I had the good fortune to combine a work trip to Hawaii with an extra couple of days in paradise, which included running the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 11.
In previous race recaps, I have focused on the race itself — how I performed, what others considering the race should know, etc. But this weekend was different. And this blog will be different.
Perhaps it was the time of year that got to me. Or perhaps it was just an all-too-real example of the circle of life. In any case, I kept reflecting back to a line from The Muppet Christmas Carol, when Kermit the Frog (playing Bob Cratchit) said, “Life is made up of meetings and partings.”
Meetings and partings at Honolulu Marathon
The day before the race, I had the pleasure to meet some current and former members of the Marathon Training Academy (MTA). At the race expo, I met former members Jenn Greenlee and Ed Loy, who both live in Hawaii and were running the marathon the next day. (Loy is now in the process of running a marathon in every state for a second time.)
Afterward, Greenlee and I went to visit Pat McCain, a current MTA member and client of MTA coach Angie Spencer.
McCain had signed up for the marathon but wisely pulled out due to an injury. We enjoyed getting to know each other, having a nice lunch (thanks Pat and Monica!) and chatting via Facetime with MTA’s Trevor Spencer.
It was a great way to spend the day before a marathon, getting to know people who I had been virtual friends with up until that day.
During the race, I looked for but could not find Greenlee and Loy — who surprisingly discovered upon meeting that they live a quarter-mile from each other. But it was no surprise that the three of us did not connect on race day. After all, the marathon attracts the fourth-largest field in the United States. This year, roughly 22,000 people signed up for the race and over 20,000 completed it.
A heavy heart in Honolulu
After leaving McCain’s home Saturday afternoon, I prepared for race day, grabbed a light dinner and got to bed early for the 5 a.m. race start.
And I thought about Darrell Henry, a 46-year-old runner from Arkansas who I blogged about previously. I had learned the previous day that Henry had been put in hospice and his time appeared to be short.
Henry had continually kicked cancer’s ass for about three years. He had lost his colon but not his will to live, run or inspire others. He filled his social media timelines with inspirational runs, even going 50+ miles a week while undergoing chemo; praises for other runners and updates on his health status.
But his Facebook page had grown quiet lately. And his followers took notice. His sister, Misty Henry, let us know about Darrell’s prognosis.
I never had the pleasure of actually meeting Darrell but was among those who counted him as a friend and inspiration. His decline in health hit me hard. But I summoned him for inspiration several times during the race, the same day on which he would pass on.
Cancer couldn’t kill him
“Cancer will have no victory here,” says Misty.
She said that, at age 12, her brother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that caused hydrocephalus. Darrell had a shunt put in place to equalize the pressure from the excess cerebrospinal fluid.
“The shunt malfunctioned — it was clogged somewhere and the fluid was not draining,” she said. “In normal health, still a major surgery; he had three of them prior — one to initially place the shunt and two revisions when it malfunctioned.”
But this time was different.
“In his condition this time, he was not strong enough for the surgery,” Misty said. “If he survived the surgery and they could even find a surgeon willing to do it, the cancer was advanced enough that he would gain only a couple of months of poor quality. His death was caused by the pressure on his brain. Cancer was certainly a contributing factor. “
An inspiring soul
During our interview in the fall of 2014, Henry told me about how he is inspired by the reactions he received from social media followers and friends.
“People often say my story inspires them,” he said at the time. “Whether they read it on posts on FB or elsewhere and to hear that inspires me to push harder. To never give up. Knowing they use my efforts to strive harder compels me to run farther and harder. I don’t want to let them down.”
No, sir, you didn’t let any of us down. Ever. In fact, you raised us up, perhaps more than you would ever know.
About the race
The 44th annual Honolulu Marathon was held on Sunday, Dec. 11. The race is centered around the tourism center of the island. In fact, there are several resorts within a 1.25-mile walk of both the start and finish lines, which are roughly three miles apart. Many runners walk to and from (which is what I did) but shuttle or bus transportation is also available in both directions.
The first two hours of the race are held in the dark. Afterward the sun bakes the runners but aid stations, every two to three miles, provide water, Gatorade and in some cases ice and cool sponges.
A highlight of the race is running up part of Diamondhead twice — at roughly Miles 7 and 24.
And there is no need to worry about your pace — there is no time limit. It is possible to literally walk the entire course.
Run this race if you …
Want to take in some epic scenery.
Don’t mind crowds or a slower-than-usual finishing time.
Need to check Hawaii off your 50-state list.
Don’t run this race if you …
Are seeking a fast, flat course for a PR or BQ.
Dislike running in the heat. After all, it was December and the race started at 5 a.m. when temperatures were already approaching 70.
Are afraid of the dark. The first two hours are run before sunrise.