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PATH Run clears way to Ironman Week

Updated: 
October 9, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — If Big Islanders, especially the ones on the west side, have been living under a lava rock for the last couple of weeks, perhaps they didn’t notice the few extra visitors in town. If they hadn’t noticed, then they certainly found out Sunday morning when the PATH Race and Fun Run kicked off Ironman week.

The 31st running of the event attracted 438 runners from all over over the globe, many who are either competing in the 2017 Ironman World Championship on Saturday or here to support someone competing. The event also brings in some of the top runners on the island, as well as the weekend warriors who are just coming out for a little fresh air and exercise.

“It feels more exciting this year because it seems like the athletes came into town a littler earlier than normal,” said Tina Clothier, the executive director for the Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, also known as PATH. “The energy is increasing every day.”

Divided into a 5K and 10K, the PATH Run is one of the few races on the island that actually draws more athletes to the longer race, most likely due to the timing of Ironman. This year, a larger than expected 10K crowd came out, which provided plenty of competition for a race considered to be the fastest 10K in the state.

“We have the largest 10K field we have ever had,” Clothier said. “Maybe more people are using this as a training run, but we are not really sure why the numbers are up. I just hope people have a good time and stay safe. This is a good start to the race week.”

The 10K runners kicked off the PATH Run around 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning and they were followed roughly five minutes later with the 5K start.

Starting and finishing at the Hale Halawai on Alii Drive. Matt Daniels, who moved to the Big Island with his fiance Lauren Fog about four months ago, competed in his first Big Island race and blew away the field in the 10K with a time of 31:18.

The time broke a 29-year-old record set by former Ironman World Champion Greg Welch at a race in 1988. To make the record even more impressive, Daniels did it on a course that measured out a little long. The course measured roughly 6.33 miles instead of the 6.2 miles that would equal a 10K.

Daniels, who is from Colorado, seems to be naturally built for winning races. Two weeks ago, Daniels competed in his first ultra run, the Flagline 50K in Oregon, and he won his debut by 18 minutes.

“This was the first chance I have had to really get my legs spinning since I moved here,” Daniels said. “It was nice to do a shorter race and it got me hungry again.”

Before moving to Hawaii, Daniels had visited 49 of 50 states. It is an ongoing joke in his house that he moved to the 50th and final state on the list with Fog, who is from Hawaii and took a job as an elementary school teacher at Kealakehe.

Daniels is currently working for the Big Island Running Company, and is experiencing his first Ironman week in Kona.

“This past week, seeing everyone coming into town and getting ready for the event, it has been phenomenal,” Daniels said. “I am really looking forward to seeing the athletes on the bike. The bike scares me and it is interesting to watch them practice. I’m pretty old school so I like to stick to running.”

The first runner to cross the finish line was Robert Johnson out of British Columbia, who completed the 5K in a time of 17:21.

The cool, overcast morning played to the favor of the Canadian runner, who still said he struggled with the Kona heat about midway through the race. Johnson was able to edge out Kealakekua’s David Wild at the line by six seconds.

“As I came to the finish line, my wife was yelling at me because the guy (Wild) was right behind me,” Johnson said. “I didn’t even know he was there and the sprint to the finish left me a little breathless.”

Johnson is making his second trip to the Big Island, both times to support his wife, Victoria Gilbert, who is competing in the Ironman World Championship.

“I did the PATH Run in 2014 and it is a lot of fun. It also gives the spectators a race of their own to compete in,” said Johnson, who is also a triathlete. “Now my role will change for the rest of the week as I make sure my wife gets the prep she needs to get.”

Christine Schleifer won the female division of the 10K with a time of 36:57. In the 5K, Pamella Oliveira finished first in the female division with a time of 18:35.

The PATH Run serves as a fundraiser for the Bike Education Program on the Big Island. Every year, members of PATH go around to fourth grade classrooms and teach a three-day bike education class.

Next up for Ironman week is the Heroes of Hawaii ceremony, which will take place today at the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel’s Luau Grounds at 5 p.m. The Ironkids Keiki Dip-n-Dash will take place on Tuesday at 4 p.m. followed by the Parade of Nations at 5 p.m. on Alii Drive.

The 21st annual Underpants Run will start in the King Kamehameha hotel parking lot on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. to wrap up race week festivities. The Ironman World Championship is set for Saturday with a start time of 6:35 a.m.

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