Late Invitee Dazzles In ‘The Chase’

Christina Wong races to the finish at the Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half-Marathon March 10, finishing second overall. Gregory Yamamoto photo

Cold, rainy weather didn’t stop 2,346 runners from lining up at the start of the Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon in Waikiki March 10. Among them was 23-year-old Christina Wong, who was the second finisher with a time of 1 hour, 26 minutes and 50 seconds, or a “chase adjusted time” of 1 hour, 1 minute and 50 seconds.

In the Hapalua, 12 of the top local female runners and 12 of the top local male runners are invited to be part of The Chase, where they are given a seven-to 25-minute head start on some of the best professional runners in the world, which this year included marathon world record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya. Wong, a 2007 graduate of Punahou School, was invited to be part of The Chase just two weeks before the race after another runner pulled out because of an injury.

“When I woke up (on the morning of the race), I thought, I really hope this rain stops because it’s going to be kind of miserable running 13 miles in the rain,” recalls Wong. “But then again, I did run on the East Coast for four years, so I’m used to running in rain and snow. I think my senior year at the cross country national champion race, it was 30 degrees and we ran in tank tops.”

Wong joined track in seventh grade and then cross country when she was a junior. After high school, she continued to compete in both sports at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she earned a degree in English in 2011. Since then, she moved back to Hawaii and took a break

from running until last December, when she started training again, running 50 to 60 miles each week. In addition to the recent Hapalua, she also entered the Great Aloha Run, finishing in 53 minutes and 9 seconds, and this spring will race in the Jamba Juice 5K. “I love running because it’s such an honest sport, meaning that if you work hard at it and put in the miles, 98 percent of the time, correspondingly good race results will follow,” says Wong, who works as a paralegal at Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda, and is the assistant track and cross country coach at Mid-Pacific Institute. “Also, it’s such a great stress reliever, and you can do it anywhere. You don’t need any equipment other than your shoes.”

As for the Hapalua, Wong says it’s a unique concept and experience. “I started 25 minutes ahead of the rest of the field, so when I was running back, everyone else was heading out and cheering. That was really amazing, and I think that helped my race.”