Kauai Half Marathon Course And Race Strategy

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

I found the finish line on my way home from the beach! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Aloha from Kaua’i! Sunday I take on the Kauai Half Marathon. After a week of active vacation in Hawai’i, I’m definitely ready for a good long run. I’ve gone for a few runs while I’ve been here: 8 miles on Kona’s famous Ali’i Drive on Hawai’i Island, 3 miles in Princeville on Kaua’i’s North Shore. But this is what I came here for.

I had a great first day at the Kauai Marathon race weekend.

I popped into the expo to pick up my bib and do some shopping. There I had a chance to chat with Runner’s World’s Bart Yasso and the Kauai Marathon founder, Jeff Sacchini. More on them in posts to come.

Then my husband, Phil, and I stumbled upon the race’s finish line. Naturally, we stopped to take some pictures. That’s going to be a showstopper of a finish line.

And then a film crew from Hawaiian Xtreme Sports interviewed me for a show they’re doing about the Kauai Marathon. I have no idea if any of my footage will make the cut, but I was honored to be asked.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

With the Hawaiian Xtreme Sports crew. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Before the trip, I decided not to race the Kauai Half Marathon, but to use it as a training run for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 20. I really went back and forth on this decision. I love racing halves, but I also really love taking it easy on vacation. Here was my thinking:

First, I really wanted to enjoy my vacation in Hawai’i without worrying about performing well at the end. That meant going hiking, swimming, running, horseback riding, and all sorts of other adventures, some of which I might have sat out on if I was going for a personal best later in the week. It also meant having a Mai Tai or two, something I wouldn’t normally do the week of a big race.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

Kauai Half Marathon course

Second, not only did I want to enjoy my vacation, but I also want to enjoy the race. I realize how lucky I am to be in Kaua’i for a race like this. I want to savor it. Take it in. Take photos if the mood moves me. I want to be a running tourist. I know if I was racing it for a personal best, I’d be too caught up in my performance to stop and smell the plumeria. And there is so much plumeria to smell.

Plus, when I’m racing a half marathon, I’m usually a zombie from miles 10 to 13.1. That doesn’t sound like a fun way to enjoy paradise.

Third, the course is tough. It’s not the toughest I’ve done; that distinction goes to the Yonkers Half Marathon in Yonkers, N.Y. with its 2,200 feet of elevation change over a course of deep rolling hills, including 1,100 feet of climbing.

But the Kauai Half Marathon is no joke. There’s 1659 feet of elevation change, with 825 feet of climbing. Basically, you climb from the start at sea level to mile 7.5, then cruise downhill the rest of the way into the finish back to sea level.

At the race expo today I had a chance to chat with Bart Yasso, Runner’s World’s Chief Running Officer and one of the hosts of the 2013 Kauai Marathon. He’s also running the half marathon and gave me some insights into the course:

“It’s a fast course if you don’t go too quickly in the first half,” he said. “You get rewarded with 5 miles of downhill—the good kind, not the kind where you have to put the brakes on.”

Here’s the elevation chart:Kauai Half Marathon elevation

I do like a nice downhill. So I’m going to take Yasso’s advice. I’d be foolish not to.

Even if I’m simply treating it like a training run, I’m going to go out slower than my usual pace and then kick it into gear in the back end. The course peaks near one of the most picturesque spots: the famous Tunnel of Trees.

Kauai Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon

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

“Get to the Tunnel of Trees feeling good,” Yasso told me.

Roger that.

Then he warned me about a “little, sneaky hill” just past the 11 mile mark. That’s the funny thing about little hills. You can run a small hill again and again, yet not notice it until you’re running it in a race or a tough workout. So I was glad to get this warning. There’s nothing worse than a surprise hill when you think it’s all downhill to the end.

Since this will be a training run for me, I’m baking it into a 16-miler. Conveniently, the start is 1.4 miles from the Grand Hyatt Kauai Spa & Resort, the host hotel and where I’m staying. So Phil and I are going to jog to the start, run the race, and then jog home the 1.9 miles from the finish. At least that’s the plan.

So here goes. Kauai Half Marathon, here I come!

The Hawai’i Visitors and Convention Bureau sponsored my trip to Hawai’i including airfare and rental car. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa provided me with complimentary hotel and race entries. But 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


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


08 2013

12 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Wow, this looks lovely. I think you made the right decision to not race it but to enjoy it! Have a great vacation!
    Sadye recently posted..Borrowing from othersMy Profile

  2. 3

    Have a great time at the half marathon. Looks like you have had a great vacation. I hope to get to Kauai some day and would love to run this race!
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..150 Miles of FunMy Profile

  3. 5

    I hope you had an amazing race, can’t wait to hear about it. I like your logic about treating this one as a training run. Sometimes it is all about the journey rather than the time.
    Kristi Raz recently posted..Thank You and Why Rest Is Not a Bad ThingMy Profile

  4. 7

    I suspect you nailed your strategy to perfection! And I’m sure a good bit of footage survived the cutting room floor – you’re a natural in front of the camera.
    Ewen recently posted..Wagga Wagga Trail Half MarathonMy Profile

  5. 9

    The run sounds absolutely gorgeous! I would love to do it someday! And I totally get wanting to have some of those Mai Tais while on vacation, literally just been there, done that lol. Can’t wait to hear how the run went and see all the pictures! I hope you had soooo much fun with it! :)

  6. 11

    This race looks amazing and I LOVE your dress in the picture with the film crew! Can’t wait to read your recap :)
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted..Camping Trip = Fewer Miles, But Longer Run Intervals!My Profile