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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Marathon day traffic familiar to many

 •  Map: Sunday's Honolulu Marathon

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

KAHALA — Don't even think about going out in East Honolulu on Sunday morning.

Nearly 22,000 runners will take to the streets that day during the annual Honolulu Marathon, virtually shutting down most of Kahala and cutting off Hawai'i Kai to vehicular traffic for much of the morning.

One day a year, the marathon, one of the world's largest running events and the state's premier run, brings life to a halt in East Honolulu. The bulk of the 26.2-mile course lies here, primarily along Kalaniana'ole Highway, through Kahala and Diamond Head.

Residents have learned that it's a force to be reckoned with.

Altering their routines is something they have come to expect on Marathon Sunday. Most don't complain about it. They just know it's what they have to do for an event they acknowledge is important to Hawai'i.

Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church hasn't held a Sunday morning service on marathon day since the run began in 1973. Stores along the route such as Riches in Kahala Mall don't expect many customers in the morning. And long ago, Lucinda Pyles figured out that if she wants to go somewhere, she has to set her walk-drive, walk-drive plan in motion the night before.

"Normally the best thing to do is not to plan anything big that morning," said Richard Turbin, chairman of the Wai'alae Kahala Neighborhood Board.

The Marathon Association is working to reduce traffic problems, though, said Ken MacDowell, assistant race director. For the past month or more, race organizers have been meeting with police and fire officials to plan how to accommodate traffic on certain streets.

This year about 10 percent more police officers will be stationed along the route, said MacDowell. Where blockades might have been placed in the past, a police officer will be stationed this year, MacDowell said.

"Every year we get a little bit better," MacDowell said. "We find out that we need to make changes to better service the community concerns. The community is very good at telling us where we need to improve."

Should a resident need emergency services from fire, police or ambulance, race officials say call 911. Dispatchers know the race route, and emergency vehicles will be allowed on the course if necessary, MacDowell said.

Most people, like Kahala resident Ken Stanford, plan to hunker down for the morning and use the confinement to catch up on some much-needed rest. His children, meanwhile, take lawn chairs and the hose and offer to cool runners down.

"I stay at home ... and watch," Stanford said. "For all the good it (the race) does, it's absolutely no inconvenience."

Mark Storfer and his family typically walk to Kahala Mall and grab a bite to eat. Along the way, they cheer the runners on, said Storfer, a Kahala resident.

"We enjoy the festivities and the excitement," Storfer said. "There's no reason to be inconvenienced. We make a day of it."

Calvary by the Sea pastor Doug Olson said canceling Sunday morning services on race day is his contribution to the congregation and the community.

"It makes it easier on the runners, too," he said. "We're right on the course."

Olson, 70, will run in the race this year, too. He and others at the church often run for pledges that support the church's Angel Network, a program that helps needy families during the holidays.

The church, on the makai side of Kalaniana'ole Highway, will hold services Sunday night, giving Olson and other church members time to rest up after the run, he said.

Lo Kaimuloa, owner of Riches, an accessories boutique kiosk in the mall, said people often stay away until the afternoon in deference to the runners. Over the years she has learned not to expect much business in the morning.

For Lucinda Pyles, getting to church on Sunday morning begins on Saturday night.

Each year on the night before the race, she and her husband strategically position their cars. One will be parked on a side street off Kahala Avenue and another on Kilauea Avenue.

They and their children will walk two blocks from their home on Kahala Avenue — which is closed on the makai side as part of the marathon course — to the first car. They will drive to Kilauea Avenue — also part of the course — park and walk across the street to their second car, which they will drive to church on Ke'eaumoku Street.

"The time we need to go is right when the mass of runners will be out," Pyles said. "This is the only way we can get to church on marathon morning. It's a bit complicated, but it's doable. You just have to plan."

By late afternoon clean-up crews will have removed most traces of the marathon and streets will again be open.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831.