The Insider’s Guide to Healthy Hawaii: From HI to SF, a Running Story

Medically reviewed in February 2022

I’ll start at the beginning of my running journey.

I had gained about 25 pounds in a relatively short amount of time due to emotional eating and poor stress management. I spent a lot of time in denial about my weight gain, but over the next year made small, healthy changes that nudged me closer to a normal weight. I was proud of my progress, but knew I had a long way to go to achieving and maintaining better health and fitness. (It’s still a work in progress.)

Somewhere along the way, I remembered that I used to spend many meditative evenings in college running through the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus or on the rainbow track. I didn’t have a training plan and I wasn’t fast by competitive standards, but it didn’t matter. There was nothing like the sense of sweaty, hard-earned accomplishment I got from running. Inspired by the memories, I decided to consider it again.

So, I went to Ala Moana Beach Park with my husband and ran outdoors for the first time in a long time. I had run (but mostly walked) on the treadmill at the gym and done other cardio, but it was intermittent. I was hopeful, but naive. We started along the loop path and every step was painful. I couldn’t even run for 30 seconds without stopping.

This sounds so foreign and hard for me to believe now. But I look at my running app from some of my first runs in 2013 and see the running path lined with dots from each time I hit pause on the app.

I kept at it, slowly improving and logging miles over the next year. My milestones included running the Great Aloha Run in February, putting in a 10-miler around Diamond Head in March and completing my very first half-marathon in April at a time of about 2 hours and 42 minutes.

Every run was hard. But eventually I acknowledged the huge role improving my diet played in weight loss and more efficient running. I added more fruits and vegetables to my meals, ate less and drank more water. I was still unwilling to give up sweetened iced coffee, second afternoon coffees and dessert a couple times a week, but it was a huge improvement. Every pound I lost was less stress on my joints and allowed me to move more freely. 

But I wanted to be better. So earlier this year, I entered the random lottery to participate in my first half marathon in San Francisco. On the morning of my birthday, my friend and I received an email confirming our spots. We were in!

Training was different this time. It was more consistent. I followed a plan (although I didn’t log as many long runs as I should have). I found a natural pace and pushed myself when I felt good and tried to forgive myself when I didn’t. Even so, I left some runs on cloud nine and others feeling spent, tired and defeated. But I kept going.

I also cross-trained, adding strength for the first time in my life and going to yoga to stretch and attempt to build my poor, neglected core muscles. There were many mornings I’d rather be sleeping, nights I’d rather be drinking a beer and times I simply didn’t want to work out. Although it didn’t always feel like it, the hard work was paying off. I logged many miles during training, became more accustomed to hills, and avoided injury for the most part. The night before I flew to San Francisco, I ran my fastest 3-miler.

The race started in Union Square. The 13.1-mile course took us through a few hills and ended flat in the last two miles. About 25,000 runners participated. Most of the runners were women, but there were many men on the course, too.

Because I had read many blogs and articles that recommended not burning out in the first few miles of the race, I kept a consistent pace from the start. To my surprise, I didn’t stop once—even on a long, rigorous hill lined with pacers to assist runners. By mile 12, I was tired. I lost confidence and slowed down a lot. But I crossed the finish line feeling strong.

I’m proud to say that I finished the half-marathon in 2 hours and 28 minutes, improving my previous time by more than 12 minutes. I was ecstatic, grateful for the support of my friends and family and thankful for running partners and cross-training.

Looking back, it was a great event with challenging inclines, nice declines and perfect weather. My best friends and husband were at the finish, although they weren’t able to see me cross. Back in Hawaii, my parents were motivated to do extra exercise that day. I really couldn’t ask for more.

I’ll take a short break but will keep at it. Although I haven’t planned my next race yet, I know I’ve again found joy in running.

This content originally appeared on Well-Being Hawaii.

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