and we all can’t cross the line at the same time.
The route took us out of Ala Moana Beach Park, through downtown Honolulu, past Honolulu Hale and the Christmas displays, through Waikiki and up Diamond Head — where we saw the marathon leaders returning to Kapiolani Park to the finish line. That was a bit depressing since the leaders were finishing — in about two and a half hours — and we hadn’t even hit Kalanianaole Highway yet.
Hisae (left), AJ (right) and me felt pretty good by Mile 6. One had injured her knee earlier in the week from playing volleyball, but she powered through. The other said her ankles were hurting after a few miles of running but thought the pain would go away.
Well, it didn’t.
By the time we hit the halfway mark on Kalanianaole Highway, she was in pain. Serious pain. She kept running, but you could tell she was overcompensating for the pain that was shooting down the back of her leg. And she was starting to get a migraine.
By Mile 15, I told her we should stop and walk. But walking wasn’t helping, either. In fact, she said it hurt more when she walked.
So I made the executive decision. Though she wanted to power through and finish the marathon, I decided walking for another 11 miles might cause serious injury and, frankly, wasn’t worth it. So in between Mile 15 and 16, we bowed out and went to 7-Eleven, where we both got Slurpees and pain relievers.
I’ll be honest: 15 miles was a lot farther than I had anticipated doing ever in my life. I really thought I was going to drop out after six miles and walk back to my car, which was strategically parked at Rainbow Drive-In. But I felt good, I felt stronger than I had expected, and I think I could have finished the marathon despite the lack of training.
But I didn’t complain about ditching it, either.
Though I didn’t officially finish the race, it was still a great experience. It was fun running with tens of thousands of other people, many of them dressed in costumes or running for causes. People were snapping photos and taking selfies and documenting their journey, much like I was. There were couples — some holding hands — and groups of friends. There were families and men wearing fatigues and full packs on their backs.
It was fun to be part of the spectacle.
I learned a lot, too. People who live along the route are awesome, sitting in beach chairs to cheer you on or passing out pretzels and candies to runners. There were enough portable toilets along the way, water and Gatorade stations, and even volunteers handing out globs of Vaseline on popsicle sticks. (They were also holding signs that said, “Do Not Eat This.”)
And at the finish line at Kapiolani Park, you can pick up one of the best malasadas I’ve had in a long time, made by the students of Kaiser High School.
That was definitely worth the registration cost.
Would I do this again?
Actually, yes, now that I know what to expect and how my body will feel at different parts of the run.
But will I do it again?
We’ll have to see how I feel tomorrow.
Thanks to everyone who tweeted, left comments on Instagram and posted messages on Facebook, cheering me on or making me laugh. It was fun sharing this journey, albeit a painful and abbreviated one, with you all!