Every now and then, we like to dig deep into a race and discover what makes it truly special. This time, we chose the Great Aloha Run, a Honolulu road race that’s been loved since its start 32 years ago. More than 12,000 people signed up that first year and it’s continued to attract nearly 20,000 participants from around the world each year since.
So what makes the Great Aloha Run so great? Our own Whitney Herzog went to experience it firsthand.
To understand the Great Aloha Run, you must first understand “aloha”. It doesn’t mean hello and goodbye like many of us have been told; rather, it means love and compassion. You might have heard of “living aloha” – it’s not just a catchy phrase! It’s a lifestyle of treating others with kindness and acceptance and you can feel it at every turn in the Great Aloha Run. After all, the race’s Hawaiian name is Ke kukini me ke aloha pau’ole, or the race of compassionate love.
Right in line with the aloha spirit, the Great Aloha Run donates some big bucks to charity! Throughout its history, the race has raised more than $11 million for over 150 local community groups and nonprofit organizations. In 2016 alone, it contributed close to $400,000!
One of the best parts of the Great Aloha Run is that there really is a place for everyone to get involved! At only 8.15 miles, the race is a reasonable distance for many and there are divisions for elites, people with wheelchairs and handcycles, and for those who just want to walk and be a part of the experience. You’ll find participants who come from down the street and from around the world; the race has grown particularly popular with West Coast running groups and visitors from Japan.
Senior citizens are never a rare sight at the race, either. Many of them serve as one of the 4,000 volunteers that help make the event a success every year! The Great Aloha Run even offers free computer classes to help seniors learn new skills and get up-to-date with new technology – just another way the Great Aloha Run gives back!
The Sounds of Freedom
Another group that’s always included? The local military community! The chants and songs from service members running in formation is a common sound around town; when you don’t hear them, you know they’re out defending the country. But when you do, you know they’re home – or at the Great Aloha Run! 6,500 service members participated in the Sounds of Freedom last year and though two brigades were out of town this year, it was still a powerful sight (and sound!) to see men and women from all branches of the military – including ROTC – running and calling cadence with their units.
The Unique Expo
The Great Aloha Run Health, Sports, and Fitness Expo is the largest in the state of Hawaii and offers more than your typical runner fare. This year, the expo had fun activities like a free throw challenge, local farmer’s markets, and a lifting competition called the Warrior Fitness Challenge. The expo itself is a demonstration of inclusivity: unique vendors like Tesla and the U.S. Army were on hand with obstacles and even a hummer that you could climb into!
When it comes down to it, the Great Aloha Run lives up to both of its names. Even though you are surrounded by 25,000 people, you can tell that each one of them is there for the same reason: to give back. The race has a measurable impact on the community, not just through the donations it gives but through the memories it makes. On any given week, you’ll see folks wearing Great Aloha Run shirts from different years throughout its 32-year history!
After all, the Great Aloha Run isn’t just “a Hawaii race”. It’s not about the warm weather and palm trees (though we’re not complaining); it’s about being part of a real community event where no matter where you came from, you’ll never feel out of place. The only thing you’ll feel is the aloha!