Runnin’ With Rani: Fun for everyone at the Jingle Bell Beach Run

  • The holiday spirit is always alive on Alii Drive for the Jingle Bell Beach Run. This year's Christmas themed 5K run/walk is slated for Sunday, Dec. 16.

It’s that time of year again as Santa’s Christmas elves are hard at work preparing for Big Island’s largest 5K running event — the 14th annual Jingle Bell Beach Run.

Yes, Kona’s acclaimed and much anticipated holiday themed 3.1-mile run/walk is back, and set to start at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16 at Coconut Grove Marketplace.

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Some run, some jog, and some walk but everyone has a jolly good time. It is the perfect opportunity to jingle, jangle and blitz your way down historic Alii Drive while donning your favorite holiday ensembles and belting out a holiday cheer.

No matter what age or fitness level, it’s an event for the whole family to enjoy especially when one can choose from the 3.1-mile footrace and Santa’s Keiki Dash.

“It’s the best and most fun holiday event of the year,” said Jon Kunitake of Kunitake Farms in a previous interview. “I’ve participated in every single one from the beginning. It’s for fast people, slow people, families, kids, and people like me, who just want to have a good time.”

Keauhou’s Penn Henderson, who co-organizes the event with his wife (ahem, me), said they are dedicated to continue to offer the community a first-class running event. Both feel grateful to the tremendous support received from loyal sponsors, an amazing group of volunteers, and participants dressed in elaborate costumes who return year after year.

“Seeing the event grow from what started with 48 finishers back in 2005 to now, nearly 900 registrants over the last few years is truly a reflection about what the Jingle Bell Beach Run represents — a wonderful community event in partnership with local businesses and volunteers emphasizing the holiday spirit of giving,” Henderson said.

And what would be a Christmas themed event without an elaborate costume contest?

“People really go all out for the costume contest that it’s become one of the highlights of the event,” Henderson said. “In the past we’ve had life-sized Christmas trees, a walking ginger bread house, and last year, a Will Ferrell look alike dressed as ‘Elf” made an appearance. It’s definitely something to see and we give awards to the top three.”

The Christmas themed 3.1-mile run/walk will start roadside in front of Coconut Grove Marketplace and head north toward the Kailua Pier, taking in views of Kailua Bay and the Historic Kailua Village. Participants will then make their first U-turn just before the Kailua Pier, and then proceed south toward the Sea Village before heading back to the finish line at Coconut Grove Marketplace.

While many will be enjoying the lush scenery and renowned coastal vistas of the 5K course, a few will focus their efforts toward the competitive race for first.

Once again, race organizers will dangle a $100 prize to the top male or female wishing to set new race records.

Current race records belong to former Kailua-Kona resident, Matt Daniels, and Canada’s Bridget Pyke. Daniels set the men’s record last year in a blistering time of 14 minutes and 56 seconds. While Pyke, a three-time women’s champion (2013, 2014, 2016), set the women’s race record in 2013 with her time of 17:41.

This year, the 2016 JBBR Champion from Volcano, Billy Barnett, returns for another attempt at the title and will certainly be pushed by David Wild, Oahu’s Andrew McHowell, and 16-year-old Alec Ankrum, who is the reigning BIIF boy’s cross-country champion.

The women’s division will be wide open as defending champion, Kailua-Kona’s Bree Brown, who has become one of the most versatile female runners in the state, endured a running injury at the recent XTERRA 21K Trail Run World Championships held at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu. We are all wishing her a speedy recovery!

With another week left until the 14th annual Jingle Bell Beach Run, there is still plenty of time to register. Online and paper application registrations will be accepted until 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14.

This year’s charity recipients will be awarded to the Kiwanis Club of Kailua-Kona, a locally based non-profit organization that is involved with many youth programs and meaningful community activities. Some of their projects include providing basic supplies and toys for children in the hospital and those involved with the West Hawaii Children’s Justice System (Kids Matter); help with homeless and transitional children of the Ulu Wini transitional housing complex; and work with PATH Hawaii’s bike safety program for children at Kealakehe Elementary School to name a few. Donations are still being accepted.

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Late registration, bib number and timing chip pick up is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15 at Coconut Grove Marketplace from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be no race day registration for the 5K.

The Santa’s Keiki Dash is free for children aged 6 years and under and will feature 50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard races beginning at 8:30 a.m. For more information visit www.kona5k.com.