Every year, the Kona Marathon brings a wealth of fresh faces to the starting line, but its aloha spirit, welcoming staff and gorgeous locale also bring back past runners and winners. And with the 20th Anniversary just around the corner, we reached out to some past winners to celebrate this year.
Karl’s first two marathon wins were at Kona, one of which was the Kona Marathon’s inaugural race in 1994. “Four young men that I coached supported me along the course and it was special to have the runner/coach roles reversed.”
Karl even celebrates birthdays at the Kona Marathon, where he rang in his fortieth birthday the last time he ran the race. On his 2013 return he comments, “This time, it will be my first race as a 50-year-old … it’s a birthday present to myself!”
Karl’s return to the Kona Marathon is testament to his passion for running and he’s proud of his continued involvement in the sport. “When I encounter former athletes and students, they always ask if I still run. My wife and 3-year-old daughter cheer for me at races and that’s so wonderful. I owe them. Others may run faster than me, but they won’t run harder.”
When thinking on her Kona Marathon win, Connie remembers the challenges, but also the good times.
The event is full of good friends and better memories, and returning for the 20th Anniversary is an exciting prospect for Connie. “The course has changed over 20 years, the some of the staff has come and gone, but it still has that ‘family feeling’ to it, and Sharron is keeping that tradition going strong.”
Running since 1978, Connie turned to the sport to improve her health. Now, after 35 years of running, it’s still a major part of her life. “I’m just grateful that I can still run after 35 years of competing, though not nearly as fast, still feeling the exhilaration and thrill of the sport. And I’m looking forward to seeing my friends in Kona again and sharing a cold Kona Brewing beer at the finish line!”
Running runs in Justin’s family. His brother is also a runner and Justin’s wife, Melissa, won the Kona Marathon alongside her husband in 2010. Justin has been running marathons since 1999 and currently ranks fifth in the world with 63 career wins. “This all started because I enjoyed my first run and wanted to do a second run. The second run became a third, which eventually led to a race, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Justin won his first Kona Marathon in 2008 and has since won the marathon every year. “When I first did the Kona Marathon in 2008 it represented my fourteenth marathon win. The race was still growing and evolving as an event, and likewise, I was still growing into a runner.”
Justin is excited to return for Kona’s 20th Anniversary. “The twentieth edition will be a neat experience where the past history of the race is honored along with the future optimism that is buzzing for the event.”
Jeannie, an eight-time Kona Marathon winner, is a huge fan of the Marathon. She has participated in nearly every Kona Marathon since its inception in 1994 and loves coming back. Every year she chooses a charity to run for, helping that group spread awareness and raise money. The 2013 event will be dedicated to Talk About Curing Autism. When we talked with Jeannie she said “I love the Kona Marathon; they are like a family to me. I’d cry if I wasn’t able to run it every year!”
These are just a few of the talented, passionate runners associated with the Kona Marathon. Their positive attitudes, inspiring stories and dedication to the sport are just a few of the touchstones that make the Kona Marathon what it is today.