A Marathon Of Divine Inspiration

Spectators cheer on runners Aug. 31 during The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, as the clock ticks away at the finish line | Jane Esaki photo

Spectators cheer on runners Aug. 31 during The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, as the clock ticks away at the finish line | Jane Esaki photo

Wake up at 4 a.m. to get ready and drive all the way to Poipu to watch no one I know run a grueling marathon? It’s tiring just thinking about it.

So why go?

Maybe I am looking for inspiration.

I pull into the Tree Tunnel off the main highway. It is still dark except for the stream of taillights and headlights around me taking the same left into Koloa town. Whew, I must be in the right place at the right time for the 6 a.m. start of The Kauai Marathon.

But, if I overcome one anxiety — leave it to me — I’ll find another one. I know where the starting line is, but will there be parking? Fear-driven instinct tells me to follow the cars ahead of me. Then, all of a sudden, as we near the starting line, one by one the cars start pulling off to the shoulder like a falling row of dominoes. Instead of panicking I copycat, and where I pull off conveniently becomes my car’s precious domain.

From here, I walk quickly to the starting line, only to be caught in a sudden downpour with no trees under which to hide. Drat! But a natural Hawaiian blessing it is, so now the marathoners are endowed with divine favor. Too bad I’m merely a spectator who simply got drenched.

I arrive at the starting line to witness emcees exalt, an anthem sung and a kahu perform the official blessing. The rain-streaked glare of bright floodlights illuminates the unprecedented 1,800-plus runners ready to bolt. The oldest is 84, the youngest, just 7.

After the last of the runners thunders past the starting line, I cut across some hotel grounds. I feel like a cheater sauntering over to the finish line as I meander through an enchanting orchid garden, plumeria-strung wedding arena and exotic water lily ponds. Upon arrival at the finish line, I sit on the seawall facing the blue Pacific and witness a few dawn-patrol surfers in the distance. Here, I envision the intrepid marathoners persevering the 13 or 26-mile race as I indulgently bask in the mellow dawning of a sunny day.

After only an hour or so, the first half-marathon runner sprints past with nary a perceptible strain.

Soon, others show their mettle. One runner, just moments before the finish line, seizes his leg and collapses on the road. A woman in the cheerleading booth comes to his rescue, stretching out his cramp so he can make it to the finish.

Many courageous runners show the extent of their desperation by the contour of their mouths. The even-keeled breathers keep their calm countenances while one runner gasps for air, bearing a most torturous expression that could’ve been a reflection in a warped mirror at a circus. I empathize mostly with her, for that would have been me.

Still another runner faces a dilemma, as two of his excited young children unexpectedly run onto the course and beg to join him as he makes the final approach to the ever-ticking digital clock ahead, above the finish line.

Then, a couple of women runners just walk past me. Walk? Their apparent nonchalance makes me do a double take. Why aren’t they rushing? Wouldn’t they want to make the best time? Perhaps.

But I am reminded here that the emphasis is not so much on who comes in first, last or in between. It is more about how each individual gallantly took on the challenge, put their best foot forward and strove to finish what they started.

Now that is inspiring! And thanks to the downpour, I too had been endowed with divine favor.