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Hal Higdon's 7-7-70 Quest - 6. Honolulu Marathon

Almost Over The Rainbow

THE MORNING BEFORE THE HONOLULU MARATHON, photographer Georg Deussen positioned us on Waikiki Beach for a family photo. We were sixteen: three children (and spouses), eight grandchildren plus Rose and myself. This would be our Christmas card.

Despite the mostly sunny sky, a light rain brushed my face. A rainbow began to form, arching into the ocean. A good omen for next day's run. I was running the sixth of seven marathons in seven months to celebrate my 70th birthday and help raise $700,000 for seven separate charities.

To assist me in my 7-7-70 Quest, my family decided to attend one of the marathons. What better choice than Honolulu? Luckily, Rose and I had a enough frequent flyer points to assist everybody reach the Hawaiian Islands.

Rebellious Fashion

Rose and I love seeing our grandkids. Our first morning in Honolulu Grandson Jake, age seven, appeared with a wicked grin on his face. "Turn around and show Grandpa," instructed his mother. Jake spun, revealing the numbers "7-7-70" cut into the back of his hair. I'm not a fan of rebellious fashion, but I gave Jake a pass on this one.
Holly and Angela take hula lessons

Holly and Angela take hula lessonsFriday night we attended a party at the home of Jack Scaff, MD, the cardiologist who founded the Honolulu Marathon in 1973. Jack has run each one since. His wife Donna demonstrated her hula dancing ability by teaching the movements to two of our granddaughters, Angela and Holly. The next morning she sent a pair of hula skirts to our hotel for the girls to Show-and-Tell their schoolmates after returning home.

While I can't match Jack's total, I had run Honolulu ten times, more than any other marathon except Boston. I've had mixed results: running 2:35 one year, dropping out the next. My slowest was 5:50 several years ago while leading one of the Runner's World pacing teams.

I arrived in Hawaii with no time goals; I just wanted to finish my sixth marathon and move on to number seven: Disney World, four weeks later. Son-in-law Pete Sandall from Plymouth, Minnesota planned to pace me. I warned: "I'm going to arrive late at the start, line up way back, and not worry about walkers blocking me."

Spectacular Start

Honolulu features the most spectacular start in road racing with skyrockets exploding overhead at 5:00 AM. Along to enjoy the scene were two grandkids: Kyle, 13, and Wesley, 10. They had been instructed by their father Kevin to, "run behind Grandpa, and don't get in his way!"
David cheers finishers

David cheers finishersThey followed instructions perfectly, peeling off at 5 miles as we came past our Waikiki hotel. My other son David joined us then, running to Diamond Head, Honolulu's landmark mountain, before turning back at 8 miles. Alas, Pete and I got separated about that point; it would be 10 more miles before I saw him again.

Looking back, my race could be broken down into four stages. There was the race in the dark. There was the race in the wind. There was the race in the sun. Finally, there was the race of survival.

The race in the dark carried me those first 8 miles to Diamond Head. I enjoyed running in the pre-dawn hours, since I couldn't see my watch to know how slow I was going. Nobody around me seemed in a hurry either.

The race in the wind started as we headed through Kahala and onto the Kalanianaole Highway. We bucked a stiff wind through 15 miles. But this helped cool us. I ran my fastest mile splits into the wind.

A Pig at a Luau

As we returned on the other side of the Highway with the wind at our backs, the race in the sun began. No more cooling plus the sun rose higher in a rainbowless sky. Like a pig at a luau, I was about to be cooked.

Thus began the race for survival. I caught Pete at 18 miles, but at 20 shifted into walking mode letting him go. Despite the slow pace, there were as many behind as before me. I would finish 10,918th out of 19,236 official finishers, my time slower than my fastest but faster than my slowest.

My family cheered from the sidelines as I ran past heading for the finish line. A volunteer hung a shell lei around my neck. Jake of the weird hairdo offered a hug. Our family spent the following week on the Big Island, sightseeing and sleeping. I was almost over the rainbow. Maybe I would find a pot at the end of it when I ran my seventh marathon a month later.

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