From now until December 8, there are dozens of races and fun runs designed to get you in the right head space — and physical shape — to cover the 26.2-mile course that stretches from downtown Honolulu to Hawaii Kai in East Oahu then back to Kapiolani Park in Waikiki.
“We have the best weather to run all year around,” says Valerie Ogi, an avid runner who sits on the executive board for the Honolulu Marathon Clinic, which, since 1974, has trained tens of thousands of beginning runners through their first marathon. “And right now is a good time to start training.”
Chet “the Jet” Blanton, owner of the training group Team Jet Hawaii, says first-time marathon runners should get moving now. “You should start training about six months out,” says Blanton, who has 45 marathons and 80 ultramarathons under his hydration belt.
So, here are five great running routes on Oahu to get you inspired to train for the marathon — or just get you going this summer.
Around Diamond Head, running route is 4.6 miles
With views of the southern coastline, this loop around the iconic Leahi (Diamond Head) is one of the more scenic runs outside of Waikiki. And this route is part of the Honolulu Marathon course, so getting familiarized with it will only help you come race day. Start at Kapiolani Park — with metered parking and restrooms — and run east up Diamond Head Road, where you can stop at the lookout and watch the surf or, during certain months, migrating humpback whales. Then circle around the crater, down Monsarrat Avenue and back to Kapiolani Park. On Saturday mornings, you can start at Kapiolani Community College, which hosts one of the island’s largest farmers markets from 7:30 to 11 a.m. for a vibrant start to your training day.
Ala Moana Beach Park, 2 miles (3 with Magic Island route)
With lots of free parking, restrooms and safe pathways within the park, this route has long been a popular spot for runners, mostly due to a paved running path right along the beach and through the park. It’s a busy beach park, and on any given day you’ll see triathletes training for upcoming races, fitness boot camps in progress, and stand-up paddle boarders sharing the water with swimmers. And the stretch along Ala Moana Boulevard is part of the Honolulu Marathon course. If you want an additional mile of running (plus sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head), add the route around Magic Island.
Lanikai Loop, 2.4 miles
While you can’t see the award-winning Lanikai Beach on this loop in the upscale neighborhood in Kailua, you can cover almost two and a half miles on this mostly flat course, then head down any of the beach access roads on Mokulua Drive to relax on the picturesque sandy shore. Park at the nearby Kailua Beach Park and you can add another half a mile to the run.
Pearl City Bike Path, various
This two-lane bike path that runs along the coastline in Pearl City is a little-known secret of runners. Located about 13 miles west of Waikiki, this paved path runs from Aloha Stadium to Waipahu, behind residential homes, through farms and wildlife refuges and along the lochs of Pearl Harbor. Park your vehicle at Neal S. Blaisdell Park — with lots of parking and restrooms — and head in either direction on the path (though westbound is longer and definitely more scenic with the aforementioned sights sprinkled along your route). We don’t recommend running this path at night, as it’s not heavily used and crosses through some remote industrial areas.
Tantalus, 10 miles
Hardcore runners take to Tantalus, an extinct cinder cone that overlooks Honolulu and reaches 2,014 feet at its summit. It’s a brutal uphill run that attracts not only runners but cyclists and hikers as well. The run up Tantalus Drive and down Round Top Drive — all paved and with no sidewalks — takes you through tropical rainforests and groves of fragrant eucalyptus trees. Thankfully, trees shade nearly the entire run. Park your ride at the Makiki Pumping Station, a little park on Makiki Heights Drive. Walk about a mile to Tantalus Drive, where you start the 5-mile uphill trek. And be wary of vehicular traffic as this is a residential area.
Photo Courtesy of iStock-SPrada