Great Aloha Run on Oahu

My first race (or run) of 2020 was unexpected. On arriving in Honolulu my daughter-in-law asked if I was doing the GAR (Great Aloha Run). I ran this race perhaps ten years ago, but had forgotten it fell this time of year. My son suggested I am slipping, since I usually have scouted out and scheduled local races before arriving for a visit. I attribute it to being preoccupied with the arrival of a grandchild.

Plenty of delicious teas and organic energy products available for sampling at the Expo.

But yes, this race is too convenient not to run. The GAR is one-of-a-kind with an 8.15 mile distance and held for the past 35 years on President’s Day. It’s as much an 8-mile block party as a race. The entire island community comes out to run, walk, volunteer and cheer.

WHO DOESN’T LOVE AN EXPO?

So, off I go to the Expo, the last day to sign up. The Expo is huge for a race of this length. I saved some time for browsing and shopping for miscellaneous items, some that you wouldn’t find anywhere but Hawaii.

I stopped by the Kona Marathon booth and found Julie Weiss. She ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks for 52 people battling pancreatic cancer. I have her book about the experience on my reading list.

With Julie Weiss at the GAR Expo

The GAR has a 7 a.m. start. At 6:15 a.m., before daybreak, I began my one-mile walk/jog to the start. I saw another person with a bib walking a block away, then a couple, then five more. Before arriving at the start, we were like a throng of zombies emerging from different buildings and growing in number.

A RACE TO REMEMBER – OR FORGET

This is where the happy talk comes to a screeching halt. It was drizzling rain at the start so I kept my phone under wraps. The air is thick with humidity, unlike my warmup run the previous day where brisk winds kept me cool.

From the first step, my legs just didn’t move at anything but a snail’s pace. I was running at a 12-minute pace (running, not walking). It was like driving a car that would not accelerate any further. This was the first race I’ve done without one or two cups of coffee beforehand. Is that it? Maybe? Yes? No, I don’t think so.

A year ago, I ran a half-marathon on Oahu at a 2-minute per mile faster pace than this. I’m not sure what is going on, but I came to accept it was just not my day.

If there is a race where you totally flame out, this is the one to do it. There are over 8,000 runners and where I am in the pack, many are stopping for photos at each mile sign, or to give a hug to volunteers and supporters they know.

Truth be told, the course, the Nimitz from downtown to the Aloha Stadium, is probably the ugliest stretch of highway on this otherwise beautiful island. With no ocean or mountain vistas to keep me occupied, I people watch. Oddly, the miles went by quicker than you would think at this pace.

At the finish, I made my way through the lines for the t-shirt (only available to finishers), bananas, and Hawaiian bread. The GAR has a great after-party, but this year I made a beeline for a cushy seat on the shuttle bus back to downtown and called it a day.

After a shower and a nap, I checked out the online results. In my F70-74 Age group, there were 89 women (yes, you read that correctly – 89) finishers. Now, granted, not all were runners. Many were walkers, some walking with groups of friends, some with grandchildren. But still, eight miles is eight miles.

I’ve been to major marathons where the number of women in my age group was nowhere near that number. Back home, I would need to draw a pretty big geographic circle before it included 89 women in the 70-74 AG who would come out for an eight-mile walk or run.

So, I’m saluting my fellow women age-groupers. Thanks for keeping me company out here on the roads. I am stillarunner – and so are you.

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