2016 Maui Oceanfront Marathon

January 17, 2016
Wailea, Hawaii
Event website

State 49, there it is. Perhaps I should have saved Hawai’i for last since it was the last to be admitted to the Union, but in my 50 States quest I’ve flipped Alaska and Hawai’i in order. It was mostly a scheduling problem. I don’t like running in hot weather, so I wanted to run Hawai’i in the time of the year we typically call “winter”. It’s -3 F in New York. It’s in the 70s here. I didn’t have to think that much about not being at home in January.

But, I’ve been lazy lately. I haven’t had a long run since the New York Marathon. I did something to the arch of my right foot in that race and it still bothers me. I think I figured it out during this marathon though. I think I’ve used the same shoes throughout all of 2015 and the ten or so marathons I ran. Maybe I just need fresh shoes. That doesn’t help in the middle of the current marathon with the old shoes though. Fortunately, the Maui Oceanfront Marathon collects old shoes for the Kihei Youth Center.


The Maui Oceanfront Marathon is in January, it’s the sort of small event that I like, and it’s popular with the Maniac and 50 Staters. Not only that, Hawai’i has my favorite sports drink—coconut water with some pineapple. They sell it on the side of the road, even.


The race tries to beat the heat with a very early start at 5 AM way down in Wailea. The many (many) “nagging” emails from the the race organizers encouraged head lamps. Even though it would be a half moon, it was on the other side of the world and wouldn’t come up until the race was over. I wanted to get through at least half of the race before the sun came up and I mostly did that.

The first part of the marathon goes by some sugar cane fields, which was especially poignant since the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company announced last week that they are shutting down and laying off 675 people. The sugar industry changed everything about this island, and we ran past the last sugar processing plant. Curiously, I ran by a big sugar cane processing plant during the Auckland Marathon and then ran through sugar cane fields during the Solar Eclipse Marathon in Queensland, Australia.


But, like so many other marathon stories I have, once I get the direct sun I wilt. I was too warm even at 5 AM while the locals thought it was really cold. I barely managed my body heat with no sun and now I was baking. I didn’t have anything to prove today so I took it easy.


I took it easy for the second half of the race, meaning I stumbled along as best I could even while walking seemed to be too much effort in the heat. I dropped down to a run-walk. I thought I could do a mile of running and a minute of walking. I kept shortening the race portion. I even got to the point where I’d run from one cone to the next (about a telephone pole’s separation from the next) and walk the next. Even that was too much heat to manage. Would I be doing this if I wasn’t trying for the 50 States? I seem like a big idiot to keep doing this.

Mile 21 had almost all shade and I ran all of that without a problem, but after that I wasn’t feeling well. My body felt dry, which is a symptom of a heat injury. Between miles 21 and 22, I sat in the shade on the beach for a bit to cool down. That’s one of the attractions of this race: the highway tend to go right along the coast. For most of the second half, you’re 50 feet from the water.

I even thought about swimming to cool down. I looked for whales, which you can easily spot from the coast, but I didn’t see any while I waited. I did see one around Mile 23. Just one. That’s unusual. The day after the race I was sitting on the beach at sunset and saw over 10 humpback whale breaches in two minutes. That’s seeing a big humpback jump completely out of the water and fall back in with a bigger splash. The race route parallels a humpback highway.


The Maui Oceanfront Marathon is a quirky race with plenty of small things to mention. Here are some highlights:

  • The mile markers are miles to go, so the first one you see is “25 Miles” about 1.21 miles after the start. I didn’t like that first but I got used to it. And, my Garmin measured shorter and shorter as the distance increased. Maybe the watch got confused by the signs.
  • The aid stations are run by different groups and they can win money based on the votes of the runners. Many were school groups.
  • One aid station with young girls passing out the fluids had them wearing signs that said “Water” or “Ultra”. Now that’s cool.
  • One volunteer told me “last hill!” and I replied “They are say that but it’s never true!”. He laughed saying someone else told him that. Five minutes later I was going up another hill.
  • The finish is “435 steps” from the Banyan Tree at Lahaina Banyan Court Park. That tree was planted in 1873, but it’s not even one of the oldest trees in the world. There’s an older and wider banyan in India.

Now I’m one state away and I need to choose what I’m going to do to finish that. I have the opposite problem in that I have to find a race that won’t be too cold. And, I’m also thinking that I should make this the hardest marathon I’ve ever done.

Some travel tips

Here are a few of my travel tips.


Julia’s Best Banana Bread

  • Beware of anyone selling activity packages. The one at my hotel turned out to not know much and over recommended awful places. Ask your friends for their opinions and check Yelp before you spend your money.
  • Drive up around the top of Maui. See the Nakalele Point blow hole near mile marker 38.5 (there are signs and a parking area).
  • Check out the Hawaiian village about six miles north of that, but realize they don’t like foreigners.
  • In that Hawaiian village you’ll find Julia’s Best Banana Bread. It’s famous and there are plenty of signs leading you to the green treehouse. I bought some bread and lemonade and sat at the bar for awhile while many other tourists bought their stuff and drove off.
  • Avoid all the lu’aus. They are artificial and total crap. I got took. In particular, the Royal Lahaina is one to avoid.
  • Eskimo Candy in Kihei is a local fish distributor. I bought fresh tuna to cook for dinner. It was so fresh they had to bring out the fish butcher person to skin it and filet it so I could buy it. I’m glad I asked about it because it wasn’t on display.
  • Eat at the food trucks. They are cheaper, bigger portions, and better food.
  • The Whole Foods near the airport has good prices on bulk nuts and pineapple. Those can be pricey elsewhere, even if the Maui Gold pineapple is really good.

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