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Whale sightings, sunrise over a dormant volcano: Maui has something for everyone

The tiki marathon

by Kimo Nevius

Maui Oceanfront Marathon & Half
Sun 20 January 2019

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For nearly three decades, the readers of _Condé Nast Traveler_ have voted Maui one of the top island destinations in the world. With unique Hawaiian culture, pristine beaches and lush jungles Maui — the second-largest island in the Hawaiian chain — has something for everyone, including runners.

Every January, the Maui Oceanfront Marathon stages races highlighting the island’s natural beauty. The day’s events include a certified marathon, a half-marathon, 15km, 10km, and 5km. There is also a “cookie run” on the beach on the Thursday morning before the races where the only entry fee is a pack of cookies, bagels, fruit, or a case of water to share.

The marathon begins in the resort community of Wailea at 05.00. For those who need a little extra time it is possible to start as early as 03.30, allowing eight-and-a-half hours to complete the race.

After leaving Wailea the course wends through Kihei, a beach town on the leeward slopes of Maui’s dormant volcano, Haleakala. Last year, for the first time, the Kihei section of the course featured a short run along the beach lit by tiki torches — a huge hit with participants.

Marathon runners next skirt the harbour town of Maalaea on their way to the pali (“cliffs”), the hilly section of the course that gives participants their first chance to see humpback whales. These mammals come to Hawaii every winter to mate and give birth, and Maui is among the best places in the world to see these magnificent animals.

Fifteen kilometres from the finish line the course flattens out again and marathoners join the 15km racers as they make their way along the oceanfront. They head toward Lahaina (“cruel sun” — the reason you might want to take advantage of that early start) and the finish line in Kamehameha Iki Park, once home to Hawaiian royalty.

Meanwhile, the 10km and half-marathon are both out-and-back courses from Kamehameha Iki Park that feature the same gorgeous scenery. For participants in the 5km and 15km, buses from the finish will take racers to their respective point-to-point starting lines.

Many visitors to Maui opt to go to a luau (“feast”) to explore Hawaiian culture and see traditional hula dancing, but Hawaiian traditions are also incorporated into the Maui Oceanfront Marathon races. Participants in the marathon, half-marathon, 15km and 10km are all blessed before each race by Native Hawaiian practitioners. These chants are guaranteed to give runners goose bumps and they make these races like nothing else in the world.

Coming to Maui isn’t all about pounding the pavement. On Sunday night after the race and then again the next evening, runners and their families can take part in a highly acclaimed sunset cocktail cruise departing from Maalaea Harbor. The ticket price includes drinks, food — and the bonus of whale sightings.

Maui has a tremendous amount to explore, from the world-famous Road to Hana to viewing sunrise over Haleakala crater. Come for a week or two and enjoy everything the island has to offer — including one of the world’s most scenic running courses.

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