Marathon organizer: Race is a ‘major success,’ trial run for rest of island

Bob Wedeman was in a good mood on Sunday. He didn’t have to worry about rain or wind affecting the 23rd annual Big Island International Marathon at Hilo Bayfront.

As for the coronavirus that’s been going around, that wasn’t an issue for Wedeman, who said he was the mayor’s hero.

“We’re the mayor’s hero and the example of how to put things on the right way, working with all of the departments, and he’s (Harry Kim) is going to have me in next week to see how we can make more events work.

“We worked with all of the departments, even when they gave us trouble. He said we’re the shining example, their quote, how to make it right. I about fell over and died when they told me that.”

Wedeman said there was about a 25 percent pull-out from about the 900 registered sign-ups (the race doesn’t offer a refund), due to coronavirus concerns.

Sporting events around the world have taken a cautious approach, shutting down high school, collegiate and professional sports and other running events, including the Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon and the Boston Marathon.

Wedeman described the annual event as a success.

“The race was a major success because people came out. They ran and had fun, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We had 25 percent that didn’t show that entered, and it’s their loss because this has been a great event.

“The people here it was just as good as any event we ever had. The problem, in my humble carpenter’s opinion, is fear. People are afraid to move. They’re afraid to have a 100 people gathered, but they go to Safeway and there’s 500 people in line waiting. They sit in a 1,000-person movies and that’s OK. But they don’t want to have healthy runners, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Wedeman said that the state Department of Health told him that as long as he followed some procedures the DOH would have no problem. One modification was handing medals to finishers instead of draping it around their necks.

“The Health department told me the state has not canceled anything. People have canceled out of fear, which is why I think the mayor is happy with us because we didn’t submit to fear,” he said. “If the Health department said at any time we were going to be a danger to people, it’s not rocket science we’re not going to do it. When the Health department says you should do it, whom am I to argue?

“Not one face mask at the Expo (on Saturday) or here, which surprised me. I want to say we have 30ish people from Japan, who are wearing face masks normally and I haven’t seen any. It’s OK if they did. We did not have any people from China, Iran or South Korea. They never entered. We didn’t have those entries, so we didn’t have those concerns. I think it was a wonderful event.”

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DJ Blinn has run in 22 consecutive Hilo marathons. That streak ended on Sunday when he did the half-marathon.

“I’ve got to slow down. I want to keep running but don’t want to wear myself out,” he said. “I felt good, less training, less stress. There comes a time when you have to make that decision or you end up injured.”