Meet The Marathon Man Of Kaua‘i

Jeff Sacchini. Coco Zickos photo

Jeff Sacchini personally funded the first Kaua’i Marathon, and after the recent third running, the race is definitely ‘on the map’

Residents and visitors alike laced up their sneakers for the third annual Kaua’i Marathon earlier this month an event made possible by Poipu resident Jeff Sacchini, who founded the race in 2009.

“I thought there was a need, and frankly there was the opportunity to come up with a signature event that would bring people to this island to showcase its beauty,” says Sacchini.

The avid runner thought the island could use an economic boost.

“People come here anyway, they don’t need a reason. It’s beautiful enough it’s paradise. It’s one of the finest places in the world, in my estimation,” he says. “But it would be good to have an event that would have some sort of economic impact.”

Another reason Sacchini, who oversees West Coast operations for food distribution company Fresh Point, chose to entirely finance 2009’s South Shore race was to help perpetuate a healthy lifestyle.

“People sometimes need to be motivated by an event,” says Sacchini, who has three children, Hannah (20), Alexa (17) and Bissa (11) with wife Liz. “That’s what’s so beautiful about these events, it gives them a reason to want to exercise, to lose some weight.

“It’s also healthy for the mind,” he adds.

That’s especially true when people run for others, such as loved ones or charities.

There are hundreds of humaninterest stories that make the Kaua’i Marathon a nonprofit organization a very emotional occurrence, and Sacchini says it’s the most rewarding aspect of his experience.

Participants can choose to run or walk the half or full 26.2-mile marathon. This year, a $15,000 prize was split between two American men who ran the entire course in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Sacchini says it was one of the “larger pots in the country.”

An additional feature that sets the Kaua’i Marathon apart from others worldwide is its course, which showcases the South Shore, including Kalaheo, Omao and the tunnel of trees.

And there is no better way of finishing a marathon than beachside in Poipu, says Sacchini, who has been running “all over” Poipu for more than two decades.

Rumor also has it that it could be the hardest “road” marathon in the world.

“I can tell you unequivocally, this is a world-class event,” says Sacchini. “I got to tell you, from my estimation and from a runner’s perspective, this could be one of the best races in the world. It’s just incredible.”

Though he hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in the race itself, Sacchini enjoys waiting at the finish line and serving as the event’s ambassador.

“Someday I’ll run it, I hope,” he says. “But now there’s just too much to do and it’s still an intimate event, and I want to make sure everything goes perfectly.”

The sense of community and camaraderie he has been privy to during the event has been enough to encourage Sacchini that it will have longlasting status on-island.

“I hoped that this would take off as it has,” he says.

With some 2,000 competitors at this year’s event, it likely will continue to grow. Not only were 47 states and 13 countries represented, 60 individuals traveled from Japan to participate.

Plus, it has been a great opportunity for Kauai residents.

“It’s nice to have a local event that they don’t have to jump on a plane to go to,” he says.

It’s a convenience Sacchini wants to keep alive as long as feasibly possible.

However, the one hurdle he will have to overcome is finding more avenues of private funding.

“To really get an event profitable, or out of the red, you have to have corporate sponsors,” he says. “It’s been hard on Kaua’i to get businesses to support this event not because they’re bad businesses, but because there aren’t a lot of large businesses that can afford to write big checks.”

Although 10 local charities were supported this year, Sacchini wants to be able to provide more monetary assistance in the future, but in order to do so, the event has to acquire additional funding.

Nonetheless, he applauds the community’s support.

“They know it’s good for the island and they support it. I’m so happy about that,” he says.

It’s what motivates Sacchini to work on something that requires an entire year of planning.

That, and helping people achieve such a significant goal in their life.

“If you finish this event, you can really be proud,” he says.