Finishing Strong


It’s the last stop for Great Aloha Run co-founder Carole Kai Onouye, who’s making her final race as event organizer one to remember.

The state’s greatest run of all is back this month, and it marks a milestone year for co-founder Carole Kai Onouye.

After nearly four decades of spearheading the event, the woman who’s been the face of the fundraising race effort is stepping down. When the 39th annual Hawai‘i Pacific Health Great Aloha Run comes to a close Feb. 20, Kai Onouye will finally be able to take a step back from the annual responsibility. She’s even looking forward to traveling more with husband Eddie and taking walks with her pup Charley Girl.

But, that doesn’t mean you won’t see her around.

“I’m still going to be supporting it monetarily and coming around and visiting,” assures the founder of Carole Kai Charities Inc. “I can’t run, but I walked it in 2 hours and 5 minutes at a slow pace.

“Everyone ran past me,” she adds with a laugh.

As someone who’s participated in the Great Aloha Run for all 39 years — plus the Carole Kai Bed Race (1974-1994) — Kai Onouye also has some great tips for those getting into training mode for the upcoming event.

Racers take off at an early iteration of the Great Aloha Run. This year’s event takes place Feb. 20 in person or virtually. PHOTO COURTESY GREAT ALOHA RUN

“If people want to start a health regimen, walking is the easiest and best because you’re outside and moving your legs in the fresh air,” she shares. “Your heart is pumping, and you can also do it with other people, so it’s a social thing, too.”

That camaraderie plays out each year at the Great Aloha Run. Families, co-workers and friends participate as groups and have fun doing it.

Carole Kai Onouye at the inaugural Great Aloha Run in 1985. PHOTO COURTESY GREAT ALOHA RUN

“It’s a fun, festive kind of tradition that a lot of them look forward to,” adds administrator/event coordinator Claire Nakamura Rochon, who will soon be one of those to take the reins from Kai Onouye.

“For one family, the grandma is 101 years old, and they push her all the way. They come every year because it’s around her birthday.”

Carole Kai Onouye at the inaugural Great Aloha Run in 1989. PHOTO COURTESY GREAT ALOHA RUN

And, just like the state in which its resides, the Great Aloha Run welcomes everyone: all ages, all skill levels, those in wheelchairs or hand-cycles, military members, visitors and more. In fact, that mindset is where the event gets its race philosophy of “ke kukini me ke aloha pau‘ole” (the race with compassionate love). There’s also still a virtual race option in place for those unable to participate in-person on Feb. 20.

While the social element of the Great Aloha Run is a huge drawing point, it’s what the race does behind the scenes for the local community that event organizers are most proud of. Since its inception in 1985, the 8.15-mile foot race and its participants have raised more than $16 million for 150-plus nonprofits. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

Carole Kai Onouye and her walking partner, Charley Girl. PHOTO COURTESY CAROLE KAI ONOUYE

This year, in addition to the numerous nonprofits that will benefit, the Great Aloha Run has partnered with Nulo Pet Food, which has pledged to donate up to 14,000 pounds of pet food to local animal shelters and rescue organizations. For each human signed up to race (in person or virtually), the company will donate a meal for a pet.

Kai Onouye at one of the early Great Aloha Run events. PHOTO COURTESY GREAT ALOHA RUN

“Pets have extremely healing properties for people,” explains Nakamura Rochon, who noted at press time that the Great Aloha Run was nearly halfway to meeting Nulo’s goal. “There are so many good things about pets, and we felt like that was worthy to talk about and be part of our whole initiative of fitness and wellness.”

So far, thousands have already registered for the 2023 Great Aloha Run, and Kai Onouye is excited to see thousands more do so in the coming weeks.

“We just want people to come out,” she notes. “Even if they can’t finish, we have people along the course who can pick them up. It’s the participants that help us reach the charities. Without their participation, we cannot have the reach that we have.”

Learn more and register online at