Racing The Sun To Benefit Lungs

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - June 24, 2009
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Jeff Kozlovich: mission accomplished

Imagine racing the sun across the horizon. The challenge sounds extreme and frankly impossible. But, for city lifeguard Jeff Kozlovich, it’s an adventure he simply couldn’t resist.

“I started off asking friends if anybody had ever run to Kailua from town and paddled back,” recalls the 49-year-old Kozlovich. “I guess once I asked I was kind of committed.”

He began with a run from Magic Island to Kailua Beach, over Pali Highway, where he traded his sneakers for a paddleboard. From there he headed around Makapuu Point, past Sandy Beach and Hanauma Bay, and then the final leg outside Hawaii Kai, Diamond Head and Waikiki, finishing at Magic Island - all before sunset.

“I’d never made the run to Kailua from Magic Island before, so there was already an element of adventure and uncertainty, but I really felt I could to it,” says Kozlovich, who works the towers at Waikiki and Ala Moana.

Sunrise was at 5:49 a.m. Sunset was just after 7 p.m. The window to complete the challenge is small considering the long journey, but overcoming obstacles is nothing new for Kozlovich. As a child he battled chronic bronchitis, which often led to hospitalizations.

“It was personal for me,” says Kozlovich, who also lost an aunt to lung cancer. “I know this is extreme, but I wanted to get the attention of those who smoke cigarettes. It is such an addictive habit and it saddens me to see teenagers smoke.”

His race against the sun was a chance to raise funds for the American Lung Association in Hawaii.

“When I approached them, they told me, ‘You’re going to do what?’” laughs Kozlovich. “I know budgets have been cut so I wanted to do my part to raise money, and they said we’d really love the donation and publicity.”

“We’re delighted to be the recipient of Jeff’s extreme fitness adventure,” says ALA executive director Jean Evans. “His lifestyle shows how important breath is to any athlete. And his loss of a family member to lung cancer and his own past history with chronic breathing problems put him in the company of more than 175,000 people in Hawaii with lung disease.”

Months of training paid off. Kozlovich was more than an hour ahead of schedule by the time he reached Kailua Beach and set out on his paddleboard into strong easterly winds, rough water and a rising south swell. He says he played it safe and stayed far outside the surf. He arrived back at Magic Island at 6:42 p.m., 12 hours and 52 minutes after his start and a half hour before sunset. His support crew and other lifeguards were still looking for him off Diamond Head.

“The somewhat amusing part is I actually got there before my support crew did, and I wasn’t that tired even at the end,” says Kozlovich. “I wanted to show what a healthy lifestyle can do and I was determined to finish on time.”

Evans says not everyone can or should engage in activities like this, but there are options for other athletes and families to support the organization. In September the ALA will host the Breathe Ride held in conjunction with the Honolulu Century Bike Ride. Participants can choose a route from 20 to 100 miles. Kozlovich is already recruiting friends to ride with him.

“I hope they know this, but I’ll be doing the 100 mile bike ride,” he laughs. “And next year, with the help of my good friend Bill Goding and my support crew, I plan on doing something even more extreme.”

After beating the sun, we can only imagine what’s ahead.

For a link to his latest adventures check out his website at:

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