Whenever Billy Barnett enters the Big Island International Marathon, it’s likely he’ll be in the running for the title.
On a Sunday filled with sunshine, Barnett, of Volcano, captured the 22nd edition in 2:51:57, easily breaking the three-hour barrier and outpacing runner-up Jared Walbridge’s 3:04:05.
Hilo’s Noe McMahon made her Hilo marathon debut a successful one. She was the women’s winner in 3:23:07. The runner-up was Lisa Walbridge in 3:26.42. The Walbridge couple is from the United Kingdom, more than 7,200 miles away.
The last two times Barnett ran in the marathon he finished second. In 2015, Mike Brunette, from Illinois, won in 2:53:56 while the Waiakea Intermediate School teacher finished in 2:55:04. In 2011, Justin Gillette, from Indiana, set the record in 2:34:39, ahead of Barnett’s 2:39:57.
In 2010, Barnett won the marathon in 2:50:20. Right on his tail was Kailua-Kona’s Jason Braswell, who placed in 2:51:29.
It’s been almost a decade, and Barnett isn’t slowing down at all.
His easy-going personality fits his running style. He took his latest win in stride. In four Hilo marathons, he’s batting 2 for 4, which makes him a good bet for a title any time he enters.
“It was pretty nice,” he said after crossing the finish line and not looking winded at all. “It’s always good to win. My focus is to put one foot in front of the other. I had zero challenges. It was nice and easy. I felt good all day.”
Barnett enjoys ultra marathons and calls marathons, 26.2 miles, his least favorite race. He’s competed in about 30 ultras.
It’s hard enough to finish a marathon, let alone win one. And it’s always nice to add to a medal collection, but Barnett is unsure if he’ll be back to defend his title next year.
“It’s a local race, and it’s always good to support the local events,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on doing this until a couple of weeks ago.”
His next race is the Run to the Sun, a 36-mile trek to the top of Maui’s Haleakala on Aug. 17.
“Maybe I’ll be back next year,” Barnett said. “I like to go in two-week increments. It was a good way to kick off spring break.”
McMahon is the wife of Bill McMahon, the longtime Hilo High cross-country and track and field coach. She’s in charge of the track distance runners.
There’s one thing she always tells her runners that helped her.
“I tell them you always have more in the tank,” said McMahon, who had more than enough in the tank to finish ahead of Walbridge.
“It was just a good race. I just had to keep my head in it. It was a challenge about mile 20. But it’s more of a mental thing. You have to push through it.”
Like Barnett, it was not a planned event. But McMahon will likely be back next year.
“It was a last-minute decision,” she said. “I signed up for the race in December at an expo. It’s all about my schedule. I love marathons, and I’ll probably be back.”
McMahon enjoyed not only the course’s scenery but also the good vibes.
“There was a good, positive attitude from the runners,” she said. “It’s nice that everyone was happy to be there.”
Defending champions Jason Brosseau and Lindsay Gasik, from Puna, didn’t race.
It was a good day for a marathon, and maybe the only negative was that the marathon numbers were down.
Last year, there were 192 entries for the marathon. This year’s race there were just 102 entries.
That’s likely due to the Revel Kulia, which was held March 9, undercutting the Hilo marathon’s numbers.
“It was a beautiful day. Everything went according to plan,” BIIM race director Bob Wedeman said. “Our marathon numbers were down, but our half-marathon and 5 K were equivalent to last year. We filled our 10 K, so that’s a good thing. Next year, they’ll hold the Revel on Jan. 16.”
This race marked the first time the Final Four — David Hammes, Cowman, DJ Blinn, and Marie Kuramoto — didn’t all finish the Hilo marathon. Hammes started but didn’t finish, and Cowman didn’t enter.
Blinn finished in 6:23:37, and Kuramoto placed in 6:28:53.
“Cowman called me Friday and said he wanted to do the half-marathon,” Wedeman said. “But he doesn’t have a car and couldn’t make it over.
“It was my first day coming to Hilo in two weeks that it didn’t drizzle on me. It was a beautiful day for a marathon.”