Dr. J on Running

29 The North Shore Marathon, Haleiwa, HI

14 April 2013

This is the farthest I have ever travelled for a marathon. I woke up at 3am in Pompey, ate breakfast with my wife and dogs, drove 25 miles to SYR, flew 608 miles to ORD, ate breakfast alone, flew 4,254 miles to HNL, and landed at 2pm. I swung by Boca Hawaii to pick up my packet on my way to the Hale Koa Hotel. Paula (who traveled from Colorado Springs to cheer me on), Amber (ACE 2007 stationed on island) and her husband Ben met me for dinner at Bibas. I collapsed at 8pm – 23 hours after I woke up.

On Saturday morning, I indulged in an Oahu delicacy – cappuccino, banana and oat cake at Starbucks. I drove to the North Shore of Oahu to check Kaiaka Beach Park, the site of the marathon. The 34-mile drive diagonally across the island took 52 minutes. I stopped at McDonald’s in Haleiwa for my second cappuccino of the day. I walked along the beach, watched the waves and psyched myself for Sunday morning.

I spent the rest of Saturday doing nothing. After battling traffic to get from the North Shore back to Waikiki, I alternated napping, walking along the beach and eating. My pre-race meal consisted of a thick juicy steak with roasted vegetables served sizzling on a skillet at a Japanese steakhouse at the Hawaiian Village. I retired early as the cloudy skies spitted and threatened.

I returned to Kaiaka Beach Park on Sunday at 3am, waited in a long line of cars to get into the park, parked my car, and waited. It rained on and off. The skies were pitch black. I met a group of Marathon Maniacs. We chatted. I drank water. I waited. I drank.

The wait ended at 5am, and we went on our way. We ran the first half-mile through the park in total darkness. I could not see anything, so I tried to stay in the middle of the pack and the middle of the road. The temperature was 74 degrees. I settled into a 4-and-4 shuffle, and enjoyed listening to the chatter around me. I decided to stay with the pack and forego alternating half-mile run-walk in the interest of nighttime safety. A calm peace fell upon me, and I felt close to my Creator.

We ran a first loop through the village of Haleiwa. The sun tried to rise through the clouds. We went through 5 miles in under an hour. I felt good and decided to continue running the second loop through Haleiwa. As it got light out, the colorful scenery of runners and nature enchanted me. I was in high spirits.

After two loops through the sleepy streets of Haleiwa, the course followed an 8-mile out and 8-mile back stretch along the coastal highway, turning around just beyond 16 miles. The two-lane road was open to traffic, and there were no cones to separate runners from cars. We ran on the shoulder where there was one, and hopped on the road when there was no traffic. The crown of the road was steep, and the shoulder was broken in many places.

I kept running despite the less-than-ideal footing. I hooked up with Marines Madison and Jon, and enjoyed their company for several miles. Around mile 10, CPT Paula met me with a Starbucks tall non-fat cappuccino. She looked beautiful, and the drink tasted heavenly. Banned from running while recovering from shoulder surgery, Paula came dressed in flip-flops to walk with me. We walked while I downed my drink, then handed her my empty cup, car keys, phone and hat. I resumed running and was very happy to reach halfway in 2:35.

After drizzling on-and-off early morning, the skies opened up on us. We were soaked to the bones. The shoulder of the road got worse, and I had no desire to twist an ankle or irritate my ITB, so I switched from running to walking. I walked deliberately from 13.1 to the turnaround at 16+ miles. Paula joined me for another walk, but abandoned me quickly when it started raining. A glorious full rainbow that started in the mountain and ended in the ocean greeted us near Dillingham Airfield.

A traffic cone and a water station in the middle of a mudslide marked the turnaround. I resumed running in the rain, and realized that I had little traction. The road surface was smooth, oily and slippery. I alternated running with walking whenever I felt like it, and followed no mathematical rule or pattern. I chatted with fellow sojourners, many of them local first-timers. The rain continued unabated for a couple of hours, adding a wet T-shirt contest to the competition.

The top of my calves felt tight, and my foot fracture ached in the rain. I developed abdominal cramps early on that kept me from eating my Powerbar. I skipped the Gatorade when I felt nauseous, and stayed with water. Otherwise, I felt fine. I swallowed two Ibuprofens around mile 16. For the first time in a marathon, I did not have to urinate at all the entire race.

The rain stopped eventually, the sun came out, and the heat and humidity soared into the 80s. Many runners struggled. I walked a bit with Abby, who fell eventually behind. I ran the final stretch in less than ideal conditions for this northerner, although many locals complained of the cold. Traffic increased as the natives awoke to their Sunday chores, so my walks in the ditch became longer and more frequent, dashing vain hopes of a sub 5:30 finish.

I crossed the finish line in 5:39 to the enthusiastic cheers of my captain and the polite applause of spectators awaiting some 90 slower loved-ones. I donned my medal, picked-up my finisher T-shirt, and grabbed my post-race meal. Never before had steamed rice with beef chili tasted as good. We sat on the curb and watched more road warriors finish. Abby stopped before reaching the finish line, and asked to take a picture of the back of my shirt that read “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.”

I took a cold shower before leaving the park, and enjoyed a guacamole dip and sirloin steak with Paula at Ruby Tuesdays. Then, I headed to the airport for the 10-hour red eye flight to Washington DC, while Paula prepared to travel to Japan to visit friends.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed his 29th marathon and 29th state at the North Shore Marathon. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2013 Dr Kamal Jabbour