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Honolulu Marathon Provides Big Boost to Local Businesses

More than 29,000 runners have signed up for the annual race in the Hawaiian capital.

More than 29,000 runners have signed up for the annual race in the Hawaiian capital.

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

HONOLULU — The clock reads 6:30 a.m., and the sun is just beginning to rise above the cresting waves of Waikiki Beach. Roadways along the shore line are bustling—not with cars, but with runners. Hundreds of runners stride up and down the roadway, many of whom are getting in their final preparations before Sunday’s 42nd annual Honolulu Marathon.

Spend five minutes on Kalakaua Avenue, the main drag here, and one is sure to see dozens of bright “Finisher” t-shirts go by, all from Honolulu Marathons of the past. While the race will get underway on Sunday morning, thousands of runners are already arriving in the Honolulu area, boosting the local economy in numerous ways.

The largest sporting event in Hawaii, the Honolulu Marathon and Race Day Walk annually draws more than 31,000 entrants. As of Tuesday, 29,490 runners and 11 wheelchair athletes have registered for the marathon, with 2,411 more signing up for the 6.2-mile walk. Registration still remains open through Saturday.

Around Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, many restaurants, boutiques and shops have signs outside their windows welcoming runners and families.

“[Runners] add to the atmosphere of the community. It’s really great and they love to come in,” said Latisha Nahinu, hostess at Eggs ‘n Things, a very popular breakfast restaurant on Saratoga Road, just a few meters from the marathon’s course. “There’s an increase in business on marathon week, especially in our healthier options.”

Each year, Nahinu said, marathoners attend the restaurant in droves, adding a special camaraderie to the community. Eggs ‘n Things, like many other restaurants in the area, has catered specifically to visiting runners, adding various items and specials to their already robust and cultural menu. Eggs ‘n Things is offering two marathon related specials this week: a Marathon Veggie Pasta and Salad Combo meal, and protein smoothies for pre and post-race consumption.

“We have the specials every year on marathon week, which are very, very popular,” said Nahinu. The restaurant sees a rush specifically after the race on Sunday morning. With the marathon beginning at 5 a.m., a number of finishers are done around breakfast time and want to refuel with eggs or an omelet.

“That’s when we see the most [runners] come in,” she said.

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Likewise, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Waikiki expects a large crowd surrounding the race. This year, Teddy’s partnered with the Honolulu Marathon’s virtual event bag program, which provides all entrants with coupons and deals to various restaurants and shops in the area. The restaurant has already seen people coming in with their “Buy One Breakfast Meal, get a 2nd one 50% Off” coupon.

“Within the first two hours [of becoming available] the coupon printed 35 times and had over 5,000 views right out the door,” said Quincy Solano of Teddy’s Bigger Burger. “We’re already seeing the impact of this year’s marathon, absolutely.”

“I think it touches a lot of great people,” Solano continued, speaking of the race’s impact on the community. “It definitely brings in the crowd, close to 60,000 [between runners and supporting family members]. You have all those bodies, they are bound to spend time close in the area. Lounge around a little bit after, take their time to see the different businesses.”

Last year, 31,579 athletes entered the Honolulu Marathon. Of that, 14,211 (or 45 percent) were from Japan. An average of 58.12 percent of Honolulu Marathon entrants since 2004 were from Japan, making for a very visible presence throughout the area. When they come, Japanese athletes use marathon week as a vacation time to explore what the island of Oahu has to offer. In turn, they help enhance the economic impact.

Brett Larner, editor of the popular running website Japan Running News, said that runners in Japan view the Honolulu Marathon as a very prestigious race, one they plan trips and excursions around each year.

“For a long time, if you were an amateur that wanted to do one marathon in your life, this is the one to do. It’s got a reputation and legacy, history in Japan,” said Larner. “Some people come every year and this is the one marathon they do every year.”

Larner said the marathon’s history—and the destination appeal—adds to why Japanese athletes traditionally make up the race’s majority.

“The location, of course, a lot of Japanese love Hawaii. Timing is good because it’s cold in Japan,” he said. “The town and the race are very accommodating to the Japanese and make them feel welcome. I think that plays a big part as well.”