VOLCANO — They all heard the storm warnings, but before the Saturday rain came, the Kilauea summit area burst into bright morning sunshine for the ninth renewal of the Volcano Rainforest half marathon, 10 and 5K runs, with 60 yards of Kahili ginger blossoms festooning both sides of the finishing chute giving runners an attractive finish to the popular local run.
It was a pleasant surprise for the annual event that had relabeled itself the “Shake, Rattle and RUN” for this year in recognition of the rumbling and shaking that has been going on for months, but you wouldn’t have known there had been any disturbance at all. There were no shakes, no rumbles, just smiles and sweat and a continued tradition in the men’s half marathon.
Patrick Stover, 28, of Kailua-Kona, pulled it off again, beating second-place finisher Billy Barnett for the second year in a row with a virtually identical time from last year when Stover outran one of the Big Island’s top long distance runners for the first time.
“It was very much like last year,” Stover said, “I kept thinking about that, and looking for Billy all along the way. I thought he was right there and I kept expecting a late push from him.
Stover won in 1:18.49, a virtual photocopy of his 1:18.50 time from last year.
“That part I still can’t believe,” Stover said of his time. “I wasn’t trying to do that and I’m sure if I was trying I wouldn’t have come close to the same time.
“Billy played it smart, he went slow at the start but after 3-4 miles I pulled out a little and he backed off some. He let me go, and I figured he had a plan to close on me at the end, but I just kept pushing it. At the turnaround, I realized I had a little gap there but I didn’t want to let him in so I just went for it.
“I remember last year around that spot I thought I could catch my breath a little,” Stover said, “but today I just thought, ‘You can breathe when it’s over,’ so I just kept on it.”
Barnett finished two minutes behind in 1:20.26, for a 6:08 pace, eight seconds more than Stover’s winning pace.
“Sometimes the legs just aren’t there for the hills,” Barnett said, “this was one of those days, I just wasn’t ready for it.”
A year ago, Barnett had been involved in long, slower runs in preparation for a 100-mile event in Arizona that were not the best preparation for a 13.1 mile run. This year he has been spending the better part of the last six weeks on a home he is having built in Volcano, running very little, for him.
“It’s all good,” Barnett said, “it was fun out there, congratulations to Pat.”
Noelani McMahon, 27, a firefighter in Pahala, won the women’s half marathon in 1:32.49 after hoping to break 1:20, but it was still enough to hold off Pahoa’s Amy Young, a high school science teacher, who crossed at 1:34.08.
“My goal was just to keep her in my sights, try to stay close,” Young said, “but I think it’s just impossible to catch Noe once she has that lead, maybe next time I’ll have better luck.
“Either way,” Young said, “I love this race, it’s so beautiful up here, I’ll always come back.”
This was McMahon’s first Rainforest half-marathon win and she came with a generalized plan this time.
“I have a tendency to start out too hard and I didn’t want to have nothing left for the finish so I started at a pace and tried to maintain it,” McMahon said. “I guess it worked.”
Her pace of 7:05 per mile was six seconds better than Young’s, enough to ensure a fairly comfortable victory.
The event took on a somber tone when race director Sharon Faff was about to announce the winners, but first broke the news that Dietrich Velez, the Volcano artist, had passed away Thursday. Velez drew the iconic Rainforest logos of Hawaiian legend Makoa, running with a fish, as symbols of the event. Legend has it that Makoa would run 100 miles for a fish and it would still be wiggling and squirming when he got back.
Kody Ranfranz of Kailua-Kona won the men’s 10K in 38:45, Alexia Palafoy of Hilo won the women’s 10K in 49:05.
Spencer Bentley of Mililani finished first in the 5K with a 19:12 time, the only runner to go under 20 minutes. Keenly McGhee of Volcano won the women’s side of the 5K in 22:37.