A brief history of the 40th Annual Mac-A-Thon

In 1980, our small canoe club in South Kona was struggling to survive after being forced to move from our home base in Hōnaunau Bay to Napo’opo’o Beach, in the shadow of Hikia Heiau and Palikapu o Keōua. That year also marked a change in Moku o Keawe Racing Association rules which now required all regatta races to he run in koa canoes exclusively. Our club did not have its own koa so we were borrowing canoes from other clubs from event to event for the next few years.

In 1981, after lengthy negotiations with Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, we were allowed to return to Hōnaunau and granted use of the grounds at Hale o Ho’oponopono for launching and landing, as well as the lot where our present halau stands to store and maintain our canoes. With our home base secured, we began to earnestly raise funds to secure a koa log for our first koa canoe by soliciting donations, selling Molokai bread, Portuguese sausage, and staging several foot races like our Hallowe’en Dash & Bash and a Keōua 15K in Kailua-Kona, where most of Kona’s runners resided. We then moved our focus back to South Kona and held the Rocky Road 5k & 10k runs from the Hōnaunau Rodeo Grounds through Painted Church Road and back. Besides awards, all the participants were treated to Rocky Road ice cream at the finish!

We wanted to involve our paddlers in the sport of running and promote healthy activ ities that are open to all ages and levels of conditioning. Since running events are held all year-round and were relatively easy to organize, we felt that a well-staged yearly foot race before the start of the paddling season would be a good recruiting tool and a reliable means of raising funds for our koa canoe and other club expenses. Geno Ortiz and I approached Arlene Wakefield, owner of Barry’s Nut Farm in Hōnaunau, with the idea of holding the event at her beautiful venue and Arlene welcomed the proposal. We chose Easter Saturday 1982 for our first event and named it the Mac-A-Thon, with 5K, 10K and Half Marathon distances. To this we added live music with several bands, an Easter Egg Hunt and Magic Show for the keiki, a live auction, a raffle, and food booths.

Our first few Mac-A-Thons were a resounding success, but were labor-intensive, requiring several days of set-up and breaking down at Wakefield Gardens (aka Barry’s Nut Farm), lots of advance preparation, making Easter Baskets, race course logistics, solicitation of donations, food service, live music, awards ceremony; and the events lasted from 6 AM to 6 PM. We soon began looking for ways to streamline our efforts and maximize our limited human resources. This led to eliminating the half marathon run and live auction, and ending the event by 1 PM. Although these measures reduced some of the time spent staging the event, we were still operating away from our home base of Hōnaunau Bay. Finally in 1996, we moved the Mac-A-Thon to our grounds in Hōnaunau and staged the race course over the more runner-friendly route between Hōnaunau and Napo’opo’o. The Painted Church course, though scenic and cooler, had more traffic, blind turns and loose dogs!

Since 1996, we’ve held the Mac-A-Thon on our home turf, provided all participants with race shirts, medals & awards, our delicious mac-nut pancake breakfast, mellow music, silent auction & country store and an Easter Egg Hunt when possible. Prior to race day, our club members clean up the road between Hōnaunau and Napo’opo’o, which is constantly littered with truckloads of garbage, discarded appliances, furniture, cars, and construction material

These past 40 years would not have been possible without the support of our Big Island running community, our local merchants and businesses, and the many Keōua paddlers and their families. With the proceeds from the Mac-A-Thon we were able to acquire our first koa canoe, the Hōnaunau, in 1984. Ten years later, we were blessed with a second koa, the Ka’ahumanu, and in 2012 a third koa canoe, the ‘A’le’ale’a.

Mahalo nui to our past & present Mac-A-Thon supporters, like MacFarms Hawaii, Wakefield Gardens, Patel’s Service Station, Fujihara Store, Keei Café, ChoiceMart, John Olson, Esq., Kona BrewPub, Weaver’s Mango & Dragonfruit Farm, Konacopia Farms, Big Island Bees, Farm & Garden, Polynesian Paddling Products, All Tool, Inc, Tiger Canoe & Kayak, artist Carol Treadway, Arneleo & the Great Barushky, Teddy Ginn & the Brotherhood, Big Jake’s BBQ, and so many others.  We look forward to many more Mac-A-Thons with your support.

By Rafael Ramirez

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