For the last few months, I’ve been posting when lotteries and registrations open for many popular races, including How To Register For America’s 15 Biggest Marathons. Lotteries for the three largest 26.2-milers—New York City, Chicago and Marine Corp—have come and gone. Registration opened Tuesday for the fifth largest, Walt Disney World Marathon, and three days later just 30 percent of the bibs remain unsold.
Time to round out the Top 5 with the fourth largest marathon in the U.S: Honolulu. Registration in now open for the 42nd Honolulu Marathon and Race Day Walk on Sunday, December 14, 2014 in the capital of Hawai’i.
Not only is the Honolulu Marathon the fourth largest 26.2-mile race in the U.S., according to Running USA’s 2014 Marathon Report, it’s also the ninth largest in the world with 22,064 finishers in 2013.
But it’s also got the most finishers over the 6-hour mark of any U.S. marathon at 10,032 runners or 45 percent of the field. The Honolulu Marathon also has the second slowest marathon median finish time at 6:07:32. Only the Baatan Memorial Death March in New Mexico beats it at 8:13:54, according to Running USA.
What makes Honolulu’s finish times slower than the Walt Disney World Marathon, where runners stop for photos with Disney characters? No cut-off time. That’s right. Unlike Disney, the Honolulu course stays open until the last entrant crosses the finish. So it’s especially popular with first-time marathoners and walkers who might get caught by sweep buses in other races. The race also has the largest number of finishers in the 60 and older age group with 3,261 runners in 2013.
But the course is no cake-walk. Largely flat with two 100 ft. climbs, the Honolulu Marathon can also be windy and hot with temperatures in the mid-60s at the start, climbing into the 80s by 10 a.m.
Runners who brave the 5 a.m. start, however, are in for a scenic course along the coast that also goes through downtown Honolulu and past some of the city’s most famous spots like Waikiki Beach, Iolani Palace and Diamond Head.
The race weekend also includes the four-day Honolulu Marathon Expo, an all-you-can-eat Friday night luau, an untimed 10K Race Day Walk, and a race day concert.
Despite the median finish times, the Honolulu Marathon has some fierce elite competition thanks to a $40,000 first place prize and big time incentives. A new course record nets an extra $15,000, and finish times under 2:15 for men and 2:31 for women net extra dough, up to $10,000. So expect a legion of fast feet at the front. Past winners include current marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang and Olympian Jeff Galloway.
For travelers, the Honolulu Marathon doesn’t have just a single host hotel, but an entire group. Outrigger Hotels & Resorts is the official hotel group of the Honolulu Marathon with seven properties offering discounts to runners. Many of the Outrigger properties are within walking distance of the downtown start and finish in Waikiki.
GoHawaii.com is a great resource for travel to the Aloha State, with plenty of ideas for what to do while you’re not running 26.2 miles. They sponsored and helped me plan my trip to the 2013 Kaua’i Marathon. In addition to the race, I also went horseback riding, zip lining, snorkel sailing, hiking, running in other locales and much more. Yep, I even spent some time relaxing too—on the beach, at the pool and at the spa. I’ve been to 35 countries around the world. Yet, Hawai’i remains my favorite destination.
If you want to run the Honolulu Marathon, don’t sweat a sell out. It’s unique among the world’s biggest races in this regard; the race has no registration cap. In keeping with the Aloha spirit, Honolulu is come one, come all. You can even register at the expo up until 5 p.m. the day before the race. So there’s no danger that this one will sell-out.
But like many races, the earlier you register, the cheaper it is. And no doubt you’ll want to plan your trip to Hawai’i (unless you’re lucky enough to live there) well in advance. Registration for the Honolulu Marathon is $185 for U.S. and Canadian residents and $230 for international runners until October 10, when tiered pricing kicks in. Now until April 27, get 25 percent off registration with code EMOPT25.