Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Puna’s Archie Hapai an Ironman Original

Archie Hapai

       “All my successes have been built on my failures,” Benjamin Disraeli said.

For Puna’s Archie Hapai learning from a failure brought him unique gratification and the ability to say that he is one of the few and an original.

In January 1978 Hapai attempted to swim the Molokai Channel from Ilio Point on Molokai to Sandy Beach on Oahu.

“I belonged to the Humuhumunukumukuapuaa Swim Club and they asked me to give the 26 mile distance swim a try,” Hapai said.

Hapai estimated that, with weather permitting, the challenging swim would take him about 13 hours.

“I had been training from September 1977 till January to teach my body to go the entire 26 miles,” Hapai said.

After 12 hours in the water Hapai caught sight of Sandy Beach and was looking at completing something that few before him had ever accomplished.

“The current started pushing me back in the final hour and I lost sight of Sandy’s,” Hapai said.  “I wasn’t able to get ashore and became a DNF (did not finish).  It was heartbreaking.”

A month later Hapai was holding his chin high as he attempted what no one before him had ever done.

“I swam the 2.4 mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim from San Souci Beach to Duke Kahanamoku Beach, and then rode my bike 112 miles in the Oahu Century Ride from Duke Kahanamoku Beach around parts of Oahu to Aloha Tower,” Hapai explained.  “This was followed by a 26 mile Honolulu Marathon run from Aloha Tower to Kapiolani Park.”

Hapai did all of the three distances in one day along with 11 other people to complete the first Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon in 1978, making him an ‘original’.

“I don’t remember all of the reasons I did the Iron Man,” Hapai said.  “But not finishing the Molokai to Oahu swim along with the faith of my fellow club swimmers probably had something to do with it.”

Back in February ’78 there were no crowds cheering the original 12 on and no money bet between the racers as the entire event was made through each person’s own inner strength and determination.

“The challenge was to finish the three legs and determine who were the best athletes overall: swimmers, bikers or runners,” Hapai said. 

On that day in Feb. ’78 there were 15 men that started the race, no women, and three had to drop out because they ran out of time and needed to get to work.

“We had to pace ourselves as I knew it was going to be a very long day,” Hapai said.

What started as a beautiful sunny day during the swim turned into a heavy downpour when the bikers reached Haleiwa.

“I remember riding through the Haleiwa Sea Spree, a carnival/fair at about midday and having to dodge the potholes in the road,” Hapai said.

Hapai also recalled running on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki with tourist on the sidewalks he needed to be on the street.

“Running on the road we had to endure cars honking at us and yelling things like ‘get off the street you idiot’,” Hapai said.

Through Hapai’s self determination and inner strength he was able to complete the entire race and is now referred to as one of the original Iron Men.

Today, at age 64, Hapai remains healthy and active through regular physical exercise and his love for the water.

“I swim 240 minutes, will jog 90 minutes, do pushups, chin ups, abdominal core exercises for 30 minutes, each and every week,” Hapai said.

Hapai is a retired Army Veteran who spent 25 years in the military and is a decorated Vietnam Veteran awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Commendation Medal and the National Defense Medal.

Because of his military service and his love for his country Hapai is helping to put on a 5K  run/walk called A Salute to Our Veterans at Hilo Bay on Saturday, June 18.

“We’re helping the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3830 to try to raise funds to expand facilities and programs to meet the rapidly growing needs of Puna’s veteran population,” Hapai said.

Hapai explained that a 2010 census identified 2,300 displaced veterans on the Big Island with 1,300 of them residing in the Puna District.

“Basic medical, hygienic and social services to improve their quality of life are desperately needed,” Hapai said.  “The expansion of our VFW Post will enable our dedicated volunteers to help these veterans who have done so much to help others.”

Hapai would like to encourage the public to attend this run/walk event as his wife, Marlene is the Event Coordinator.

For more information email Marlene at mhapai@aol.com or call 966-9894.

For registration, sponsorship and convention forms go to the Post 3830 website at www.vfwpost3830.com and click on ‘Convention and Run 2011’.

