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Legend Marathon Runner: Jonathan Lyau

Legend Marathon Runner: Jonathan Lyau
December 6, 2017 mariane uehara

The Honolulu Marathon race week has finally arrived. With that in mind I decided to ask legend runner Jonathan Lyau to share a few tips and fun facts about his Honolulu Marathon experience along these last five decades racing, coaching and cheering.

“Jon, how many times have you broken the magical 3 hour mark?”
He calmly replied: 35 times.

Oh my!! 35 marathons running under 6:50 per mile! This chat is going to be good…keep reading and I hope you enjoy this chat as much as I did.

How many marathons have you done and how many were Honolulu Marathon?

Jon: I’ve done 39 marathons and 31 of them have been the Honolulu Marathon

How did you start running marathons?

Jon: 1979 was a time of the “running boom” in the US so the marathon was talked about a lot. I had joined my McKinley High School Cross Country team in September and it was just something that was there to do after the season ended in November. Many high school kids did it during that time, including several from my team. We were considered distance runners, so we thought it would be fun and exciting to run a marathon. I had actually first been introduced to the Honolulu Marathon earlier in 1979 when my Aunty would talk about it and take my cousin, brother, and I to the Honolulu Marathon Clinic to listen to talks and go for group runs. Because of this, the marathon was not as intimidating.

What are your worst moment at a marathon?

Jon: 1988, I started cramping real early and decided that I wasn’t going to finish. I ended up on side of road for almost an hour waiting to see if I could catch a ride back. I was getting cold standing around. I ended up seeing my former high school friend running by, so I figured that I’d try to get into a jog and run that last 8 miles back with him. I was pretty sore going back, but it was good company to have him there. I ended up finishing in 4:30.

Your most funny experience at the marathon?

Jon: I can’t think of any! If anything, it was the “worst” experience I just described in my worst time of 4:30. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my friend later told me that if it wasn’t for me running with him, he wouldn’t have kept running and made a PR. I would jog with him, but my jog was still faster than he was running so I would stop and walk till he caught up, then start jogging again. Everytime he caught up with me, I encouraged him and began jogging again so it kinda forced him to try to stay with me.

What are the personal landmarks and interesting facts you saw through 1979-2015, 5 different decades in the Honolulu marathon!
What is the last tip to everyone running the Honolulu Marathon this weekend?

Jon: Pacing is the key to success. My advice is to start off easier than you think you are going. The excitement, adrenaline, and fresh legs will make you feel like you can run forever. This feeling will not last! The worst strategy is going out too fast because you will burn your your glycogen stores too quickly. Think of yourself like a car and what will give the best mileage and efficiency out of a tank of gas. Just get into your pace and maintain rhythm. Hills and wind will affect your pacing too so when you encounter these, your pace will change as you run with the same effort. Don’t panic or force yourself to hold your pace when encountering them, just stay calm and maintain your effort.

Fun and Amazing Facts about Jonathan Lyau:
  • Has run marathon in 5 different decades (1st one was 1979 in 3:23, last one was 2015 in 2:58:56)
  • Has broken 3 hours in 4 different year decades (1980’s, 90’s 00’s, 10’s)
  • Has broken 3 hours in 5 different Life decades: as a teen(16), 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
  • Last one was age 51 in 2015. I have since retired from marathons.
  • Between 1993-2012, won 17 Kamaaina (1st Hawaii Born) titles in Honolulu Marathon

Jon thank you for sharing and for inspiring us to be good runners and coaches!

We will be there cheering for all of you racing the Honolulu Marathon this Sunday!

some dreams are worth sharing


follow Jon Lyau: @jlyau

run with Jon: every Thursday at the Kaka’ako Lanikai Juice Run Club

photos by: Jon’s personal archive & Joe Hatzinikolis