Published in The Moon Over Haleakala
Nearly all Maui guidebooks will mention that on the island’s famous road to Hana you will drive exactly 52 miles, pass over 54 narrow bridges, and complete over 600 winding, hairpin turns. While this is appreciated info, what they fail to mention is that myriad other oddities also lurk along this ribbon of jungle asphalt, such as authentic looking Avatars, mustache-clad mariachi bands, and the occasional pole dancing policeman. Daily sightings aren’t guaranteed, but curiosity seekers have the best chance for strange encounters somewhere in the month of September. Intrigued? Skeptical? Maybe even terrified? Don’t be. It’s just another running of the Hana Relay.
With the late summer sun still snuggled in its Haleakala bed, the 2010 Hana Relay kicked off its 39th year at 5:30am with a record field of 157 teams having made the conscious decision to actually run from Kahului to Hana. Don’t worry, there are 6 people per team splitting the running load, and according to proven race logic, when you dress like a fiery dragon or a runaway bride it makes the 8.5 total miles you’ll run a whole lot easier.
More of an outlandish community event than an actual competition, the zaniness of the entire ordeal is evident with a quick browse of this year’s race results. According to the official results posted by the event’s sponsor, Valley Isle Road Runners, team Suck Wind Drink Beer beat teams Monkey Spankers and Motrin in Motion, though they weren’t quite fast enough to cross the finish line in front of Team Viagra or team Hot for Teacher. One team – Team Streakers – felt it was a good decision to affix massive nylon phallices to their front sides and run in the (near) nude through the streets of Pa‘ia, women covering the eyes of children slowly losing their innocence.
It’s also important to note that in 64th place overall was team Panda Wally and the Poodle Pimp Kings, though I’m still not sure anyone knows exactly what that means.
While many teams are content to cruise it up the steep highway hills and enjoy the festivities that go along with being in the middle of the pack, being a race and all, there are always a few teams leading the charge who are battling to be the first team standing on Hana Ballpark. After a back and forth battle through 11 of the 18 legs along the route, the teams of Milagro’s and Polli’s Flying Mariachis pulled far away from the rest of the pack, and amidst large amounts of post run dry-heaving and devastating leg and side cramps, proceeded to chase each other down over the last third of the race course. In the end the Milagro’s team crossed the finish line 2 minutes and 48 seconds ahead of the Polli’s Mariachi Team, with each team respectively averaging mile paces of 5:52 and 5:55. In an anticlimactic affair that featured 12 weary runners standing alone on the Hana ballpark grass, it would be a full 28 minutes before the 3rd place team overall, Polli’s Hot Tamales, came streaking across the finish line.
Whether your team is duking it out on the front lines or having a Halloween themed photo shoot in the middle of the pack, one thing everyone can agree on is the integral role the Relay plays in the Maui running community. According to 18-time contest director Joe Alueta, “the Hana Relay is the first race people tell other runners that come to Maui that ‘they gotta do”. Per the success of this year’s record setting Relay, Alueta noted that “even in this economy the event attracted runners from the Mainland and grew by 20 percent. I would have had more teams, but we sold out ten days before the event and refused to take anymore.”
Calling this event the “People’s Race”, Alueta acknowledged that the entry fee of $35/person is far less than many of the island’s shorter races (take the $50 Maui Tacos 5k as an example). Even with the low entry fees, the event still manages to put money back into the community with a portion of proceeds going towards supporting the Hana Youth Center.
This doesn’t take into account the massive amount of revenue generated for local Hana businesses when 1,000 tired, thirsty, hungry, half-drunk, quarter-nude runners limp into town and begin the post-race festivities, though some restaurants may want the Streakers to put some pants on.