“Our website has been recognized nationally as the VFW’s second Most Outstanding Website,” Hapai said.  “The services we provide range from addressing everyday veteran transportation, medical, food and housing needs to coordinating and contributing to maintenance, care and educational programs for veterans, youth, elderly, Special Olympians and cancer patients.”

And someday should you happen to see a fortunate veteran running along the roadside remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | Profiles, Swimming in Hawaii | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Landmark 400th Column for Running with the Big Dog

In life it is somehow always easy to remember your first, in almost everything you do.

I can remember clearly taking my first driving test, winning my first road race, finishing my first marathon, even being cut for the first time after trying out for the high school football team.

One’s first experience, whether positive or negative, leaves an indelible image in our memory bank and the details of those experiences become very vivid even with the passing of many years.

On December 30, 2002 I began writing the Running with the Big Dog column and little did I know back then that today I would be celebrating my 400th column.

Many people associated with the running community back then told me that I would run out of people to write about within a short period of time, but little did we know that this column would branch out to be more about people who are healthy and fit and less about running.

Today’s column provides me with an opportunity to reflect upon the many people, events and fitness ideas that I’ve written about over the past eight years, but it all started with my first.

Joe Wedemann

Joe Wedemann a 6’ 4” middle aged man became my inspiration for writing these columns as his story provided me with the spark that ignited the Big Dog weekly column series.

Back in Dec. 2002 Wedemann had several dream goals, to qualify for and then complete the Ironman World Championships and to become a Firefighter.

Wedemann, despite his early struggles with asthma, believed then as he does today that “if others can do it, I can too.”

“My philosophy hasn’t changed,” Wedemann said during a recent interview. 

Since Dec. 2002 Wedemann has completed not one, but four Ironman Triathlons,

“In 2003 I finished my first Kona Ironman in 11 hours and 54 minutes and since then I finished the 2006 and ’07 Kona Ironman’s and in ’08 I did the Louisville IM,” he said.

It was the ’07 Kona event that he had his fastest time finishing in 11 hours and 47 minutes and along the way has completed 10 stand alone marathons with his fastest being 3 hours 24 minutes.

“In March 2004 I finally got my dream job with the Hawaii Fire Department and I’m still loving it,” Wedemann said. 

Wedemann put his “big” races on hold for two years after joining the Department, but he continued his training by swimming, biking and running regularly.

“Fitness has always been important to me and with becoming a Firefighter staying fit has become an important part of my job as well,” he said.

Wedemann has returned to school where he is seeking as Associate of Science degree in Fire Science.

“Once I finish school I plan on a 10 year comeback as I want to run another Ironman in 2013 and I also want to qualify for and compete in the World Championship Exterra two weeks after completing my Ironman,” Wedemann said.

It was easy for me to remember Joe Wedemann as my first ever Big Dog column, but as I tried to recall who was the second person I wrote about that recollection was not stored in my memory bank.

As curiosity would have it I needed to go back and research who that story was about and discovered it to be one of the best known runners in Hilo, Jason “The Thorpedo” Thorp.

Thorp’s story came out on Jan 6, 2003 and at the time he was becoming a legend in the marathon distances running the Kona, Maui, Big Island International and Honolulu Marathon all in the same year and all under 3 hours.

Often seen running along Hilo Bayfront with his signature Oakley sunglasses while listening to music on his Rio 600 mp3 player, Thorp was a leader in every running distance from the 5K to the marathon.

Today Thorp lives in Waikoloa with his wife of five years, Natalie, and two children.

“Natalie is an Emergency Room Nurse at North Hawaii Community Hospital,” Thorp said.  “I would eventually like to move back to Hilo which I consider my hometown,”

Once known throughout the Big Island as a dominate contender in every race distance Thorp is just hoping to make a comeback after a long, slow injury recovery.

“I injured my Achilles about 18 months ago and I’ve been trying to make a comeback,” he said.  “I know at 39 years of age that I won’t be in top shape, but I did sign up to do the Hilo Marathon in March.”

Thorp has won the BIIM for a record three times and will make his first appearance on the course after a two year hiatus.

“I still love running and can’t wait to run in Hilo again,” Thorp said.

So here we are after eight years of writing the “Running with the Big Dog” column and I hope you readers have as much fun reading these stories on Monday’s as I have in writing them.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , | 6 Comments