Volcano Rain Forest Runs—August 20, 2016—7:00 am
This is the 4th year I have taken part in the annual Volcano Rain Forest Runs. The first two years, I completed 5ks, but last year, I embarked on a running journey that took me into the realm of half marathons. If you complete all 3 Big Island races in a single calendar year, you earn what is called Triple Crown status. This means that you complete the Hilo Half Marathon in March, the Kona Half Marathon in June, and then end in August with 13.1 miles on the outskirts of the Volcano’s National Park for the “triple” crown. By doing so, you earn an additional medal, a certificate of achievement and an amazing feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done. This was my second year going for Triple Crown. Of course, next year, I’ve already decided to go for it again, as then I would earn Triple Triple crown and I honestly can say that excites me more than it probably should. Most sane people would think I need my head examined.
The morning started bright and early as most race mornings do. I was up before my alarm and got ready. I started a ritual where I take an obligatory bathroom selfie with my bib prior to the start of any race. This year, my cat Andi decided she would get in on the action. At 4 am, I couldn’t help but smile at her persistence to get in on the shot.
We arrived in Volcano at about 5:50 am. The weather there is much colder and since the elevation is higher the air is thinner, so it’s a little harder to breathe. We loaded up our supplies and made our way to the start line. My husband, who is not only the sweetest cheer squad has also taken to racing with me. He was participating in the 10k (6.2 miles) so hand in hand we set out for the adventure before us.
In past years, Volcano has dumped buckets of rain on us, but this year we got lucky. The race began promptly at 7 am and light mists of rain only served to cool us off, so I did not have to resort to wearing my oh so glorious black trash bag rain coat like in years past. This race is extremely hilly. And I’m not exaggerating here. Some hills are slight, while others make you question your choices in life. I love running races, but there is always one point in the adventure where I have a heart to heart with myself and think me and my big ideas- what did I get myself in to this time? Of course, the next thought is usually when the next race is, so I know the moment is fleeting and I keep pressing onward.
At mile 7 or 8, THE HILL begins. I’m pretty sure I called it some bad words. It’s not like I didn’t know what I had gotten myself in to. But I don’t remember it being that long. I was convinced it was never going to end. Instead, I dug my heels in and power walked that baby (by then it was so steep my walking and running were basically one in the same). I remember my mantra “I eat hills for breakfast!” but soon, I was just ready to get it over with. At the turn around, it’s down hill for a long while. What goes up must come down. Thank goodness. With the winds of gratitude blowing through my hair I made my way back down the side of the mountain.
Last year, I finished all of my 4 half marathons in under 3 hours, which for me is great. I am what I call a determined turtle. I’m fast by no means, but I’m consistent. I use the run/walk- ok lots of walking- Galloway method and that gets me to the finish. This year, however, all of my half marathons were a bit over 3 hours. I was determined to finish this one faster.
With my motivational music blasting in my ears I rounded the finish, with the crowds cheering, biting back the tears of joy, and came through the finish line in 2:55:37. I was promptly given my finisher’s medal and then made my way to the tent to receive my Triple Crown award and medal. That bling is no joke. It’s a beautiful heavy medal depicting the Big Island of Hawaii, with a Hilo rainbow, a Kona hibiscus flower and the Volcano erupting, surrounded by the blue ocean. I love running, but I’m a sucker for the medals.
We took pictures with friends who also completed the Triple Crown series, enjoyed watermelon and some of the most delicious salty pretzels I think I have ever consumed (hello post race hunger) and waited for the Zero Mile Run, which was a fund raiser and Centennial celebration for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
On tired, thankful legs we made our way back to the truck and headed home. There is something very spiritual about running in Volcano for me. It’s funny because you can be surrounded by hundreds of people running by, but still be so content in your own thoughts, your own breath, your own sense of being. I went home full of gratitude and although I did eat hills for breakfast, I was in desperate need of a good meal, a hot shower, a nap, and a plan for the next adventure, which always begins with the question “Which race can I sign up for next?”