In The Running

Runners line the street along the 2017 Kaua‘i Marathon route.

The Kaua‘i Marathon and Half Marathon kicks off its 10th annual event Sept. 2, and that’s good news for athletes and local nonprofits.

People from around the world are joining those from Kaua‘i’s neighborhoods for a test of training and endurance in preparation for the 10th annual Kaua‘i Marathon and Half Marathon. This year, more than 2,000 runners are expected to converge Sept. 2 for a trek along the Garden Isle’s South Shore.

What inspires someone to wake long before the sun rises, strap on their running shoes, and endure a grueling mixture of blood, sweat and tears to cross the finish line?

Dozens of children gather at the starting line for the Keiki Run last year.

“It’s not an easy run, that’s for sure,” says 10-time participant Lisa Ledesma. “The views are amazing. It is just beautiful, (but the course) also makes you work hard, so I keep coming back to try and conquer it better each year. I love the challenge.”

The beauty of the course, the camaraderie amongst participants and sense of community support bring runners back year after year. After nine years of island-hopping from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i, Jason Florimonte and his family eventually relocated across the country to Florida. The across-the-nation move won’t stop him from competing for the 10th year in a row, though.

Kaua‘i Marathon and Half Marathon founder Jeff Sacchini surveys the course prior to the races.

“The commitment I made to myself, to the organizers, honoring their tradition, it’s not something I would want to miss,” he explains.

Mathea Allansmith, 88, echoes the sentiment. She began running more than four decades ago, but it wasn’t until she was in her 70s that she converted to power-walking. Now, she’s the oldest participant in the marathon.

“I think this racing is my fountain of youth. I do it because it’s fun,” says Allansmith, who also marks her 10th year with the event. “It’s our marathon. I love Kaua‘i and to have such a wonderful marathon (here) is excellent.”

Three-time marathon champ and course record-holder Tyler McCandless is hoping for another win this year.

The inspiration for the marathon began over a decade ago with race founder Jeff Sacchini.

“While running on Kaua‘i on a particularly glorious morning on the dirt road to Māhā‘ulepū as the sun was rising, my thought was simply this: ‘I wish everyone could witness this beautiful island and stunning scenery from my vantage point as a runner in an organized, world-class event,'” he states. “My only problem was, I had never organized a bake sale, yet alone a top-notch running event. But with the help of many, the idea morphed into a reality a few years later.”

Now, with 10 years under his belt, Sacchini has much to be proud of. The biggest accomplishments, he adds, are threefold: the charitable giving on the island, positive economic impact for Kaua‘i, and the fact that local runners can compete in a world-class event without getting on a plane.

The Kaua‘i Marathon and Half Marathon has had an economic impact of more than $24 million over the past nine years, and has given $120,000 to local nonprofits.

“(Through) dance, art and music, we aim to fill a gap and build a bridge into the future with children who believe life is to be loved and not wasted on drugs,” says Lila Metzger, director of Kaua‘i Underground Artists. “The funds received from the marathon allow KUGA to provide this service in a way that is affordable to the community at large.”

CrossFit Po‘ipū founder Aaron Huff, meanwhile, shares that funds they receive from the marathon, in conjunction with monies from their own Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run, allows their organization to offer free after-school programs — including free snacks, CrossFit training and more — in Po‘ipū, Kalāheo and Anahola.

The opening ceremony and Hawaiian chant at the start of the inaugural Kaua‘i Marathon and Half Marathon 10 years ago.

Another organization that benefits from the monetary donations is Hui O Mana Ka Pu‘uwai outrigger canoe club, which is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the sport of traditional outrigger canoe paddling through adult and children programs.

“The funds from the marathon help offset the price to compete in off-island races,” explains women’s coach Dana Miyake. “This gives us the opportunity to support a community event, which, in turn, helps us (reach) our goals of competing off-island. We appreciate the opportunity, and see this as a win-win.”

For marathon champ and course record-holder Tyler McCandless, the importance of community impact is paramount. He left his first race with a winning time of 2 hours and 23 minutes, but more importantly, with a close connection to the island and the race staff.

“I truly came back with the aloha spirit and wanted to give back to the sport and start a Keiki Run,” he says. “I helped start The Kaua’i Marathon Youth Running Program. After raising almost $5,000 for the program in the first year, we’ve given out hundreds of shoes and shirts to kids, done after-school programs, provided thousands of dollars in college scholarships, and hopefully have inspired some kids to love running!”

In addition to the Kaua‘i Marathon and Half Marathon, the sixth annual Keiki Run, presented by Wilcox Health, takes place Sept. 1 at Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa. For more information on the races and to register, visit