Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Running in Paradise

My friend Holly often talks about "running in paradise," referring to the great running weather and terrain we have here in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. While the Vancouver area does have a great variety of running terrain and almost always temperate weather, I have to say that I have just finished visiting a place much closer to paradise for running: Hawaii.

We recently returned from a 12-day trip where we visited parts of two of the Hawaiian islands: Oahu and the “big island” of Hawaii. While I was there I was able to run every day of the trip, totaling 112K in runs varying from seven to 18K. Of course, we were there to do a lot more than running, but being able to run every morning set the tone of my vacation and allowed me to enjoy it that much more.

For the first part of our trip, we spent five days and nights in Honolulu while my husband had a conference. We stayed on Waikiki beach, one of the oldest vacation spots in the Hawaii and a less popular destination for many North Americans seeking the ideal tropical vacation on endless sandy beaches. There are some beautiful old hotels, lots of night-life and restaurants, and some small but nice beaches that never seem to get too crowded. I loved running along the road by the beach as well as the loop around Diamond Head mountain just to the south.

Our hotel had a nice coffee shop which opened at 6:00 am, so my normal routine became going down for a pre-run coffee and running by about 7:00 when the sun was up. I found the temperature comfortable but the air very thick with humidity. Still, the warm air and pleasant, casual surroundings made for some beautiful runs.

The next leg of our trip took us on a plane to Kona on the "big island" of Hawaii. The big island is the youngest part of Hawaii still with active volcanic activity. Kona is a beautiful, small city on the west side of the big island with beautiful beaches for both snorkeling, body-surfing, and sunbathing. We stayed on Alii drive in the heart of Kona, and also part of the Kona Ironman run course. Every day I ran up and down this beautiful street along the shoreline, including one run totaling 18K (11 miles).

From Kona we made our way across to the east side of the island to Hilo, the second-largest city in Hawaii. That side of the island has a wetter climate with the drier winds from the volcano usually going west; our hotel was surrounded by large banyan trees and other vegetation giving it a tropical-jungle feel.

Still, the runs along the water were gorgeous, out and back through park-land that cannot be developed in the future due to low-lying tsunami vulnerability. We visited the Pacific Tsunami Museum while we were there and learned about the destructive power of this large waves.

From Hilo we also visited nearby Hawaii Volcanos National Park. Before the trip I had this idea that I was going to run the Rim Trail in the park, which goes around the Kilauea crater, the volcanically active part of Mauna Loa (the biggest volcano in Hawaii). The Rim Trail is 18K or 11 miles long, including a part on the road that loops back to the start. It turns our that about half that loop is closes anyway since the volcano is quite active now and creating poor air quality due to sulphur dioxide emissions.

Instead we did a family hike on a trail that goes down into a smaller inactive crater. The hike was four miles round trip down into the crater and then back out, giving us some breathtaking views of this area.

On our last day in Hawaii we made our way back to Kona and the beaches for one last sunset before heading to the airport.

More photos from the trip can be found in this album.