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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Macdonald lives life on run

 •  Running the marathon from behind the scenes

By Casey McGuire-Turcotte
Special to The Advertiser

Olympian Duncan Macdonald has seen the world with his running shoes. Western Europe, Stockholm, Manila, Montreal, the United States — running has taken him farther from his island home than he could have ever dreamed.

Olympic runner Duncan Macdonald says, “The Honolulu Marathon climb over Diamond Head at sunrise. Now that’s a view.”

Advertiser library • Dec. 13, 1982

But it's still a sight in his own backyard he most fondly remembers.

"The Honolulu marathon climb over Diamond Head at sunrise," he says. "Now that's a view."

Macdonald was a freshman medical student at the University of Hawai'i when he made that climb for the first time, en route to a victory in the inaugural Honolulu Marathon in 1973.

An All-America middle-distance runner throughout his career at Stanford University, Macdonald entered the race as a training run.

"I had just finished a very frustrating summer on the European track circuit, and needed a change of pace," he said.

It didn't take long for his racing instincts to kick in, however, and halfway through the race, he took the lead and didn't look back. He finished in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 31 seconds.

"The race was much smaller then, and much more like a local road race than the mega-race it is today," Macdonald said.

At the time, the 2:30 mark was a respectable accomplishment.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of The Honolulu Marathon, The Advertiser will feature some faces of past marathons in the coming days. The coverage will culminate with complete coverage of the event.

Here's the lineup:

Tuesday—These three runners represent the "Final Few," the only runners to have competed in all previous 29 Honolulu Marathons.

• Today—The first male winner became an Olympian and is now a coach.

• Tomorrow—The first female winner was just 14 at the time.

• Friday—The top male and female contenders.

• Saturday—The 30th marathon is approaching 30,000 entries.

"If there's one thing I like to do, it's race fast," he said. "I don't like to enter races unless I'm in fairly good shape. So I guess I was in shape."

After graduating from medical school in 1975, Macdonald and his wife, Honolulu resident Darby Meyer, moved to the Stanford area for their residency.

Although working and studying took up almost every hour of the day, Macdonald still managed to run about 70 miles a week.

He flew back for the Honolulu Marathon several times, winning the race again in 1976 (2:20:37) and 1980 (2:16:55).

While Macdonald's marathon times continued to improve, his career as a middle distance runner was also at its peak.

In 1976, Macdonald was the first athlete to break track legend Steve Prefontaine's American 5,000-meter record of 13:21.87 set in 1974. Later that year, Macdonald was ranked third in the nation in the 5,000 meters with a personal best of 13:19.30, a mark that still ranks him on Stanford's all-time list.

After his 5,000-meter performance at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Macdonald continued to run in marathons. He ran a personal best of 2:12:49 at the Boston Marathon in 1983.

A few years later, racing became less of a focus. With a new baby girl, (Eri, now a junior at the University of Oregon) and one on the way, (Pippa, now a senior at Punahou School), Macdonald moved back to Kailua with his new family.

With his competitive running days behind him, Macdonald now splits time between his anesthesiology practice in Honolulu and coaching cross country and track at Punahou.

"Coaching is a great change from medicine," he said. "The kids are so positive, and really fun to be around."

Macdonald still runs recreationally four or five times a week.

"It's a great relaxer for me, and whether it's competitive or not, it's something I'll continue for as long as I can," he says.

Notes: Duncan Macdonald was the state cross country champion for Kailua High in 1965 and 1966. At the time, the boys race was two miles (it is now three). Macdonald is also the 1,500-meter record holder at Cooke Field (3:43:14).