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Jun 9, 2014

Kona Run 10 Mile race review

Short Version
Finished in 1:29:59(official); no new PR(actually a personal worst)
Overall place: 192/536
Overall Men: 125/253
Men(40-44): 25/47

Race #73
Ah the Kona Running Company I know is back!  One of my favorite races of the year.  Great organization, awesome volunteers, superior course markings, incredible start and finish and a great expo at the finish line.  This was my fifth year running this race and I loved it once again.  If you have not run this race before, this needs to go on your "must do" racing list.  Yes, it's hilly but who wants to run a boring flat race?


Long Version 
Registration/Packet Pickup
Kona uses Hughesware to allow runners to register online which is so simple.  I sent my registration in via mail since my entry is comped.  Also very easy and a great way to do it if you want to save a few dollars on online fees.  You also have the ability online to make sure you are shown as registered too after you mail it in so there's no question if they received the entry.  Of course, the race also has their own website with all the information you need to decide if you want to do the race.  I always suggest that everyone read the website closely as it has 99% of answers on there.

Another very early morning as I was up at 4:30am to get to my buddies place by 5:30am so we could get there by 6:30am.  Our race started at 7:30am but parking fills up quickly with a 10k start of 7:15am.  My running buddy, Kevin, picked up our packets on Friday afternoon so I had not planned to go to packet pickup this time around.  His wife wanted to exchange out a different shirt size so we made our way there before the race.   I took advantage of this and went in to get some pictures of the packet pickup area.  This year it was in a new location at the Northville Community Center gym which is a better location in my opinion and not far from the race start.
Race Headquarters
As to be expected, Kona was in their usual organized fashion.  Kevin's wife literally exchanged her shirt size in 30 seconds.  The race always makes things so easy.  There were people getting their packets and volunteers there to help as well.  They had the bib numbers up on the wall if you didn't have it.  They were also selling Kona merchandise at a discount as they do with each race.  The gym that packet pickup is located in makes for a nice set up.  We also took advantage of using real bathrooms there too - bonus!
Packet Pickup
Volunteer check in/race day registration
Name/bib # board
Kona Store
Start Area
After pickup we drove over to Northville Downs and parked in their lot.  This is a great venue since there is so much parking here and makes it worry free.  It's also an awesome starting line as well.  We had about 45 minutes until our start so we got in line for the bathrooms.
Parking at Northville Downs
When I saw the line, I said wow it sure seems like they don't have enough bathrooms.  Of course, I was wrong as the line went pretty fast since it was just one line.  Usually you see several lines forming and it doesn't look as long but the port-o-potties were adequate for the runners.

The 10k race started 15 minutes before the 10 mile race and also had the most registered runners.  It's always fun to see the top runners run around the track so fast.  The race did a great job this year clearing out the 10 mile runners so the 10k runners were able to get through to the parking lot and streets.
Bathroom line
Start area
On the track
Waiting to run
Elite runners in the 10k
Before we knew it, the race was doing the National Anthem for our race and we were ready to go.  The race directors daughter does the National Anthem at all their races.  I didn't realize until I got home that the flags were in the way of her - oops!  It was around 60 degrees to start and felt really nice but I knew it would get warmer as we ran our race.  The last five years has been awesome weather overall for this race.
National Anthem
Right before we started, I also had time to get a picture of Greg from Everal Race Management. He's kind of an important part of the Kona races since he does the timing for all the races and does an awesome job!  If I were organizing a race, he's who I would choose to time it.
Greg from Everal Race Management
Runners in front of me
Runners behind me
Today's race for me was all about finishing without feeling hurt and I succeeded.  I've been struggling with my hamstring the last several weeks so timing was not an issue at all.  I'm getting better each week and starting to build my mile back up slowly.  While it's not uncommon for me to forget to turn off my Garmin at the end of the race, I left it going for 15 minutes after I finished.  Oops.  I've never done that before.
Map per Garmin

