The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Thursday, March 6, 1997

The Ko‘olau Trek
is not so great after all

WHY am I not surprised?

The "Great Trans Ko'olau Trek," which is billed in race entry booklets as "the largest timed foot race of this milennium -- an international gathering so large it will dwarf all other major running events throughout the world," has shrunk.

Last spring, organizers were irresponsibly saying the event, scheduled for Mother's Day (May 11), was destined for the Guinness Book of Records with 100,000 runners "expected."

Even Gov. Ben Cayetano, in a message to which he affixed his name in the booklet, went so far as to project 62,000 "timed" finishers.

The state allowed itself to be listed on the cover of the entry booklet as a "co-sponsor" of the event.

Take a guess at how many registered entries this greatest race of the milennium, which was supposed to give a huge boost to our state economy with its foreign and mainland numbers, has right now.

Insider estimates go no higher than 12,000, but a good source says the real figure may be closer to 8,800.

With two months to go, don't expect these figures to change much.

You'll hear much larger estimates from race organizers trying desperately to save the image of this rapidly deflating event, but don't believe them.

They'll claim a big Japanese contingent is due but insiders say that's not certain.

I'd be embarrassed, Gov.

Exorbitant local entry fees didn't help. These started at $39 for early entries, rose to $49 for late entries, rose further to $59 for "very late" entries and finally to $80 for "very, very late" entries.

BUT confusion reigns in this event. There are at least three different race forms at large in the community.

I picked up all three versions yesterday at different locations.

Some forms say that as of March 1, local folks must pay $80 to participate. Others say that as of April 1, locals must pay $59.

I wonder how many of you sent in $80 after the first of the month and are now a little confused.

Oh, did I mention this is basically the same cast that brought you the Great Aloha Chaos... I mean, Great Aloha Run...last month, complete with multiple course security breakdowns and race results delayed for five days?

Yes, Jack Scaff and Alan Sunio (can't blame this one on Carole Kai) are at the controls again, furiously trying to reassure everyone they're putting on a big, well-organized event.

Got to laugh when they claim they could've time 100,000 runners when they couldn't even handle the 15,044 who finished the not-so-Great Aloha Run.

I'm still getting calls about the results fiasco.

Scaff and Sunio were only 90 percent off in their estimate of a starting field for H-3, so just imagine their potential for miscalculating what's needed for the rest of the project.

One insider said this week it's a blessing the field will be so small because there's no way the Scaff-Sunio crew could've handled the numbers they dreamed up to promote the event.

And tell me, what 10-mile road race, fraught with ambiguities, is worth this kind of entry fee?

The latest local fee in the Honolulu Marathon -- which hires more than 250 cops and takes pretty good care of you for 26.2 miles -- is no more than $60.

Even the 101st Boston Marathon -- a venerable sports institution -- is charging no more than $75 to U.S. residents.

Actually, I'm a lot more concerned with how Scaff and Sunio will take care of 8,000 to 10,000 runners on a windy 46-foot wide roadway suspended 160 feet above the ground with guard rails that are only 36 inches high.

But that's a matter to be dealt with in another column.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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