I recently returned from eight days in Hawaii, where I spent time on both Oahu and Maui. I always try to run at least a mile when I travel to add the location to my Places I’ve Run list, and hoped to get in short runs on each island. I liked the idea of doing a race so I could also put Hawaii on my States Where I’ve Raced list, but I didn’t put much effort into looking and wasn’t particularly hung up on it. I’m not working to race in all 50 states (at the moment, at least), so it wasn’t a huge concern of mine.
Winter is whale season in Hawaii, and Maui in particular is a hotbed for watching humpack whales. Whales generally arrive around or after Thanksgiving and leave in March, so January and February are the peak months to see mama and baby whales swimming the warm waters off the coast of Maui. I went on a whale watching tour while I was there–another post for another time–and after getting off the boat, decided to continue another mission of mine: finding a pen for a coworker who had requested I bring one back for her from Hawaii. My whale watching tour docked outside the Harbor Shops near Maalaea Harbor, so after the tour, I headed up there to search for a pen.
Right below the permanent Harbor Shops sign was a temporary sign: “Run & Walk for Whales.” Immediately intrigued, I asked my travel buddy, “Do you think the race is this weekend?!” We wandered into the plaza and found more signage that seemed to indicate that the Maui Whale Festival would mostly take place the weekend of February 8 and 9, so I figured the race would be that weekend, too. When we saw a sandwich board that said “Packet Pick-Up,” though, I got more hopeful. We made our way to packet pickup, and lo and behold: the race was scheduled for the following morning! Totally thrilled at this turn of events, I paid far and away the most I’ve ever paid for a 5K ($55 O.O) and got myself signed up for my first Hawaiian race!
Run and Walk for Whales featured four distances: a 10 mile, a 10K, a 5K and a one mile. My ongoing plantar fasciitis situation led me to take a bunch of time off running, and I had only logged a few miles at all since the beginning of December, making the 5K the most viable option. Plus, I was on vacation! I didn’t want to put too much effort into running 😛
The race started at 7 a.m., which, given that sunrise on race day wasn’t until 7:02 (and that’s only sunrise, not sun-getting-over-Haleakala rise), seemed surprisingly early. Fortunately, I never fully adjusted to Hawaii time, so even though we had been there for a week by race day, I still wasn’t having much trouble getting out of bed early. We arrived at the race site around 6:30 a.m., got in a (gigantic) line to use the bathroom (no portapotties – the bathrooms available were the ones in the shop complex. Fine by me! I’ll never complain about access to running water before a race.), and then headed over to the start line. The race sent off the 10 milers first, followed by the 10Kers, and then us!
The course was a pretty simple out-and-back-ish, starting by running around the outside of the shop complex and spitting us out onto Honoapiilani Highway. I quickly discovered that the northbound (“out” portion of the course) part of Honoapiilani Highway is uphill, going from 15 feet to 147 feet over the course of that first mile and a halfish of the race. I wasn’t concerned about my time at all and was actually quite surprised to churn out a 10:02 first mile. Most of my running recently has been decidedly in the 11:30 range, and I didn’t think I had anything much faster than that in me, especially when running uphill.
There was an aid station at the turnaround, and then we got to enjoy a delightful downhill for the return to the Harbor Shops. Encouraged by the change in elevation, the sun cresting over Haleakala, and the time on my watch, I kicked into gear and ran the last mile in 8:36 (having done mile two, half of which was uphill and half of which was down, in 10:18). I was pretty sure I’d be able to finish in under 30 minutes, so I pushed it at the end and crossed the finish line in 29:44. Not my best 5K by a long shot–not a time I’d normally be remotely happy with, in fact–but given the circumstances (having logged a whopping 11 miles in all of 2020 prior to the race, finding out about and signing up for the race 13 hours before it started, being on the tail end of vacation, running in decidedly different conditions than what I’m used to for February, what with the hill and the temperature and the sun and the humidity), I was thrilled to break 30 minutes.
I figured it wasn’t impossible that I might have placed in my age group, given the size of the field, so I insisted on sticking around for the awards just in case. When they read off the awards for the mile run, I found out that the age groups were MUCH bigger than I’m used to (I was in the 11-29 age group, rather than the 25-29 I expect to be in) and thought that meant I wouldn’t stand a chance. Turns out that far fewer women between the ages of 11 and 29 (15) ran the race than those between the ages of 30 and 49 (52), and I ended up taking home second place! It sounded like they were going to email me a certificate to acknowledge this, but I haven’t received anything yet. No matter – I’m perfectly happy just knowing that I came in second. Also, thank goodness I’m not 30 yet: I would have come in eighth in that age group.
This was definitely the most spontaneous race I’ve ever done, and I really enjoyed it! It was super pricey due to our on-site signup (I don’t know how much it cost prior to on-site registration, though presumably not $55), but was a fun way to knock out a race in Hawaii and support a worthy cause at the same time. I don’t know that I’ll ever be back in Hawaii at the right time to do this race in the future, but if I am, I’d happily run it again.