Preparations are underway for the 13th Annual Big Island International Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K scheduled for Sunday, March 21.
The event was the brainchild of Roland Higashi, former owner of Creative Arts, and George Miyashiro who owned Jack’s Tours. The two businessmen elicited the help of running Guru Karl Kunz and the Big Dog to help make their vision happen.
“We wanted to help stimulate the visitor industry for Hilo and thought that runners from Japan and elsewhere would find us an attractive place to visit,” Higashi said.
The inaugural Big Island International Marathon (26.2-miles) race was held in 1997 and the winner was Michael Georgi of Honolulu.
Georgi, a Punahou Social Studies Teacher and longtime track and cross-country coach, ran the certified marathon course in 2 hours, 41 minutes and 15 seconds at age 45 and returned the following year for his second consecutive victory.
Georgi became a regular fixture in the Hilo race running eight of the first nine BIIM’s while finishing first three times, a BIIM record, third three times and fifth twice.
“The first eight miles of the course took its toll on me during my last two appearances (2006 and ’07),” Georgi said. “After the 2007 race I decided to take a hiatus from doing this course.”
Now at age 57, after taking a two year break from the BIIM, Georgi has decided to challenge the course once again.
“I like doing the BIIM because of the beauty of the first eight miles,” he said. “I much prefer the BIIM to the Honolulu Marathon due to the scenery and lack of crowds.”
The Honolulu Marathon will typically have more than 20,000 runners at the starting line compared to the BIIM which has 250 marathoners and another 350 half-marathoners beginning at the 6 am start in Pepeekeo.
During the 1980’s Hilo hosted a smaller marathon that ran totally within the Hilo district which saw Georgi win in 1985.
“I ran the original Hilo Marathon twice during the 1980’s,” Georgi said. “I finished second in 1982 to Ruben Chappins with a time of 2:29:55 and returned in 1985 to win in 2:32:04.”
The original Hilo Marathon course was a double, out and back loop that went from Bayfront out to Richardson Beach Park twice. The course was relatively flat and was never certified and some say it may have been a tad bit short of the 26.2-mile requirement.
Since 1997 the BIIM has been measured precisely by HELCO engineer, Curt Beck, and the race has obtained a USATF certificate making it a legitimate qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon in April.
Add in a bunch of rolling hills from Pepeekeo to Honolii and the BIIM is a challenging marathon that takes runners through some of the most beautiful areas in paradise.
Georgi currently owns two age group records when, at age 45, he ran 2:41.15 (45-49 age group record) and at age 52 he finished in 2:56:58 (50-54 age record) to go with his three overall BIIM victories.
Now, at age 57, Georgi has his sights on breaking the 55 to 59 age group record currently held by Texan, Larry Linchovsky, with a time of 3:16:48.
“My realistic goal is to finish the marathon respectably and uninjured,” Georgi said.
When Georgi laces up his shoes for the start of this year’s marathon he will be joined by 250 other 26.2-mile enthusiast plus another 350 half-marathon runners. Both races sold out three weeks ago and has made BIIM one of the most attractive small marathons around.
“We’re going to have to see if we can increase the participants’ spots for the 2011 race,” Higashi said. “We will try to increase at a slow, reasonable rate, as to minimize the impact to our community.”
In conjunction with the three races hosted by BIIM on Sunday there will be a Carbo Load Dinner Party at the Moku Ola room of the Hilo Hawaiian on Friday starting at 6 pm. The all you can eat pasta party cost $21 at the door and includes a hula show and lucky number giveaways.
Then on Saturday the BIIM will host a Health and Fitness Expo from noon to 6 pm at the Hilo Hawaiian. Vendors from around the island will be on hand with free samples.
Ki Mana Academy Massage will be giving free massages, Island Naturals free samples, and more.
For more information on any of the events hosted by the BIIM call 969-7400.
One of my favorite quotes on running in a 26.2-mile marathon comes from Martine Costello when he said, “You’re running on guts. On fumes. Your muscles twitch. You throw up. You’re delirious. But you keep running because there’s no way out of this hell you’re in, because there’s no way you’re not crossing the finish line. It’s a misery that non-runners don’t understand.”