September ‘Spotlight On Maui’: Hana Relay

“Spotlight On Maui” is a monthly series written for Vacation Roost, an online accommodation site helping you find your perfect rental.

For 364 days of the year the iconic “Road To Hana” on the island of Maui consists of 52 miles, 59 bridges, 620 turns, and countless roadside waterfalls which cascade through the tropical jungle. Bamboo forests spring from the mountain slopes and passing tradewind showers spawn rainbows which seem to hover just over the ensuing bend. There are no chain restaurants, no gas stations, and locals sell banana bread and smoked fish from igloo coolers on the side of the road. It’s rural Hawaii at its absolute best, and it’s one of the legendary day-trips undertaken by the majority of visitors to the island of Maui.

For one day of the year, however, this same road which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places becomes overrun with everything from mariachi bands to runaway brides, Hawaiian bobsled teams to vans full of naughty nurses. No this, isn’t Halloween come to Hana, it’s the annual running of Hana Relay,  a six-person, 52-mile relay race which takes the spirit of San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race and brings it to the wet and tropical ribbon of asphalt best known as the road to Hana.

Sponsored by the Valley Isle Road Runners, this upcoming year will feature 180 teams and nearly 1,100 runners participating in the casual competition–a record number for the annual race and a massive sporting event by Maui standards. More of a social event than an actual competition, the elite tier of open runners still manages to draw some top-notch athletes who travel from as far away as California and Colorado for the chance at being the first team to stand on the Hana Ball Field.

Sure, running three miles three times over the course of a morning is an exhausting way to get a workout, but the real reason for taking part in Hana Relay is the chance to be a part of a 1,000+ member, costumed mob who all have the chance to run along one of the most scenic roads in the country and end the day by drinking beer and dancing to live entertainment in one of the most idyllic island towns on the planet.

As a long time Hana Relay participant (and a former champion), I’ve always felt bad for any visitors to Maui who come to the island and decide to drive the road to Hana on the same day as Hana Relay. Why, I’ve felt, do these poor tourists have to share the road with a pack full of speedo-clad restaurant workers or a group of Maui locals running while dressed like cavemen? I later realized, however, that this is a day which couldn’t possibly be more fun for Maui visitors to unknowingly be a part of. It’s the chance to mingle with over 1,000 island locals who are all out living the Maui lifestyle of outdoor athletic pursuits blended with a touch of casual quirkiness.

Better yet, instead of driving amongst the chaos and being an outdoor spectator, why not put a team together, throw on a grass skirt and neon headband, and lace up the old sneakers for a casual jog along a racecourse featuring sweeping views over the expansive blue Pacific?

Who knows, maybe after the end of the race you’ll end up cliff jumping at a red sand beach or drinking beers inside of an ancient lava tube. Camp out beneath a blanket of stars or bodysurf the afternoon away at Hamoa Beach, a sliver of golden sand once ranked as the number one beach in America.

One of Maui’s premier community events, September 8th will herald the 2012 running of the Hana Relay, and is the Vagabond’s pick for September’s “Spotlight on Maui”.

Thinking about visiting? Why not check out Vacation Roost for an affordable list of places to stay on Maui.

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