WAIKOLOA — With a Kona Marathon three-peat in sight, Bree Brown made the final turn to the finish line with some company on Sunday.
Flanked for the last few strides by her son, Kainoa, Brown coasted down the finishing chute at the Queens’ Garden without a competitor in sight to complete the 26.2-mile trek in 3 hours 23 minutes and 53 seconds.
It was the latest and most successful step on the comeback trail for Brown, following a devastating broken leg she suffered in December during the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on Oahu. Brown, a former professional triathlete, has been relentlessly rehabbing since, and the Kona Marathon was her longest run to date on her repaired leg.
“I was so happy to see that finish line,” Brown said. “It’s been a crazy ride. Almost the whole day I was anticipating when it would get sore, but I felt OK until the end. The slope in the road started to get to me.”
Brown finished fifth overall and was nearly nine minutes ahead of the next closest woman, Tammy Bautista (3:32:40) of Honolulu.
“It’s a gift,” Brown said. “You never want to miss out on something you love, and for me, that’s running. I’m so grateful every day I get to do it.”
On the men’s side, it was Jason Brosseau stealing the show with a course-record time of 2:44:57. He broke the previous mark set last year by Enrico Kuhn of 2:46:20. The race moved to Waikoloa from Keauhou in 2015. Former Olympian Eddy Hellebuyck’s time of 2:23:31 in 2001 is the fastest to ever be recorded at the event.
“I didn’t think I’d win it, but if I think there’s a chance I’ll always give it a try,” said Brosseau, who recently set a PR of 2:33 at the Boston Marathon in April. “I went out with the leaders the first couple of miles and no one really challenged me for that front position. I just felt steady up there.”
Australia’s Cameron Snowden (2:49:55) pushed Brosseau for part of the race but settled for second. Dave Mcgrath, of New York, finished third at 3:12:37.
Brosseau is in town on his honeymoon with his new wife, Kate, who took on the half-marathon. They are both in the Air Force and stationed in Colorado.
While the trip to the Big Island was by design for their honeymoon, participating in the race was not. They signed up on Friday, although Kate had her suspicions.
“We just happened to look up running races and lo-and-behold the Kona Marathon going on,” Brosseau said. “She accused me of knowing it was happening and planning it for this week, but that wasn’t the case. It was random.”
The unexpected hasn’t been out of the norm for the couple as of late. While their “real” wedding was in June, they previously eloped in Las Vegas after winning a free wedding through a sweepstakes. It tuns out that was instead a set-up for a sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the clip of the stunned couple went viral with almost 2 million views on YouTube.
Kimmel presided over the wedding via a video screen, David Spade strolled in and took a shot of tequila with them and Celine Dion provided the entertainment. Google “Jimmy Kimmel wedding crash” to see the hilarity for yourself.
“It’s a long story,” Brosseau said with a laugh.
Brosseau has a background on the Big Island, having won the Hilo Marathon in 2018. He’s in a very select group of athletes that have won the largest marathon events on both sides of the island.
“They are hard to compare. Hilo you run through a rainforest, there’s moss and you don’t want to go too fast and wipe out,” Brosseau said. “It was much more tame here with the pavement. It was easy to open up.”
Best of the rest
• Samuel Ashley (1:23:28) and West Hawaii Today columnist Rani Henderson (1:30:40) took home top honors in the half-marathon race. It was the second consecutive victory in the half for Henderson in Waikoloa.
• Holualoa’s Alec Ankrum zoomed to a win in the quarter-marathon in 41:12. Linda Spooner, of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, was the top woman, coming in at 44:32 and third overall.
• Johnathan Buck clocked a time of 17:34 to take home the 5K crown. Jodi Go was the first female at 22:47.
Something for everyone
With the varying distances, there was something for all 1,200-plus finishers.
From Waimea’s Bill Spangrud — an experienced 94-year-old athlete who easily claimed the title in the 5K 80-and-over division — to Hilo’s Nikki Savella, who was competing in her very first organized race.
Savella took on the quarter-marathon with her CrossFit buddies Andrea Kaawaloa-Okita, Amber Eakins and Zeny Eakins. They wore their inspiration for racing on their shirts, which read, “Will run for desserts.”
“It was just amazing,” said Savella. “I just wanted to finish. I think the adrenaline out here helps and wanting to keep up with everyone.”
Savella owns a bakery, and served up the dessert-heavy celebratory meal following the race. So what was on the menu?
“Doughnuts, cupcakes and ice cream,” Savella said, drawing a cheer from her friends.
Savella seems to have caught the bug. One of her friends will be racing in the Honolulu Marathon in December and she’s decided to join.
“I’m just going to jump in and go for it,” she said. “I’ll walk if I have to.”
Marathon Goddess on the move
Julie Weiss — also known as the “Marathon Goddess” — was among the field on Sunday.
In 2013, the Weiss ran an impressive 52 marathons in 52 weeks in an effort to raise awareness and in memory of her father who passed from pancreatic cancer in 2010. The Kona Marathon was one of her stops on that journey.
Weiss is an ambassador for the race and comes annually. But this year has extra meaning behind it — she ran as part of her “52 Races for 52 Faces” national philanthropic campaign sponsored by the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. The purpose is to raise awareness and to remember those who have been directly or indirectly affected by pancreatic cancer.
Weiss competed in the quarter-marathon in Waikoloa.