Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon Childhood Memories

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon feature an ocean front start and finish. (Photo: Jo Evans Photography/DaKineImages.com)

Aloha! In just 10 weeks, I’m running the Kauai Half Marathon on September 1. It’s part of the 5th Annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon in Hawaii. Last year 1,829 runners participated in the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, coming from 45 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and 15 countries. This year, I’ll be one of them.

To say that I’m excited about this race is an understatement. Every time I look at the race photos, I get a little misty-eyed. I’m prone to sentimentality when it comes to races. Nothing makes me more joyful, more awe-inspired, or more grateful to be alive than running. And the photos of the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon course are so beautiful that I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to run there.

It might be because Kauai was the first Hawaiian island I ever visited and my first trip outside the continental U.S.

Kauai Childhood Memories

My mother took my sister and me to her cousin’s wedding in Kauai when I was 8-years-old. At the time, it was the furthest I’d ever been from home.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon, Hawaii

The pilot let me wear his hat and sit in his seat on the flight home from Kauai. Those were the days.

Every year, my dad took my sister and me to Florida, where he grew up, to visit my uncle. We’d drive down from Chicago, where we lived, and stop at fun places along the way like the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to see the famous Peabody Ducks, finishing the whole trip at Walt Disney World. We went to Washington, D.C., and New Orleans and all over the Midwest—Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and the like.

But Hawaii was a far-away place, the land of Magnum P.I., a TV show I loved. Who doesn’t love Tom Selleck, even as an 8-year-old in the ’80s? And I was a big fan of Hawaiian sweet round bread, a treat my mom would bring home every now and then from the grocery store. I’d even published a drawing of a hula dancer crying in Humpty Dumpty magazine when I was 6-years-old. (It was technically my first published byline.) Why was she crying? I have no idea. But I was enchanted by what I considered all things Hawaiian.

Best of all, my mom was taking us. My parents were divorced and my sister and I lived with our mom. We saw my dad many weekends and on those annual vacations to Florida.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

My mom in her Delta flight attendant days in the ’60s, when being a flight attendant had cache.

My mom did a lot of bootstrapping to raise my sister and me. We didn’t go on many vacations. We couldn’t afford them. So going to Hawaii with my mom was a special treat.

She raised me to have curiosity about the world. She is a former Delta flight attendant, who traveled extensively before my sis and I were born. The Travel Channel show Ultimate Travel did an episode called “Plane Sexy: Flying in the Jet Age” about Delta flight attendants back in the day. They used photos and videos of my mom.

She told us of her adventures as a “stew” or “stewardess” and all the places she traveled. She took us to the library, to Chicago’s many museums, kept a world atlas at the ready, and told me a million times over that the world was a big place, much bigger than the small suburb we lived in. She planted a hunger in me to see it all, to travel and explore and look at life as an adventure. She’s a big part of the reason I’ve sailed Tonga, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, ridden elephants through the jungle of Nepal, and all the other adventures I’ve sought out, large and small. She started it all with that first trip to Hawaii.

As a family, we went into austerity measures to afford the vacation. I remember my mother saying “No” to lots of things because we were going to Hawaii over Christmas. And I also remember not minding when she said “No” because I was so excited about the trip. I knew this was a special, one-time thing.

And the trip was everything I dreamed it would be. We picnicked on the beach, swam in the hotel pool, and saw our fair share of Hawaiian sunsets.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half-Marathon

My first Hawaiian sunset, over the “Forbidden Island” of Niihau.

I tasted mahi-mahi for the first time—which quickly became a personal favorite—and poi—which did not. I sipped fresh pineapple juice, something I’d never had at home, and fell in love with macadamia nuts. I got to wear a real lei and swim in the Pacific Ocean. More firsts for 8-year-old me. We saw the “Sleeping Giant” of Nounou Mountain, Waimea Canyon, Spouting Horn and the Tunnel of Trees—a 100-year-old promenade lined by eucalyptus trees.

And best of all, I got to attend my cousin’s wedding. She wasn’t a tourist who chose a destination wedding; she lived on the island.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

My sister (right) and me at our cousin’s wedding in Kauai in 1986.

I haven’t been back to Kauai since that childhood vacation. On subsequent trips to Hawaii I visited a different island each time—the Big Island, Oahu and Maui—all courtesy of my dad.

But I’m really excited to re-visit Kauai. Of all the islands, it’s the most beautiful in my memory. Maybe it’s sentimental. Or maybe it really is that magical. But most of all, I’m excited to run it.

The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon

The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon start together along the beach at Poipu, run through the tunnel of trees, and back down to the beach for a spectacular oceanfront finish.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon run through the Tunnel of Trees. (Photo: Jo Evans Photography/DaKineImages.com)

Entertainment along the course includes Hawaiian dancers, drummers, cheerleaders and more.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

Hawaiian dancers are among the entertainment lining the course at the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon. (Photo: Jo Evans Photography/DaKineImages.com)

Marathoners split at mile 11 for an out and back to Kalaheo. Both courses run through tropical rainforests, past volcanic mountain peaks and along the beach. They share a start and a finish along the water.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon finish along the water. (Photo: Jo Evans Photography/DaKineImages.com)

This time, we won’t have to resort to austerity measures to afford the trip. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa and the Kauai Marathon graciously extended an invitation to me to be their guest for the weekend, offering four nights hotel and complimentary race entries.

The Grand Hyatt is the official headquarters for the race. The Sports & Fitness Expo, registration and Friday morning Fun Run will all take place at the hotel. Complimentary shuttles will run from the Grand Hyatt to the start and back to the hotel from the finish at the Sheraton Kauai. The Grand Hyatt has special rates for runners traveling to the race, available through the race’s lodging page.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa (Photo: Hyatt Hotels)

Registration for both races is still open, though participation will be capped at a combined total of 3,000 runners.

As usual, my husband, Phil, will be joining me. We’re going to plan a trip that culminates in the race weekend from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. Phil has never been to Hawaii, so he’s in for a real treat.

We’re thinking of spending five days on the Big Island of Hawaii and then five days on Kauai. But all the details have yet to be planned. We still have to book our flights and other hotels. I knew I was saving up all those airline miles for a reason.

For now, race day is 10 weeks away. I’ll be using the Kauai Half Marathon as a training run for my fall marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 20. It’s time to get training for both races. Kauai, here I come!

The Kauai Marathon gave me complimentary race entries and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is providing four hotel nights. As always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.

Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runners’ show about running. She has finished six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla at RunKarlaRun.com, The Washington Times Communities, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a regular contributor to SHAPE.com, the host of NYRR's On The Run web + TV show, and a race announcer at events like the TCS New York City Marathon. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 20 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

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06 2013

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