Hapalua Half Marathon Race Report


There is nothing better than ditching the thermal pants and layers of shirts and doing the first run of the year in shorts and singlet, except doing so in Hawaii.

I have just returned from my second "Hapalua".   The Hapalua Half Marathon is held on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii  in the spring.    The race is young, however it is held by the experienced crew responsible for the Honolulu Marathon so one doesn't know the race is just 4 years old.


Here is a write-up for those interested.  Two years ago, this event was my 1st Half Marathon.  Since then the race has experienced some growth.  Just this year, attendance was up by 46% with just over 6000 runners. 


There are several reasons the race has seen growth.  The organizers seem to be social media ninja's and do a great job posting and selling the race.  The race format has a unique feature called "The Chase" (more on this in a bit).  Another reason is the location and timing of the race.  It's hard to say no to a race in Hawaii after a winter of training runs in bone chilling weather.


Two years ago, I was attracted to the race because of a snazzy video.    The organizers make use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and some video services (YouTube, Vimeo).  Here is the link to the 2015 Hapalua promo video.   The social media usage keeps you involved up to and after the race.  This serves as additional motivation as you feel so much a part of the event.  This year they offered training shirts for early registration.  They post many race and event photos to Facebook and this draws one into the event.


The event organizers want to provide excitement at the finish line.  They do this by "The Chase".   The Chase involves 24 invited elite Hawaiian runners and 3 world class professional runners (Kenyans).  The elite Hawaiian runners get a handicap and start anywhere from 7 to 20 minutes ahead of the Kenyans.   The idea is that based upon the Handicap times and the best PR times of the Kenyans there is a bunch of runners together racing at the end for the finish line.  This year, the Kenyans who started with everyone else twenty minutes behind the first elite Hawaiian runner, managed to run everyone down who started before them and Peter Kirui won with a time of 1:04:08.   Nicholas Kemboi finished second with a time of  1:04:09.  The first elite runner finished with a time of 01:12:14.


A little about the location of the race, it's in Hawaii!  Now don't misunderstand, I like Edwardsville very much.  However….Hawaii.  This is the ideal place for a destination run as there is plenty to do in addition to the race.  There is also rest and relaxation on the famous Waikiki beach. 



This year there was a Social Run with the pros and several of the elite Hawaiian runners (team Hawaii).  I was fortunate to run with the pros and keep up.  Of course that was just the pros being polite.  Afterwards we were able to interact and make new friends.  The Social Run is something for those doing the Hapalua to watch for and attend.  


The race starts at 6:00 am on Kalakaua Ave in Waikiki just before sunrise.   For those staying in Waikiki, getting to the start and finish line is an easy walk.  The sun rises around 6:30 and this is when the heat starts.   One can become acclimated to the heat, however I was not one.  Race start temp was 72 degrees with finishing temp in the mid 80's.  There are plenty of water and Gatorade stations with energy gels at mile 9.  There is professional photography offered along the course by FinsherPix photography.  New this year was the giant video screen on a time delay in the finisher village so after finishing and getting your medal you could watch yourself finish on the giant screen. Just after finishing the race you receive your Finisher Medal.  There is no time limit on the race.  From the finish line you enter Finisher Village.  Here you can get the traditional post race bananas or some Hawaiian treats like Shaved Ice or warm malasadas.  There is also a stage with music entertainment.  Hawaiiann Henry Kapono kept us entertained after finishing. The course is mostly flat, after all you are starting at sea level on the Waikiki beach.   To be fair and truthful, there is that little hill just around the famous Diamond Head crater.  At mile 9, you are 39 feet above sea level, at mile 10 you are 190 feet above sea level.  You descend to 88 feet at mile 11 with another rise to 140 feet at mile 11.5.   From mile 11.5 to the finish all downhill. Hapalua Elevation

This may seem intimidating at first, but with some hill practice one can "own the hill". The course starts in Waikiki at the Duke Kahanamoku statue and head towards Honolulu.  You pass the Ala Moana park and the Aloha Tower Marketplace before you pass the Iolani Palace.  The Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in the United States and actually had electricity prior to the White House.  Near the Iolani Place is Aliiolani Hale, which serves as Headquarters of TV's Hawaii Five-O.   You return on Kalakaua ave and heads towards Diamond Head.  You are rewarded after the Diamond Head Hill with a beautiful view of the Pacific ocean.  There is some entertainment along the route and some spectators to cheer the runners on. Some things to keep in mind when planning to run the Hapalua Half Marathon include travel and recovery time.   Make sure to plan to arrive in Hawaii well in advance of the race to allow the body time to get used to the weather and the time change.  While tropical breeze from the ocean feels refreshing when lounging, it's hard to notice while running.   Its important to stay hydrated. 



Pros about this race

  • shaved ice
  • malasadas
  • Entertainment - Henry K.
  • Closed Course - No Traffic
  • Water Station every Mile
  • Course marked well (every 1K & Miles)
  • Chipped Timed
  • Medal 

 Things to improve

  • No Corals
  • Limited Entertainment
  • Gear Check


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