by P.J. Salmonsen
Hawaii’s ultra history dates back to about the early 1970s. Some of the key figures in those early days included Bill Carrol, one of the founders of the Run to the Sun, and Paul Ryan, who set a national 100-mile record. He and Noel Murchie (Hawaii’s female mentor in ultrarunning) were the first ultrarunning couple on the Islands. Noel still holds the 50 and over age group record for Run to the Sun.
Others include Max Telford, Badwater finisher, Johnny Faerber, a Western States buckler, Jim Gallup, an early record holder at 50 miles, and Sam Wong, heart rehab patient who starred at the Hawaii Kai Primo 100 Mile. At the end of ‘70s, Ed Fishman set a 55 to 59 age group record for 100 miles, and later a six-day race in New York (Sri Chimnoy) that still stands for 70-year age group.
Ultrarunning in Hawaii gained steam in the 1970’s with the advent of the Run to the Sun (a race of 36 miles from sea level to 10,000 feet), the Schofield 50 Mile (a five-loop road run), and the Primo Ultras (later called Hawaii Festival of Running, 100 km and 100 miles). The Kona Ironman Triathlon, now world famous, was born out of a casual meeting at a local Kaneohe restaurant, two blocks away from current HURT headquarters. City Lights, with a choice of 50 km, 50 miles, 100 km, or 12 hours, run on an eight-mile city block loop on Halloween, encouraging many new ultrarunners to enter the sport.
In the 1980s , Doctor Jim Budde began a 10-year sequence of Ultraman Races, a three- day grueling triathlon on the Big Island, ending with a 100-km run. Thus, the Saddle Road run 100 Km was born, a very demanding 100-km from Hilo (sea level) to Waimea (8,000 feet) on the Big Island.
In 1984, Steve Sobaje, another Run to the Sun founder, and who still holds the record at 4:45, qualified for the Olympic Trials with a 2:18 marathon. He is remembered by many for his Groucho Marx nose and glasses disguise, worn after his races. Amazingly, Steve did not start running until his senior year in high school. His coach was David Sakugawa, the third of the three Run to the Sun founders.
Soon, local runners banded together for “road trips” to join the international running scene, and HURT was born. Interest shifted to running on the trails. HURT traveled to American River, Western States, the Double 49’r, Angeles Crest, Arkansas, Vermont, Old Dominion, Barkley, Lewis and Clark, and even Russia for the 10-day Golden Circle Supermarathon.
The 1990s brought Kawika Spaulding’s around the Big Island five-day race, as well as his Maunakea trail run, a 100-km around the circumference of the mountain, a very special run that took exceptional care of their runners, for all of their needs. The last aid station with two miles to go, offered Scotch on the rocks to make the last two miles happy.
The current ultrarunning scene in Hawaii still includes Run to the Sun in March, Saddle Road 100 Km in May, the 50-km Triple Trek on Labor Day weekend, the 12-Hour Roots and Rocks in June, Molokai 100 Km, a road run in October, My Island B&B 50 Km on the slopes of Maunaloa, and finally, Hawaii’s first 100-mile trail run, the HURT 100, which takes place in January. The 20-mile loop course is technical and grueling, wearing on the legs and feet course. At least you can enjoy the other runners frequently as they figure-eight and crisscross along the course day and night. There is a 36-hour cut-off. And the three aid stations are great!
There are about four or five running clubs spread out over the islands, and one ultrarunning club, Hawaiian Ultrarunning Team, or HURT. HURT has been responsible for most of the ultra runs since the late ‘80s, and more recently, promotes Run to the Sun, Triple Trek, 12-Hour, a trail series from January to June, and finally, HURT 100 mile, with its fourth year coming up. Membership has broadened nationally, and internationally, due to the coveted “HURT shirt”, and certainly the “aloha” of its members.
Oahu ultra trail training runs are the best and quite versatile: some hard, some not, some steep, some wet, many with views, all with challenging footing, requiring the best knowledge of electrolyte and carbohydrate replacement for the longer more serious runs. There are also the short steep hour-long climbs that take you to the edge of the Koolau Mountains from the south side, that promise huge expansive views of the windward side: the ocean, small islands, and breathtaking peeps over the edge of the cliff that will leave you panting, or gaga at least! There are so many trails to explore just on Oahu; check out the trail runners and hiker’s websites for stories of the Kokokahi Spirit Dog, and directions to many trails around the island.
Our own HURT members love the Tantalus trails, which consist of a large network of trails in upper Makiki. Another favorite is Maunawili Trail off the Pali Highway, Kuliouou Trail near Hawaii Kai, Waimano Home Road trail above Pearl Harbor, and Waahila Ridge at the back of Manoa.
There are many more secret routes that any of the HURT folks would love to show you, including Kalalau trail on Kauai: about an eight-hour trip out and back on breathtaking shore line, and the Haleakala Crater, where you could spend all day, or several, seeing things you’ve never seen before. And come check out our aloha for all ultrarunners in the world!