November 6, 2021
Kailua Kona, Hawaii
It's been awhile since my last race thanks to COVID. I believe in fact 2 YEARS! And after many cancelled trips that were supposed to involved biking or running, the family decided to visit Hawaii and if possible, run a half marathon.
Now the fun part was researching which races were still happening due to COVID and when. We found this race on Kona that was originally taking place the following week and booked all of our travel arrangements around it, but then it was changed to the 6th. Thankfully it's been 2 years without travel and LOTS of vacation days saved up, so taking an extra 2 days wouldn't make a difference. So my brother and I changed our flights, booked a hotel for 2 days in downtown Kona, and registered. The course when I initially looked at it, did not appear to be hilly. Well I was wrong. More to that later.
We arrived in Kona on Thursday with the race on Saturday. This was a good idea because we would still be on east coast time, meaning getting up for an EARLY start time of 5:30am wouldn't be a problem. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott which I recommend because it was a 10 minute walk to the start, finish and packet pickup areas. It is also where the Ironman start takes place so you know I was super stoked to visit it, even if I wasn't a competitor. The packet pickup was very easy as there were only 250 competitors. They gave you a sample of Kona coffee, a tank and your bib. There was no timing chip attached and that's because they start the waves by age group. So your time is based on your wave start.
That Friday before packet pickup we had breakfast as Island Lava Java which is also at the start and finish areas so we made sure to eat there post race as well. It was delicious and very convenient. Afterwards we went back to hotel and rested until later that night when we went to the movies to see the Eternals and then had dinner. FYI, I am not sure if this is COVID related, but most places in Hawaii, stop serving or at least seating diners by 8/830 pm. This was an issue for post movie dining, so we ordered Uber Eats.
The next morning we woke up at 4ish, and made the walk to the start. They were requiring all athletes to wear masks before the race began and then you could take them off once you hit 100 meters in. The line of for the porta potties wasn't long because of the minimal amount of runners so that was nice, but given that it was so dark out, it was hard to see, and I definitely tripped. The race began on the dot and away they went. Below is a video of the elite wave and pretty much how the rest of them went off.
Now the race started off in the dark but it started to get light around 6ish. So that meant only running in the dark for about 20 minutes for me. But the did have the road closed to traffic so that was much appreciated. It started out on the famous Ali'i drive in a flatish 4 mile stretch. I say flatish because there were some rollers. It wasn't until we got to mile 5 that the rollers turned into steep inclines. At mile 5 we went up a steep hill, then down a hill, then up another hill, then down another steep hill, only to turn around and climb right back up that steep hill. I saw my brother at mile 6 as he was on his way back into town and he warned me that the hills kept coming. So I stopped to take a photo of the wild goats because you don't see that every day, and to get in a walk up the steep incline.
Thankfully it wasn't excruciatingly hot out but it was HUMID. The views were beautiful when the sun was finally up and you could see them. We ran past a country club/marina, a couple of local beaches and by this point I wanted to take in the views. So I focused on just enjoying this race. But it was starting to warm up in the 7 am hour so I wanted to finish before it got worse. I did have to make a pitstop bathroom break at mile 12 because I was not going to make it. Then I spotted the camera men and start to have some fun with them. The race ended on a downhill (yay) and when I finished the announcer said, Erin Lockwood from Washington D.C., I think thats the furthest anyone has traveled! I bet you are right sir!
After I finished, they gave us a mug instead of a medal (hence the Coffee theme) I found my brother and we made our way to Lava Java for breakfast. After we finished, we headed back showered and then rushed to get a cab to the airport. Turns out our flight to Maui changed the departure time so we hauled ass and made it just in time.
Pros: Overall, I thought this was a beautiful race, very well run for how small it was, the mug, the course and the start/finish line area.
Cons: The steep inclines.