Honolulu Marathon plans underway though future uncertain

HONOLULU — Organizers are planning for the Honolulu Marathon, even though it’s not clear government officials will allow it to be held in December.

While Honolulu is easing pandemic-related restrictions on large events, organizers are frustrated that neither Gov. David Ige nor Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi have given clear messages whether the marathon, one of the biggest sporting events in the state, can be held with the thousands of participants it normally draws, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

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Citing improving public health data, including rising vaccination rates and declining number of COVID-19 cases, Ige and Blangiardi announced last week that starting Wednesday, restrictions will be eased for road races, outdoor weddings and other events.

Honolulu Marathon President Dr. Jim Barahal told the radio station he recognizes the announcement was prompted by pressure to allow fans at University of Hawaii football games.

In 2019, there were more than 33,000 marathon participants, including more than 16,000 from Japan.

In a statement Wednesday, Blangiardi noted that new guidelines allow for road races of up to 500 vaccinated participants and staggered starts of groups of 25 runners.

“However, we are working with the State on plans for expanding capacity for the Honolulu Marathon, which is scheduled for December 12,” the statement said.

Blangiardi said he notified the Honolulu Police Department to prepare as if the marathon will happen.

“It has not been officially approved, but if conditions continue to improve I believe the Marathon could operate in a safe manner,” he said. “It would also go a long way in helping with the psychological wellbeing and our resiliency as a community.”

Barahal, a physician, said he’s disappointed Ige and Blangiardi don’t clearly allow the marathon to happen and don’t go as far as to encourage participants from abroad.

About 70% of the marathon’s revenue comes from Japan, through entry fees or sponsorships, Barahal said. After the first entry deadline, fewer than 200 people from Japan registered. Mostly Hawaii residents are expected to participate.

“We have a lot of planning to do to put on a major marathon and I thought it made it more difficult for us,” Barahal said.

Organizers purchased 20,000 masks for the race’s start and finish, Barahal said. Other plans include personalized water bottles so runners can carry their own fluid to limit human interaction at self-service water stations.

Participants could start at 5 a.m. in waves of 500 at a time, but organizers can’t spread them out too far because of the heat, Barahal said.

Other large marathons in Boston and Chicago were held recently.

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The Ironman World Championship, usually held in Kailua-Kona, recently announced it is moving the competition from Hawaii to Utah this year because of concerns about COVID-19 restrictions.

That event, along with the Honolulu Marathon, normally bring millions of dollars into the state economy.

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