Saturday, April 30, 2011

Running in Paradise

Easy six miles through the woods, down a WWII-era runway, past pill boxes, a wrecked airplane and the biggest darn crab I've ever seen.

Time:  54 minutes
Distance:  6.1 miles
Pace: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Overcast and humid

Palmyra Atoll is located approximately 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.  That's 1,000 of nothing, save for Kingman Reef, between the Honolulu Airport and the crushed coral landing strip on Palmyra.  That's a long way to go for a run.

View from base camp on Cooper Island northwest toward Strawn Island
The running route starts at research base camp on Cooper Island and heads east on an old WWII two-track, past North Beach and connects with the east end of the runway.  From there, the route takes one down the runway to the two-track that leads back to base camp.  The loop is 2.5 miles, almost on the nose.

The running surface -- well, the islands' surface is crushed coral. Instead of having to watch out for rocks and roots, the chief trail obstacle here are crabs. There are three types of crabs to watch out for -- hermit crabs (everywhere), big fiddler crab-looking crabs and the Big Daddy of 'em all, the coconut crab (these crabs actually eat coconuts and can get to be the size of basketballs).

A coconut crab refuses to let a certain trail runner pass
The coral reefs here are among the best on the planet. Because there is so little direct human impact (save for climate change), the reefs are very healthy and resilient. Bleaching events and disease do happen here, but because the reefs are so healthy and the human impacts relatively minimal, they recover quickly.  There are places with 100 percent coral cover. Went for a dive today in an old channel dredged by the Navy during WWII. Saw about 20 manta rays...big ones, too, with 10-foot wing spans. 

There are several scientists here doing all sorts of research project, from seeking to spot the extraordinarily elusive beaked whale, to shark tagging, climate research and more. Because the ecosystem here is so intact, it's a great place to study how things work.

Thou Shall Ensure This Place Remains for Future Generations!
Check the Garmin map of this run, here.  Click on aerial view to see the atoll.  Incredible.


  1. We were commenting how you pretty much suck (read: lucky) while running in the cool wind at the Kohl 5K today!

    They gots interwebs there too! Nice.

  2. That is pretty incredible looking, and that diving sounds amazing. How much vert did you get on your run today? I bet your quads were burning.

  3. If those crabs can open coconuts, I'd think twice before napping on the beach. Ouch.

    However, due to some time living in France, any shellfish inevitably conjures images of melted butter and tiny forks.

    Hey, they eat anything in Europe. ANYTHING.

  4. If those crabs can eat coconuts...that is entirely too close to sticking your foot! I'm in agreement with the others that you suck. You picked an excellent weekend to be away in the tropics.

  5. HOLY

    So what lucky lotto ticket did you pull to get that gig?

  6. So damn cool! And did that crab charge after you snapped it's picture?