Photo: Mapulehu Coast
Kaʻohele trained on the beach in Kainalu along Molokai’s south shore, not far from here, to earn the honor of representing his ahupuaʻa in the Makahiki competition. - Photo: Mikiʻala Pescaia

Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Kainalu was famous for its champion runners.

Each evening, the young men would gather for a footrace, training to decide who would represent them at the annual Makahiki competitions at Nāʻiwa. Chief Hulu was once a champion, and all the men in his family took a turn holding the title through the years, bringing great honor to Kainalu for having the fastest runners of Molokai.

But recent years produced no outstanding athletes, so the evening training races became more important than ever.

Chief Hulu had only one child, a son, Kaʻohele, who was born under a Mahealani moon, and a double night rainbow. The omens foretold a great destiny, and so as a child, there was great expectation.

Kaʻohele was raised to know how to fish and farm, and many of the trades of the people, in order to best lead one day. Though he was obedient and hard working, humble and kind, and excelled at all the trades of livelihood, the boy was a slow runner, and in the races, often came in last.

The other men of the village would tease Chief Hulu, if he was sure to be the father of such a slow boy. Chief Hulu considered sending the boy away to Maui to escape the ridicule and shame.

Kaʻohele wanted nothing more than to make his father proud and his mother saw how sad this situation made him. She did not want her son to be sent away. She had an idea.

At night, she woke Kaʻohele and took him to the beach, and by the light of the moon, taught him how to run in the sand, control his breathing, and memorize every rock and coral in his path until he could run the course without moonlight. Finally, he was ready.

The next evening, the pū sounded and the young men gathered for their race. As Kaʻohele made his way to the line, his father caught sight of him and fiercely barked at him to get back home, but everyone was looking and his wife gently put her hand on his arm, and said, please, give him a chance.

The race started just then, and Kaʻohele had a perfect stride, swift and effortless. He was first from the start and no one came close to him. The crowd erupted in cheers and his father couldn’t believe his eyes. Kaʻohele exclaimed, “ʻAkahi oʻu ʻoi hā! This victory is for you father.”

Kaʻohele will go on to be the most famous runner of Molokai by being victorious at the Makahiki competitions that year and being recruited to serve and protect the highest of chiefs and heiau on the island. Many places today are named for him as the stories live on of his wit, his strength, his speed and his accomplishments.

ʻO Kaʻohele ʻoi hā!