11 Crucial Tips to Finishing the 11th Kauai Marathon

July 19th, 2019
Kauai Marathon

Michael Anastasia SPT, Jason Luke DPT, Meynard Enriquez DPT, Kaylen Wakumoto DPT

The Kauai marathon is over 26 miles through a variety of Kauai’s beautiful scenery, including lush green hills, vast ocean views, and tropical mountain jungles.  It has been heralded as Runners World top 10 bucket list marathons and the “most scenic marathon in the USA.” 7,8

However, all that beauty does not come without its physical challenges.  Hawaii Sports and Balance Center has sponsored the finish line physical therapy services at the Kauai Marathon for the last 9 years.  With first hand experience from treating runners at the finish line, below is a list of recommendations to safely finish the Kauai marathon, minimize injuries, and maximize your Kauai Marathon experience! 

Running Downhill:

  • The Kauai half and full marathons are packed with hills.  The half marathon has 825 ft if total climb, almost 1700 ft in total change, the full marathon has almost 2200 ft of climb and nearly 4400 ft of total change. Tip: When running downhill, shorten your stride length and slow down to avoid increased forces on the lower body to avoid common injuries (Shin splints, runners knee, bruised heels).3

Running Uphill:

  • Since there is a significant incline during the Kauai Marathon, make sure your quadriceps are strong, see #9 for exercises. Tip: When running uphill, shorten stride length and run in Zig zags to minimize the severity of the slope.3

Run on the flattest part of the road:

  • Since there is no sewer drainage in Kauai, Kauai Marathon streets have different types of road “camber” to allow for water run off. Great for driving, not so great for running as it increases ankle stress and hip pressure. To decrease the effects of camber, run in the flattest and highest part of the street when possible, in the middle when cambered from both sides, and at the highest point of the street during a bank.4

Avoid congestion:

  • Kauai Marathon roads are narrower compared to other marathons, keep your distance from fellow runners, never stop suddenly, if slowing down stay to your right, and when passing others vocalize you doing so in order to avoid collisions. The starting line is particularly crowded, allowing space in front and behind you from the start will also be helpful in avoiding congestion.  Stay safe.


  • Runners at the Kauai Marathon tend to start off quickly to avoid other runners and burn energy. The beginning of the marathon is exciting, with music, Hawaiian drumming, Polynesian chanting… after all you are in Hawaii!  However, DO NOT run compared to others, run according to feel and personal training habits.


  • The average temperature on Kauai in September is 77 degrees and is deceivingly cooler at the 6 am start of the Kauai marathon. As we know, increased heat will increase sweating and loss of water. Staying hydrated up to 48 hours before the race and knowing where the water checkpoints are on the course can help keep you on pace. Also, run in the shade when available.1,2 * The trees along the 1 mile straight away before the tree tunnel have been cut since last year.*


  • Kauai is hot and HUMID (avg of 73% in September), studies show that as humidity increases so does time to physical exhaustion. To best prepare, running in humid environments 7+ days before the race can help your body acclimate.1

Stretch and roll out:

  • Stretching and rolling out commonly injured muscles like your quadriceps, gluteals, calfs, and piriformis muscle groups. This will not only prevent injury during the race but allow you to explore the island after the race.

3 exercises to help avoid common injuries:

  • LAQ’s and squats:The most important for running controlled and to prevent injury in downhill running.6
  • Side stepping w/ a band: to help prevent hip, knee, and ankle pain.6
  • Hip 3-way clockwork: In order to strengthen all sides of the hip to prevent injuries down the kinetic chain.6

How to properly train:

  • Being at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon for the past 10 years, we know that the marathon is one of the hardest. Knowing this, adequate training and preparation are key, training 3-5x/wk up to 6 weeks before has been proven to be extremely beneficial to runners and prevent injuries during the race. 1,2,6

What to wear:

  • Avoid Cotton and wear synthetic-blend clothing (IE. Dri-fit from Nike), Dress in light colors, USE sunscreen (at least 15 SPF) and look into reef protecting sunscreen, Mahalo.5

Good luck and enjoy the race and beautiful scenery of the garden island! See you at the finish line! HSBC


  1. Watson P, Otani H, Maughan RJ. Influence of relative humidity on prolonged exercise capacity in a warm environment. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011;45(15). doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090606.10.
  2. Gordon D, Wightman S, Basevitch I et al. Physiological and training characteristics of recreational marathon runners. Open Access J Sports Med. 2017;Volume 8:231-241. doi:10.2147/oajsm.s141657
  3. Top 5 Running Tips | Hill Running Techniques | ELEVATE. ELEVATE. http://elevatesport.co.uk/uphill-running-techniques/. Published 2019. 
  4. How camber in roads affects runners. Medicalxpress.com. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-03-camber-roads-affects-runners.html. Published 2019. 
  5. What to wear when running. Runner’s World. https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20803133/what-to-wear/. Published 2019. 
  6. 10 tips for first time marathon runners. Runner’s World. https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20803133/what-to-wear/. Published 2019. 
  7. Top 10 most scenic marathons in the USA 
  8. Top 10 Bucket List marathons for 2019 https://www.runnersworld.com/races-places/a25800170/bucket-list-races-for-new-year/