Finishing the Honolulu Marathon on your bucket list? Just do it
BY GAYLE ODA
The first time I did the Honolulu Marathon, in 2010, I signed up really early to get in cheap (it was $20) because my friend and I decided to do it together. It was something we had both wanted to do for a long time, but until we became friends we never had anyone to do it with.
My family, on the other hand, thought I was out of my mind.
So what started out as, “Oh well if we decide not to do it, we’d only be out $20” became, “I need to finish because my family thinks I’m insane.”
So, I did it. And it was the hardest thing I had ever done.
I was trying not to make a big deal about it and told my family that they didn’t need to come to the finish line. It took us nearly 12 hours to get there. When you take that long, the route changes slightly because the roads that were closed are being opened up. Most of the volunteers have gone home and the water stations are no longer being manned.
We saw the big finish sign up ahead and had to stop for a moment and laugh because as we got closer we realized that they were taking that down too.
And when we finally did cross that finish line, well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad that my family wasn’t there. I thought to myself, I’m never doing this again.
Trying it again
This time I went with two other friends. We all started together, but we had an understanding that we’d go at our own pace and if we got separated we’d meet up again at the end.
Because I was on the course for so long again, I experienced the opening of the roads and no volunteers. But this time, there were residents still cheering us on from their garages. One guy ran into his house and got me a can of some orange-flavored energy drink. Now, under normal circumstances, I would not have accepted this from a stranger. But I made an executive decision that day. A few houses away, while I was on my phone checking in with one of my friends, another friendly person began spraying my calves with Satohap spray. I was caught off guard with that one, but I just laughed and thanked her.
I finished in just over 11 hours and my family and friends (including the one I did the first marathon with) were there at the finish line with signs. It was so awesome to see them.
That was an emotional one for me, and I told my husband that I was done. No more marathons.
(I had also encouraged four other people in my unit at work to sign up at the $26.20 early bird price; no one got injured but only three out of the five of us completed the entire race. I was so happy to be among the finishers.)
One last time
My final race was in 2012. As soon as I got the email for the early bird entry, I entered and so did my two friends from 2011.
Then I had to tell my family. And yes, I got the same dramatic response, which included, “I thought you said last year was your last.”
But I realized I needed to do it. I knew I could have done better, and I wanted to prove that to myself.
That last marathon was a rough one mentally. There were so many times I just wanted to quit, but I didn’t.
Throughout the event, I asked myself how I was holding up physically (how’s my back feeling, how are my feet feeling). Because I was fine physically, I knew what was stopping me was something in my mind. And I wasn’t going to give in to it.
I remember the stretch getting on to Kalanianaole Highway heading out to Hawaii Kai, I was walking next to someone that flew in from the Big Island. She asked me how far before we turn around and start heading toward the park. I felt really sorry for her because that stretch is a long one — and then you have a loop that seems to go on forever before you get back on Kalanianaole to go back toward the finish line.
But here’s how I responded: I told her don’t think about it, just keep moving forward and don’t give up. I think I was telling her all the things that I needed to hear, too. I just stared at the ground for a while trying to get my thoughts of quitting to go away, then I looked up and right in front of me was my friend and her son. I needed to see them so badly and it kept me going for the rest of the race.
My friend and I ended up crossing the finish line together and again my family was there with signs. I have to say though that because my time was better the roads were still closed and the volunteers were still out. It was a totally different experience in that respect.
This time I told everyone I talked with at the park after the race that this was definitely my last one. I don’t believe I could have had a better ending to my marathon career.
Gayle Oda is an analyst at HMSA. She’s proud to say she’s a three-time Honolulu Marathon finisher, and she’s also happy to have moved on to other sorts of physical activities (like Zumba!). Oda sees seeking well-being as a journey — one she’s on with friends.