Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon Race Recap

The 2019 Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon

December 15th, 2019 – Hilo, Hawaii

We started our marathon journey with a tour of the bird sanctuary near Hilo. The Hawai’i Bird Conservation Marathon supports endemic birds of Hawai‘i through the Hawai‘i Forest Institute for the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC), Discovery Forest, in Volcano, Hawai‘i. It was a small private tour and very interesting.

The marathon is a small race consisting of 100 people starting and 98 finishers. It is also a Boston Qualifier and a FAST race. It has a small-town feel in a small town for a small race. The race begins at 4000ft in the dark and then it’s all downhill! We were warned that we had to stay on the shoulder and not run on the road because the police are watching! Headlamps were required to start and needed to be worn until the civil twilight (about 20 minutes). We dropped our headlamp at the first water station and they gave them back to us at the finish. (Imagine that happening in a big town marathon)

The tempurature at the begingin was in the 50’s which felt fantastic. All the locals were bundled up, and one guy even had gloves, long sleeve shirt, hat, long tights. He looked like someone ready to run when it’s 10f.

The race organizer (Alan Ryan) yelled Start, and we were off down the mountain. I kept it really slow the first couple of miles, just trying to get used to the downhill. Susan sped on ahead of me and only once took a short break, then passed me again. My goal was a 10-minute mile and try to hit 4:20. I said to myself, “Self, don’t go faster than 9:30” by mile 4, it was at a 9-minute pace, and in mile 5, I was comfortably running 8:45’s. “Strange how easy this is,” I thought to myself.

The race wasn’t all downhill. We did have some uphill stretches, but I think in the end, the uphill’s saved my quads. I ran for a while with a nice lady from Honolulu, and she really slowed on the uphill’s and sped up on the downs. I adopted this strategy and continued until we broke out of the shade at 16 miles. I remember saying to myself, “I love this race; it is so much fun, let’s do this every year!” I was still feeling really good at this point and pressed on.

By mile 19, I was overheating and feeling sick. I said to myself. “Well, once is enough for this, the heat sucks, and the slope of the pavement is started to get to me!” There were no bathrooms on the course, and I was told at the start we could go into the gas station at Mile 20 and ask for a key. I did ask at the aid station about bathrooms, and they said “Anywhere,”

Mile 19, I pulled over into the woods. This was my heat breaking point and my first 10-minute mile. After that, I struggled and walk and ran and yelled at myself—an interesting note about small races. You can talk to yourself, yell, do whatever you want, and no one is around to think you are a crazy person. I managed a couple of videos and a Happy Birthday video for my mom. (Another first for me and for a marathon). I texted my dad, tried to facetime with my daughter. I spent a good portion running up a long hill trying to get my podcast to play. All that helped to relieve the mental pressure of the oppressive heat.

I walk ran and had one more good mile, then walked more than ran. I passed quite a few people and said to myself to just run until you can pass the next one in front. Interestingly enough, I only was passed by one person that last 6 miles. Even with all my walking!

Finally, mile 26 and one last person to pass, I shuffled up and said, “Hey, let’s shuffle to the finish,” To which she sprinted on and finished 50 feet in front of me. The good news is I managed my heat sickness and was able to eat something. The downhill was not as hard on my legs as I thought it would be. The race was so much fun, and even though I dreaded the last 6 miles, I remember saying to myself at mile 24 that I would like to do another downhill race. Susan was there at the finish cheering me on, she finished in 4:03, and my time was 4:27. I was not far off my goal but looking back, if it wasn’t for the heat, I could have pressed on to a 4:10. Or dare say… breaking 4 hours again (It’s been 4 years!) I give this marathon a two thumbs up and 5 stars. Fun, small, local. Worth it.

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