51) Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon, Volcano, Big Island, HI, 16th Dec 2017

Time: 3:03:20 Place: 4th/87

We were planning a pre-Christmas trip to Hawaii. Looked at Honolulu marathon as it’s big and famous but ended up deciding to spend the week on Big Island instead.

Fortunately a new marathon had been organized for the week we were planning to be there. It was to be a small field (100 entries) and looked an interesting course, starting at over 4,000ft in Volcano and running downhill to the edge of Hilo at 200ft.

Having run my two previous PRs on downhill courses at Poconos and Boston (though less extreme) this seemed a good race to go for a PR.


Did a few track sessions and several longer runs with long hill repeats (1.1 mile hill, 250ft descent on Massachusetts Avenue in DC), pushing the downhills and recovering on the uphills, doing this 4 times.

Richmond had been a big confidence boost so I had high hopes if everything fell into place. Unfortunately I was laid up with a bad cold / virus in the couple of weeks preceding the race, which meant little running, and still getting over it when we flew to Hawaii.

Flew from DC to LA on the Wednesday night, had a few hours in a motel near the airport, then caught an early flight to Kona, arriving lunch time.

We stayed in Volcano at 4,000ft and about 5 miles from the start. I did a couple of miles on the Friday morning in the lanes around the Airbnb. Felt ok but not brilliant. We did a hike in the Volcano National Park which wasn’t part of any planned preparation, and in the evening drove to Hilo to register, along the length of the race route. Lots of downhill…

I’d predicted 3:10 so was given race number 5. Runner #1 had predicted 2:45. Packet pick up was in the lobby of a hotel, very informal and had a good chat with Bob Kennedy (one of the organizers). Told about charms for sub 3 hours, sub 4 hours and BQ.

Had a burger and fries from a vegan café in Hilo as a pre-race dinner.

Race morning

Couldn’t find bagels (or justify buying a jar of jam and PB) for my traditional pre-race breakfast so instead made do with a red bean paste bun from a local bakery, a banana and some coconut water.

Mrs P drove me to the race start, which was at a country club on the West side of Volcano, near the Volcano National Park. Restroom stop, then lining up in the road outside at the designated start point.

Race briefing interrupted by car coming through. Stood at front of group, alongside other low race numbers. Head torches on. Could see orange glow of volcano ahead which was probably the most amazing sight at a race start I’ve had.

Race goal, to run 6:50 pace which would equate to sub 3 hours. Expecting slightly faster pace at beginning and slower in the last few miles where the course becomes undulating.

The race

Started quick, into 4th place. Up to third at mile 6. Feeling good and faster than planned pace. Through half way sub 1:27 (my second quickest half marathon!) and started thinking about 2:58 which would be NYC qualification so didn’t slacken as much as I should have but decided to go for broke and see how my body coped.

Quads started to feel it about mile 16. Felt beginnings of cramp at mile 20 and overtaken so now in 4th. Coconut water from Kate at mile 21, run walk the rest of the race. Long last couple of miles as hot and into the wind. Could see third place in distance, not losing ground but not catching up. Could see goal time disappearing so aim became to finish in sub 3:05. Long straight section along dual carriageway seemed to go on for more miles than it actually was. Eventually turned for short section up back road to finish.

Finishing in 3:03 was good enough for 4th place and first in my age group.

Food and drink on picnic tables at finish. Hung around talking to other runners and waiting for prize giving. Great atmosphere with lots of local runners mingling with visitors. Very unique prizes for age group winners and lovely little medals.

Fueling: Gatorade and water from aid stations. Used gels for fuel (at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 23, coconut water at mile 21.)

Learning points

On reflection, very happy with time, given illness in build up. Fast course so could have run quicker with more conservative pacing in first half.


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