Staying Fit with Maui’s Aluminum Man Series

Published in Moon Over Haleakala

When was the last time you entered a race that was free? Actually, let’s back up a step.

When was the last time you even entered a race?

If the answer lies somewhere between “Never” and “It’s Been a While”, keep reading, because we may have just found the perfect weekend activity for you.

Imagine a race where along with no entry fee, there are also no trophies, no racing bibs, and no expectations. Actually, there really aren’t even any rules either, just that everyone arrive with a positive attitude and share a common interest in outdoor fitness and healthy living. Want to swim part of the race with fins and a snorkel? Go for it. Want to form an impromptu relay or arrive in a holiday themed costume? It’s encouraged!

Imagine spending a Sunday morning with 30-100 members of the community who just want to participate in a large group workout, put them together in a swim/run biathlon with amateur-friendly distances, add a pinch of joie de vivre, top it off with some door prizes, and you have found yourself in the midst of the endorphin fueled community event known as the “Aluminum Man”.

Billing itself as the “not-so-serious series”, the Aluminum Man is an event that was originally orchestrated in 1995 by the late Jaiom Berger, whose life was tragically cut short by a drunk driver in 1998. Many of those who knew Jaiom have described him as one of the most positive, conscientious, enthusiastic, and authentic men on the planet; the type of guy who would finish a marathon in a handstand or run an entire 5k backwards simply because he felt like it. Not wanting to see such a spirited community event disappear to due the loss of Jaiom, the Aluminum Man was taken over by the husband-wife team of Nancy Robberson and Jami Kimmel who over the last 13 years have independently put on over 85 Aluminum Man events and continue to selflessly dedicate themselves to carrying on Jaiom’s energy through fitness and aloha.

Dressed in a hot pink bikini and still visibly winded from another strong showing towards the front of the pack, Robberson explains after a recent Valentine’s race (where runners were encouraged to kiss something along the run), that “the Aluminum Man gives people the opportunity to play together outdoors with other fun-loving, positive people. Joy, fun, love, and fitness can really be contagious!”

Consisting of a ½ mile swim and a 3-4 mile run along one of Maui’s beautiful beaches, the Aluminum Man series is held 7 times annually and plays host to an effervescent gathering of happy and healthy members of the community, both local and visitor alike. Non-discriminatory and accepting of all “entrants”, the Valentine’s Aluminum Man held at Ka’anapali’s Kahekili Beach Park featured regular kama’aina swimming and sweating it out next to visitors from as far away as Minnesota and Venezuela.

While the cast of participants share a common interest in outdoor fitness, don’t fool yourself into thinking that each and every participant is a chiseled replica of the statue David or a vacationing Michael Phelps. After all, this is the Aluminum Man, not the Iron Man. All that’s required to enter is a willingness to participate and a belief in the notion that—as Robberson so eloquently puts it—fun should be free. If that means tackling the swim portion with a set of fins or simply opting to walk the entire running segment it’s an allowable and encouraged activity. One participant even recently taught himself how to swim on YouTube.

An uber-refreshing throwback to the pure simplicity of sport, an emphasis on race results and an air of divisive competition are instead replaced by a spirit of togetherness and a gentle reminder to cherish not only what we have, but also all that we can give to all of those around us. Anyone interested in taking place in the next Aluminum Man can check out the schedule online at virr.com, or simply show up at Wailea’s Polo Beach at 8am for the April 24th Bunny Biathlon. You’ll definitely get a workout, and who knows, you may go home with a shaka oven mit and a newfound appreciation for competing for free.

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