Runnin’ with Rani: Inaugural Hearts & Trails, Big Island’s first all-women’s trail event

  • The Inaugural Hearts & Trails will be an all-women event featuring a 5K, 10K, and 10-Mile trail runs is slated for Saturday, Feb. 23. (Courtesy photo/Janet Higa-Miller)
  • The Inaugural Hearts & Trails will be an all-women event featuring a 5K, 10K, and 10-Mile trail runs is slated for Saturday, Feb. 23. (Courtesy photo/Janet Higa-Miller)

As trail and ultra running events have exploded in popularity over the past decade drawing avid runners, outdoor enthusiasts and elite athletes alike, so has the number of varying women-only races around the world.

Come Feb. 23, Aloha Sports Kona (ASK) will continue to expand upon its platform to bring new and exciting off-road events to the island, while adding its name to a growing list of popular all-women’s trail running events with one of their own — Hearts &Trails.

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Janet Higa-Miller, who co-founded ASK last year with her husband, Grant Miller, said the idea to create an event that caters to only women stemmed from her participation in Oahu’s Na Wahine Triathlon — an all-women’s sprint distance triathlon race — many years ago.

Seeing her husband out on the racecourse cheering for her and other female participants, but not racing, provided a unique and unforgettable experience. Higa-Miller hopes to expand that experience to women on the Big Island.

“The experience of an all-women event is quite different,” Higa-Miller said. “The women are competitive but also very supportive and vocally encouraging within the race, with smiles for miles for fellow participants. And there can be less intensity especially at the back of the race where goals are different but no less important — just to finish, to do something out of the comfort zone, to celebrate being fit and healthy enough to do a triathlon.

“For many women, this is their first race because they are so intimidated by racing in general, and the all-women’s format provides a ‘softer’ way to do their first event. And how special is it to have an event be all about the women, with the men volunteering, cheering or being the female racer’s sherpa. There are women that would never have this experience because they are always out there supporting the men who race.”

5K, 10K and

10-Mile trail runs

If you haven’t experienced what it’s like to participate in a beautiful trail run, then this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new — it can be life changing!

Like with any trail run, the beauty of Hearts &Trails lies in the location of the event — the Makani Golf Club, formerly known as the Big Island Country Club.

Female participants can look forward to running through cooler climate over green pasturelands, double track dirt roads, with a few crossings on golf cart pathways and a paved road, providing plenty of challenging sections that are not too technical or too steep.

While the surrounding panoramic ocean views and visibility of the beautiful Kohala coastline, Maui’s Haleakala and Mauna Kea will attract some of the most adventurous of souls, the trail runs are geared for all ages and fitness levels and Higa-Miller hopes to have a turnout of 200 entries among the three distances for the inaugural event.

However, what many may not know are the challenges that comes with bringing an off-road event to fruition. Higa-Miller’s original plan was for a trail run at the Makalei Golf Club in Kailua-Kona.

“Organizing access to private and government land for events comes with great responsibility,” she said. “There is of course significant liability for landowners and a risk that trespassing can become problematic when a large number of participants become familiar with trails on land that is not open the public. There are some people who then go to run on the course without authorization.

“The proposal for Makalei Golf Course was not quite on track when I was introduced to Jason Trim of Makani Golf Course by Hawaii Forest and Trail General Manager, Dan Berman. Dan is an avid and accomplished trail runner and combined with Jason’s willingness to give access for trail running and mountain biking, it went quickly from just an event proposal to Jason’s motto of, ‘let’s make this happen!’”

While the inaugural Hearts &Trails is set for Saturday, Feb. 23, with the first event starting at 7:30 a.m., Higa-Miller said that male participants will also have something later in the year to look forward to due to the high number of requests to participate in the event.

Tentatively, another trail running event at the Makani Golf Club offering the same three distances will be scheduled for September, but this time, it will be coed.

For Higa-Miller, being able to organize Big Island’s first all-women’s trail race is a passion she holds close to her heart.

“Hearts &Trails really does sum it all up for me as I have had a passion for trails ever since Grant got me lost on a beautifully scenic trail on our first adventure date many years ago. We made it back home to tell the tale and it is one of my best memories ever.”

And finding love for the trails is what she hopes other women will come to experience.

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“Don’t be afraid to get off-road and to get dirty — it is so much fun!”

For more information or to register online visit alohasportskona.com or click on the following link: register.chronotrack.com/r/45458. Entries are also available for purchase via gift certificates from Bike Works Kona, Kona Sports Center and Bike Works Beach &Sports. Other inquiries can be sent to info@alohasportskona.com. Net proceeds of the event will benefit the Puuwaawaa Dry Forest Reserve via their charity partner, Ka Ahahui O Ka Nahelehele. For more information visit drylandforest.org.

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