While some may think running a marathon is for the birds, three local residents. Elizabeth Thomeczek, and Colten and Magen Soelzer took it to a whole other level and did in fact run the “For the Birds” marathon in Hilo, Hawaii, December 17, a race which supports the endemic birds of Hawaii.
The marathon is a Boston Marathon qualifier and designed to be the fastest marathon course in Hawaii and one of the fastest in the world!
Why Hawaii, and why a marathon? Elizabeth said she is a bucket list person, and a marathon has always been on her list, “Last year I decided to pick running a marathon!”
Elizabeth researched marathons near the same altitude as Syracuse, that were mostly downhill and a location that was not hot, so December was the month. “That narrowed it down to Hawaii, a place my husband Treg has always wanted to go, and I needed his support.”
Magen recalls a conversation she and Elizabeth had in 2022 when she agreed to run with her. “She sent me a text message December 27, 2022, and said work out January 1? I was hoping she forgot.”
“We chose a training program online, based on our experience level, how much time we were willing to put in and matched ourselves up with a plan,” said Elizabeth. They began working out in the gym gaining muscle and in July, began adding miles by running at the golf course.
Colten was not so quick to commit, beginning his training in August, “If I had to choose between scuba diving or a marathon, I choose scuba diving. But I found out I could do both and thought it would be fun to say I ran a marathon when I was forty.”
Before training, Elizabeth admits she was not a fan of running, but she learned to enjoy it, “I think we went about it the right way, starting January first and committing to the whole year, knowing we were going to run a marathon in December in Hawaii, gave us something to look forward to.
This was Magen’s second marathon and she said having a reliable partner was the key. “Elizabeth was not going to let me get out of it! We checked in with each other and she did not let me slack off or give up and then Colten joined us, so I knew then I could not give up because there were two other people with me.”
Colten’s motivation was committing, “Once I say I’m going to do something, It takes a lot for me not to do it. So, once I told someone, that was my focus.”
The Thomeczeks, along with their two children, the Soelzers, and Magen’s friend Alyssa arrived in Hawaii at different times and were able to enjoy some of what Hawaii is known for, while adjusting to the three-hour time difference, “That was the hardest thing for me,” said Colten.
The day arrived and the three were ready to complete the goal along with 110 others! “They limited the number of runners so there were people there to take your spot in case you could not run,” explained Magen.
The course began at the top of a volcano, at an elevation of 4100 feet. It was dark, a little snow on the ground, and the air was crisp. As the race evolved it began to get hotter and more humid.
Elizabeth said, “I thought downhill would be easier, but it was not after twenty-six miles, it put a lot of strain on our quads, working a lot of different muscle groups than the training at the golf course.”
Magen agreed saying, “The road we ran on was slanted so water would run off, and the right side of my body was balancing everything, and my leg took a hit! For the most part, going down was beautiful, watching the sunset, running on the main highway from Hilo to Kona.”
“The first person who was pacing with us was running his one hundred seventy first marathon, his fifth time running this one,” said Magen, “I thought are you crazy?” They all agreed they met interesting people along the path, many of whom were willing to help.
Coleten said, “My plan was to run four and three quarters of a mile, walk a quarter of a mile, so I had something to look forward to, a time to walk and rest.”
They rented a car so Treg and Alyssa would meet up with them every couple miles, stop, cheer on the runners, give them water, hold up signs of encouragement, give them high fives, “He was a minor celebrity by the end of the race!” said Elizabeth, they agreed the two of them kept them going, to see a familiar face.
Also, if they needed anything, sunglasses, toilet paper or if they needed to get rid of something such as their head lamps or a layer of clothes, “They were our assistants of sorts,” said Magen.
The three began the race together for about five miles. Colten got ahead for a while, “One mile before end, Elizabeth and Magen caught up to me! We did not plan that and were surprised.”
Approaching the finish line, elevation 320 feet, the car traffic got heavy, as they anticipated the arrival at the boy scout camp in the center of Hilo.
Colten used the analogy of a fun house mirror that goes on forever. “There was a person where we would take a left, we could see them, but it seemed they never got closer, it was very deceiving!”
They could not see the finish line until they were a couple hundred feet away. “It would have been great to see the finish line, more motivating,” said Colten.
Magen agreed, “The last mile, it’s normal for people to get delusional, the finish felt like it got farther and farther away. When we turned left, there was a bush, and I ran across it and remember saying, I see the tent!”
Elizabeth agreed the finish was the toughest, “The last couple miles were hills, using only your quads, to using your hamstrings, our legs were numb and shot!”
They had bibs on with their number, and enjoyed hearing their names announced as they finished, thinking, the only three runners from Kansas!
Their main goal was to finish in under six hours, Magen finished in 5:25:55, Colten 5:26:00, and Elizabeth 5:26:03. “The fastest time was two hours and thirty-three minutes, it makes me sick to say that!” said Colten.
Magen’s highlight was the finish line, shaving one hour off her previous marathon time. “I knew I had completed it, even though I wanted to quit eight thousand times, the pain would stop, and I could eat as much as I wanted to and not worry about throwing it up!”
Colten was happy with how it went, walking a total of a couple miles, through water stations, “But I don’t see myself doing it again.”
After the marathon, they had a little time, but they all agreed, they needed time to rest and recover from their sore muscles.
Thomeczecks stayed in a cabin on the top of the volcano, “It was built in the 40s, very vintage. We toured the lava tubes, walked on the crater, and played in the ocean. The kids got to see a lot of wildlife,” said Elizabeth.
Colten encouraged others saying, “If you want to do something, don’t let naysayers talk you out of it. Don’t let people’s negative attitudes discourage you from doing something you want to do.”
Elizabeth said, “I was super proud of us, doing what we had done. The best part of the whole experience is that we did it together, finishing together, and having Treg and the kids with me, it was such a good environment.”
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