The theme for the courses is hilly and hot.  Check out the elevation below.  Personally while the first hill that the race calls the "Kona Hill" is long and steep, overall I don't think it's that bad of elevation and anyone that has not run this before should not worry about it that much.  The elevation looks worse than it really feels.  While I'm not saying it's easy either, it's a fun challenge and you can see that it sure kept my heart race up there in the 140-160 range depending on the elevation.
Pace/elevation/heart rate per garmin
Overall, I finished feeling reasonably good and happy to see most of my splits were sub 9 minute pace.  Currently that's good for me considering I've been running slower and flatter in training except for when I'm on the trails.  I guess the trails have really helped me on these Northville hills.
Splits - oops, forgot to turn off the Garmin at the finish.
Note: When I take pictures during the race, I don't change my pace or stop in the interest of safety.   I just keep running and I get what I can get from the pictures.  Some come out better than others but they give you a great idea of what the course is like.

The first half mile is on the Northville Downs race track.  It really is a fun and unique place to start especially if you have never run on it before.  It was a little crowded to start but overall a very enjoyable start.
And we're off!
One lap around the track
You can see below how the race has things marked well with gates and also cones too as we start to move outside the track.  While it gets a little tight here, it was really set up very well and quite organized as I would expect with a Kona race.
coming off the track
Heading to Kona Hill
Through the parking area
Onto the roads
The first big hill comes about 3/4 of a mile in and you can see below the elevation that runners face pretty soon into the course.  Since this was my fifth time running this, I knew what to expect but it can throw off some runners if they didn't do any hill training for this race.
Mile 1 - Kona Hill
Kona hill
It's a fairly long road with rolling hills until you get into the subdivision.
Kona Hill continues!
Heading into the subdivision
One of my favorite parts of the course is running through the subdivisions.  It's a really nice subdivision and I love all the rolling hills in there.  I wish my subdivision had some hills like this.  All I have is a really flat area unless I go to the Metropark.
Beautiful day
Mile 2
There were plenty of police support and you can see below they had some bicycle police on the course. That was in addition to the police motorcycles and police cars too on top of the volunteers.  At this point, we were also starting to catch up to some of the 10k participants.
Catching up to some 10kers
While the course has always been marked well in the past, it was exceptionally well marked this year and they had tons of volunteers directing you.  Below there were volunteers directing you which way to go for the 10 mile/10k split so nobody took a wrong turn.
Well marked split between 10 mile and 10k
Mile 3
Great police support
After three miles, we crossed over six mile to get into another subdivision and the police did a great job controlling traffic.  I don't know why but I really love crossing this road. It's feels fun to me probably because I can see all the runners ahead of me and it gets you pumped up.
Crossing six mile
Lots of volunteer support
Back in the subdivision
Course markings/marshall
Mile 4
A little after mile four, I started running with a Detroit Runner reader, Megan.  It was her first race in double digits and we ended up running most of the rest of the course just talking as we went.  As most of you know, I love when people introduce themselves that read my blog and she was going a perfect pace for me so it made the miles fly by.  I lost my running buddy Kevin about this point as well since he was suffering with allergies and a head cold.  He would have kicked my butt otherwise since he kills it on the hills.
Megan in the orange shirt
Mile 5
Mile 6
Below is a great example of the volunteers at Kona.  The girl below was stopping a car to allow us to keep running.  It was also right around an aid station too so it was pretty busy in this area and she was doing a great job.
Course Marshall
Mile 7
More great course markings
Mile 8
The last couple miles were pretty warm but I just did my best to not think about it.  We really had a perfect day for the race.  As you start getting towards downtown Northville, you can tell since the homes are much more traditional and older.  They have some awesome character in the area and it's fun to run through this part of the race.  There were a few neighbors that were out cheering us on which is nice and one even had a bubble machine going as we ran past.  How fun!
Near Downtown
Neighbors had bubble machine
Mile 9(you can see it behind the aid station)
Almost there
After we run by downtown, we make our way down to Ford Field(in Northville, not Detroit) where everyone was cheering people on.  There was also a steel band playing as we entered the park.
Steel Band at end of course
The park has a track that runs around the park and it's a really fun finish as well since there is so many people that finished and everyone is cheering you on to finish strong.
In the park finish(I see Shawn on the left, a Detroit Runner reader)
Lots of cheers
A nice thing Kona does is announce runners as we pass that timing mat below.  At the time I passed, the top 5k runners were also coming in so they didn't announce my name but were announcing these runners.  It's a really fun part about the finish here.
Timing Mat to announce names
Aid Stations
The aid stations were awesome again this year.  There were tons of volunteers and they were doing a great job.  They had various aid stations including only water, water and Gatorade, as well as a GU station around the six mile mark.  The aid stations were well stocked and there were plenty of stops. Some of the most I've seen in a race this distance.
GU station
Marked for water/Gatorade
Bathroom on course too

