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Runners making their way down Ala Kalanikaumaka Road as they approach the ocean front finish line. (Photo: Da Kine Images)
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Come for the Race, Stay for the Paradise

Experience the culture, traditions, and community of Kauai in an iconic island race for runners and walkers

Da Kine Images

Kauai’s tropical wonderland is the perfect backdrop for The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, which takes runners through one of the most beautiful racecourses in the world today. Participants glimpse sparkling blue water, pristine white sand beaches and lush mountains during the 14th Annual event on Sunday, September 3, 2023.

Kauai Marathon
Runners making their way down Ala Kalanikaumaka Road as they approach the ocean front finish line. (Photo: Kauai Marathon)

The race began with a vision from event founder and avid runner, Jeff Sacchini, while out on a training adventure in Poipu, Kauai. His passion was to create a destination marathon experience on the South Side of the island, and two years later it came to fruition. The inaugural event took place on September 9, 2009, and has continued to bring runners and walkers together during Labor Day weekend ever since. The weekend festivities now include a 2-day sports and fitness expo at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, Fun Run, Wilcox Health Keiki (children’s) Run and the finisher’s festival at Koloa Landing Resort.

The exhilaration of race day begins with the gathering of runners for the warm-up, and many participants’ beverage of choice, Kauai Coffee. As a side note, the ladies at KC are awake at midnight brewing up their finest.

Then it is time to toe the line, which is like no other in road racing. Fiery tiki torches flank the road welcoming runners while the blowing of conch shells signify the beginning of the day. A Hawaiian blessing followed by the singing of Hawai’i Pono’i always gives participants “chicken skin” as they prepare to embark on their own journey along the course. For some, it is a race for a personal best, but for others, it is a run dedicated to a loved one or cause, or a personal goal of completing something they never thought imaginable.

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Members of Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā‘ala prepare to blow the conch shells as participants shake out their nerves before the start of the race. (Photo: Kauai Marathon)

And that is just the beginning. Over 750 Kauai residents volunteer along the course to make sure that every runner and walker is cared for. Whether it is aid station helpers handing out water and electrolytes, neighbors cooking bacon to give participants that extra pep in their step, or a spectator simply giving a high five to keep someone’s spirits up, the island vibe and warm hospitality can be felt by every single participant.

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An enthusiastic volunteer from the Lululemon aid station cheers people on as they make their way to the finish line. (Photo: Kauai Marathon)

It also doesn’t hurt that along the way you are treated to a gorgeous Kauai sunrise, awe-inspiring views of the historic Tunnel of Trees, cheers from residents in the neighborhoods of Omao, Lawai and Kalaheo, as well as one of the most stunning oceanfront finish lines in the world.

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Casey Riggs and his eight-year-old son Seeley Riggs run their first half marathon together throwing shakas along the way. (Photo: Da Kine Images)
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The Tunnel of Trees, considered the gateway to Kauai’s South Shore is arguably the most iconic location along the racecourse. (Photo: Da Kine Images)
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The oceanfront finish line offers stunning views of Poipu. (Photo: Da Kine Images)

A truly remarkable experience along the course for participants is the sharing of Kauai’s culture and heritage through hula and music. For the 2023 event, organizers are honored to have 2022 Merrie Monarch Overall Winners Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā‘ala’s seventy-five musicians, dancers, artisans, and chanters along the course – something that you can’t imagine experiencing until it actually happens to you.

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Beautiful wahine share their aloha to runners along the course. (Photo: Da Kine Images)

The beauty of being part of a full or half marathon (whether you are a spectator, participant, volunteer, or organizer) is that every participant has a story to tell, and watching the diversity of people cross the oceanfront finish line is truly an emotional experience. From tears of laughter and joy, to shear exhaustion from pushing the limits of their bodies, their faces always tell their own unique story. But it doesn’t end there. As the participants make their way through the finisher’s chute, they are lei greeted with a beautiful medal to culminate their own personal journey. A few steps further and they are treated to ice cold beer, refreshments, live music, and plenty of love from friends and family.

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The traditional lei greeting at the end of the race is always an emotional experience. (Photo: Da Kine Images)
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Kelly Lauffer joyfully accepting her well-deserved full marathon medal. (Photo: Da Kine Images)
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Kauai runner Renato Desouza finishing his half marathon, winning his age group of 50–54-year-old men. (Photo: Da Kine Images)

And then the relaxation or exhilaration part of the post-race experience can begin, because you have just finished an extraordinary race on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The choices are endless…You can sail down the Napali Coast, zipline through a tropical rainforest, or literally kick off your shoes and lounge poolside at the Grand Hyatt Kauai and Koloa Landing Resort.

Just like choosing which race to run/walk throughout the year, your post event ritual is all about you. Aloha and we look forward to seeing you on the start line Labor Day weekend!

Register for the 2023 Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon here.

Lead Photo: Da Kine Images

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