Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

As most of my staff, friends, and family know, I'm an avid runner. I certainly credit my running with cutting stress and keeping me healthy over the years. With few exceptions, I find that no matter where in the world my job takes me, I can find a place and time to go out and run. For many years, I've written about some of my favorite runs on my internal Sun web page, so I figured as I revisisted some of the runs I've written about I'd take the opportunity to update my writeups and share on my blog. Besides, I wanted a topic to create a new category on my blog and this seemed like a good one.

One of my favorite hotels in Hawaii is the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Other hotels may be more luxurious, have bigger rooms, or thicker towels, but the 40 year old Mauna Kea is the classic beach resort hotel with a beach that consistently ranks on "top 10" lists of world's best beaches. The bay offers perhaps the best kid-friendly snorkeling in Hawaii and the weekly clam bake is a must for seafood lovers.

The first warning to anyone planning a long run in Hawaii is be sure to hydrate early and often. Don't underestimate the impact of the Hawaii sun which rises early and sets late. Anyhow, on to the run. Exit the hotel towards the beach and turn left onto the cement walkway that crosses the expansive lawn between the hotel and the beach. At the end of the lawn, follow the paved service road marked "Exercise Path". A par course used to start on your left about 100 yards up the service road, but as of summer 2004 has been wiped out by construction of a new "estate home" community. Luckily, the resort has kept a paved path between the new community and the golf course. After half a mile you will reach the Hapuna Beach Hotel, sister property of the Mauna Kea. Continue along the roadway just past the Hapuna parking lot where you will turn right on a access road marked "Beach Access". The road is actually barricaded just before the small (now closed) beach access parking lot, but continue past the first barricade, along about 100 feet of roadway, past another barricaded onto the real one lane beach access road. This road meanders across old rolling lava fields for another mile before T'ing into the Puako Beach road. Turn around here and you have a good 4 mile workout.

Warning, don't go farther than the Puako Beach road during a midday run without water unless you are really sure what you are doing. You'll be surprised how quickly you can become dehydrated in the hot Hawaii midday sun. The beach access road has little if any shade. However, if you want to keep going, turn right onto the Puako Beach road and carry on. The road has a 25 MPH speed limit (radar enforced according to the signs) and small running medians on each side. BTW, I've never seen a real police car on the island of Hawaii, but when driving look out for Camaros, Mustangs, and all sorts of other policeman owned vehicles with "Hawaii 5-O" type blue lights strapped across their roofs. Back to running, at about mile 3 you will reach the Puako general store. Turnaround here and you will have what feels like a 10 mile run in more tepid climates. Continue on and marvel at the 500 square foot beachfront shacks sitting on what has become $1M+ lots next to modern $2M+ beachfront homes. So much for neighborhood compatibility. At about 5 miles, you will spot a sign that reads "road ends in 500 feet". At this point, you will be glad to know the sign is wrong, in about 200 feet you reach a gated culdesac leading to a few more oceanfront homes.

If it is midday and you haven't heeded the various hydration warning notes, be sure to stop at the Puako general store and beg for a bottle of gatorade, promising to return soon and pay double for it, as it will be well worthwhile. It is a long hot run back, with no other chances for water. After a week of running here, you will understand why they call it the Ironman. If you want to act like a local, order a "Fred" at the bar (short for Fredrico). Sad to report, as of my September 2004 visit, "Jim", the hotel's famed bartender for 29 years, has retired. Jim is credited with inventing the Fredrico and I miss his words of advice to many a happy Fred customer like, "no one has ever been known to die from one". This Bacardi, Jack Daniels, and fruit punch drink, served blended, it a hotel specialty. But as my wife reminds me, please jump into the ocean to cool down and wash off after your run before walking up to the beachfront bar to order one. Better yet, order two and share :)


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