Finish Area
After you crossed the finish, a volunteer handed you your medal.  More than three volunteers said thank you for running our race.  Wow - that was a nice touch to the finish line and sure made you feel appreciated.  After the medals, the race has a mini expo right there.  It's the only time I've seen that for all the races I've run and it's fun to visit with the companies there.  Many also are giving out things such as popsicles and ice cream.
Lost and Found
Lot's of runners enjoying the expo at the finish line.  The park is also right near the river so you can get out of the sun and relax.
The race had individually wrapped bagels with several choices as well as granola bars and bananas. While I also love the cookies that Kona has offered for their last several races, I really missed the Panera bagels and grabbed an Asiago cheese bagel.
Bagels, granola bars and bananas
New for this year was ice cream by Guernsey.  Oh My Goodness!  That vanilla ice cream was some of the best ice cream I've ever had as it was SO creamy and it really hit the spot after a long hot race.  That was one of the best ideas!  All summer races should finish with their ice cream.

Of course, the race also offered water and Gatorade at the finish.  Some of the results were posted on their traditional board, however, the race offered XAct instant timing as well so all you had to do was scan your bib.  I actually didn't think about it until I got home and looked online but it's a great feature and I wish all races would use that technology.
Guernsey Ice Cream
One of the fun parts of the Kona Run is watching the Hula dancers do their Hawaiin dance.  It's very entertaining especially since it's not something that you get to see often around here.  With that, we headed back to Northville Downs to get the car.  It's only a few blocks walk up the street.
Hula girls
Overall park view
For your race entry, you received a timed, USATF certified course. While it's open to traffic, most of the course is through subdivisions and is very safe.  The police support and volunteers make sure that you are safe.  You received timing through the Xact program so you could check via a QR code on your bib or have it emailed, posted on Faceboor or Twitter, or sent as a text. I sent mine both to Facebook and Twitter.
Race bib
You also received a Kona Grand Slam race bag which we use these Kona bags all the time. They are really handy little bags.
Kona bag
Of course, you get Kona's signature tech shirt and this is another great design that will get worn for many of training runs.  I also like that in all the Kona races I've run, not one shirt is the same so this is a new color for me.
Shirt front
Shirt back
10 mile, 5k and this year a special surprise, one milers, got medals.  It's funny because when I started running longer distances five years ago, few offered medals but Kona did so it's one of the reasons I ran the Solstice race(now Kona Run).  In typical Kona fashion, they have once again designed an incredible medal in a new design.  The medal is huge and it's also got a custom ribbon with the race name on it and it's a really fun design!
Medal with custom ribbon
Medal close up
The organization for the race this year was excellent.  Constant communication from when you registered.   A well organized website.  A very organized packet pickup area that is convenient to the start.   The start was well organized.   The course management was one of the best of the five years I've run the Kona Run and very well marked.  The finish line is one of the most fun finish lines of all races I've done as the expo is a real treat afterwords.  The addition of ice cream was great.  The Xact system is really nice to have to check results quickly. A very well run race.

Overall I would absolutely run this race again.  In fact, it's the only race that I've run five years in a row.  It's really been my favorite race that I've run and why I keep coming back to it each year.  If you have not run it, you really are missing out on a really fun event.
Another successful Kona Run(the river behind me in the park)
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a particular opinion except for an honest one.


  1. This was my first year running it and I really liked it! Those hills are great!

  2. Hills and heat, didn't slow you down till the 11th mile... OH you were over the finish-line by then! looks like you ran a perfect race.

  3. How does it compare to the CRIM in terms of hilliness?