A Spontaneous Run Up (and Down) Wilhelmina Rise

Wilhelmina Rise. Doesn’t that sound like the title of a Leonard Cohen song? It’s not. What it is is an incredible rise, somewhere between a hill and a mountain, lifting from sea level with a summit nearly four miles above the base.

Looking toward Wilhelmina Rise

I looked up at it many mornings and evenings during my stay in Kaimuki, an old and comfortable neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii.

In the mornings, there were times the clouds covered the summit of the rise. In the evenings, the twinkling of lights from homes blanketing the rise made me curious. The Rise is a sought-after location, but how inconvenient could it be to make it up and down those roads if you lived anywhere near the top?

One morning, my training plan called from a slow, easy seven miles. Curiosity won out. I read that the distance to the summit was 3.5 miles. Perfect. It might not be an easy run, but it would be slow.

There are two continuous roads to the summit. The first, Wilhelmina Rise, goes straight up. The second, Sierra Drive, meanders around the rise in a series of switchbacks. I chose Sierra Drive.

I didn’t find any other runners on the rise, only a few dog walkers and a cyclist who was making a valiant effort to continue peddling without stopping. I ran across a man bringing in his trash bin who gave me a look that said I might be a bit mad, but also gave me a ‘bravo.’

Near the top, I was startled to see a gated, well-landscaped nursing home and rehabilitation center. It seemed an odd location, way up here in the clouds, although the views would be beautiful on a clearer day. I later read that it was originally a family mansion and estate and was then donated by the owners to serve as a hospital.

In spite of the cloud cover and occasional drizzle of rain, the views were still astounding. There is a community center and park at the very top of the ridge. Anyone further down the hill is going to have a workout if they walk to the park.

I’ve read there is also a trailhead for a hiking trail at the top of the summit, but I didn’t run across it. I also heard that some cyclists load their bikes on the bus that runs up the hill. Then, from the top they cycle down.

The run down was at a slightly faster pace, although not much. With both the ascent and descent, I knew I would feel my quads the following day.

At one point, I mistakenly turned on the straight up-and-down Wilhelmina Rise and immediately had regrets. It was nearly unrunnable. Thankfully, it intersected with Sierra Drive in just a few blocks and I was back on a less demanding downhill.

Finally back on flat streets, I was off for a quick shower and a well-earned breakfast at Coffee Talk.

What was your last spontaneous run? I hope it was as interesting and challenging as mine.

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