The Rapa Nui, or Easter Island Marathon, is definitely not a major marathon. Due to the limited accommodations on this tiny island, the race is capped at 180 participants each year. Less than 40 people would participate in the Full Marathon, making it one of the most exclusive races in the world.
If you are an avid runner and traveler – why not do it? How many people can say they’ve have completed the Easter Island Marathon? I decided to run it in June 2016, making it the sixth continent on which I’ve run a marathon.
Registering for the Race
The governing body, Olimpo Producciones, who organize pretty much all races in Chile, has simplified the design of the English Easter Island Marathon registration. The entrance fee is pretty expensive; I had to pay $450 USD (ouch!) But it was worth every penny.
Keep in mind that this option is probably the cheapest, and you’ll have to make your own way to Easter Island. You’ll also have to find your own accommodations and transportation around the island. As a guide, in addition to the flight to Chile itself, the round-trip flight from Santiago to Easter Island is about $700. A hotel room can be anywhere from $80-400 per night. A hostel is still a rarity on the Island – I found mine for $25 per night, which was a very good deal.
If you choose not to go the “do-it-yourself” route, there’s a second option. Marathon Tours & Travels (based in Boston since 1979), sells Easter Island Marathon packages for $3,699 per person based on double occupancy. For single, expect to pay $4,799. Airfare is not included. You can see their packages here.
For the 2016 race, Marathon Tours arranged about 60 of the 180 spots for all runners, and they sold out fast. My suggestion is to act quickly, either through the official Easter Island Marathon website, or through The Marathon Tours & Travels website.
There are three different distances you can sign up for: 10k, Half Marathon, or the Full Marathon. It is a very simple route – starting at the capital city of Hanga Roa, and then along the island’s major road to Anakena Beach, and back. The 10k and Half have earlier turn-arounds.
Running Expo and the Pasta Party at the Hanga Roa Hotel
Unlike every other one I’ve done, there is no Race Expo for the Easter Island Marathon. There did have a pasta party at the Hanga Roa Hotel – the major hotel on the island, where all 180 runners and their guests were invited. There, we picked up our race numbers, tech shirts, and wind breakers.
Before the dinner, our Race Director gave us the run-down and expectations for the marathon. The rules are quite typical, but there were some interesting extras:
- There is no time limit to finish this marathon. We were told that, a few years before, a lady finished about 9+ hours later. She cried her eyes out when crossing the finish line, while others gathered for the medal ceremony. There was a big celebration for all of the runners and a few teary eyes.
- Water stations were arranged every 5 km. When approaching the finish line, you must finish your water, and drop off any used cups and trash (e.g., Gu or jelly bean bags) in the trash bag provided – no littering allowed on this island!
- No information was given about the starting line until the end of the presentation. A few runners were confused and wondered where we needed to go. Realizing he didn’t mention this somewhat critical point, the Race Director replies, “Oh, of course. We will start at the soccer field.” Hmm, OK? He sees our unsure faces and starts to laugh, continuing. “The only soccer field on the Island.” We laughed with him.
Before the pasta dinner, our Keynote Speaker, a Chilean guy who just proudly scaled Mount Everest, presented his story in Spanish. About half the room applauded – the majority of us didn’t understand Spanish. For our benefit, the Race Director, er, “summarized” his 30 minute story in about two English sentences.
Weekly Mass before the Easter Island Marathon
The race started at 10:15 am on Sunday. It was an odd time, for sure, but it was to accommodate the weekly Mass which started at 9 o’clock. All runners were invited to attend this unique mass. I really enjoyed singing along in the Rapa Nui language (with the helpful slide show that was provided). It is a very festive mass, and the priest wore his famous feathery headband.
After the mass at 10 o’clock, we walked two blocks south to the soccer field – the starting point of the running race.
During the Easter Marathon!
We lined up at the starting line next to the soccer field, and the horn went off exactly at 10:15. The temperature was a very comfortable mid-60s (about 18C) but the humidity was high. We looped around Hanga Roa before setting off on the main road next to the airport.
Surely enough, water stations were set up every 5 km. Every runner had to finish their water before depositing the empty cups into the trash.
It was definitely a very quiet and serene route. I passed the turn-arounds for the 10k and Half Marathon before continuing on to Anakena Beach across the island for my own turn-around at the 21 km point.
There were about 40 runners doing the full marathon and there were so many times in the second half of the race where I was completely alone. There wasn’t anyone else in sight. It was very calming to run past the fields of pretty yellow flowers!
The race looped back to Hanga Roa, and I was more than ready to rest my feet after a long 42 km. A local DJ announced every finisher’s name and place of origin and a girl in a local costume awarded us our finishers’ medal. Just like that – I completed a full marathon on my sixth continent!
After going back to our respective hotels and hostels to shower and to relax, we attended the closing ceremony at the local school’s gym next to the soccer field (again, the only school next to the only soccer field)!
There were so many different medals awarded for different age groups and categories, including other races that happened prior to ours. Everything was done in Spanish. Those of us who didn’t speak Spanish just listened for our names. Unfortunately I did not place in my age group, but two girls in our group unexpectedly placed on their respective age groups! Congratulations Jane and Emma!
At the end, we were serenaded by a group of Rapa Nui dancers before heading back to our hotels to have a well-deserved and much-needed sleep!
Have you done the Easter Island Marathon? Or, have you completed any races that you are really proud of? Share your experience in the comments!