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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More fun than run

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Great Aloha Run

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Participants in the 24th annual Great Aloha Run cross under a network of overpasses near Honolulu International Airport as they make their way toward the finish line at Aloha Stadium. AT top: Eugenia Sitts of Waiehu, Maui, cools off with a refreshing garden-hose shower under the airport viaduct at Lagoon Drive.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The legs of 21,000 runners churned steadily like the driving force of a giant centipede that stretched along Ala Moana Boulevard and Nimitz Highway.

Some lithe, some large, some muscled, some not, they pushed forward during yesterday's 24th annual Great Aloha Run. For the thousands of participants, the annual event is more a celebration than an athletic contest.

The run has raised more than $7.8 million for Hawai'i nonprofit, health and human service organizations, and community groups.

One of those groups is the Palolo Project, which helps about 300 kids each year in sports and educational programs, said Kellett Hussey, a volunteer with the fun run and Palolo Project. For the past 14 years, the group has volunteered at one of the aid stations along the 8.1-mile course from Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium. Up and down the course, volunteers passed out water and kept on the lookout for runners in distress.

Under the freeway viaduct near Valkenburgh Street by the airport, the pavement was slick and sticky from the thousands of cups passed out to the runners. Young soccer players handing out water stood soaked as runners tossed cups, but no one seemed to mind. Members of the Farrington High School band played on, and taiko drummers pounded out a beat that made many runners smile.

"This is a fun race, a social race," Hussey said. "Part of why we're here today is to give back. We have about 40 volunteers to help runners today."

The top male finisher was Todd Iacovelli of Kailua, who covered the course in 41:38. The top female finisher was Casey Owens of Des Moines, Iowa, with a time of 47:51.

Starting off along the makai side of Ala Moana Boulevard were nearly 4,000 members of various military groups, all dressed in similar colors, carrying colored flags from their units. They chanted in unison as they ran amid a sea of blue, red, white, gray, green and black T-shirts.

Others dressed in team T-shirts like a group called "Beat the Fat Team" or "Team Kokua" or dressed up in a banana suit.

Two-year-old Nicolas Lockwood was in awe with the many runners pounding the pavement. He pointed out the colors of military men and women to his mom, Carol Lockwood. Every year for the past three years, the pair have sat on the curb to watch the race go by.

"The runners are so impressive. I told them these were the aunties and uncles in the military," Carol Lockwood said. "Some of them pushed a stroller. We just came out to see the race."

Douglas Yoza stood by the starting line looking for a friend. With so many runners and walkers passing by, it was hard to pick her out of the crowd. As the runners continued past for what seemed like a good half hour, he said: "I wonder how far back the line goes. Next year, I'll be out running. I wasn't in shape for it this year."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.