“It’s so good to be back!” 100% Pure Kona Coffee Half Marathon a success

  • A wave of runners waits at the starting line Saturday morning at the 100% Pure Kona Coffee Half Marathon. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • The first wave of runners in the 100% Pure Kona Coffee Half Marathon make their way down Alii drive before sunrise. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • Race Director Keely McGhee. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)

The air was electric as 228 runners competed in the sixth annual 100% Pure Kona Coffee Half Marathon on Saturday at Coconut Grove Marketplace.

And while it has been two years since the last in-person race was held in 2019, the vibe was no different — feelings of appreciation and aloha embraced the wonderful home-grown community event.


Race director Keely McGhee, who is employed as a registered nurse at Hilo Medical Center and also organizes the Volcano Ohia Lehua Runs, said “it’s exciting” to have in-person events again.

“Being a nurse, I knew I could put the right mitigation policies and practices in place, and we did it,” McGhee said. “We had wave starts, all of our runners wore surgical masks for the first 200 meters and once they finished, they have to put them back on. With the wave starts we were able to do social distancing and I also felt like we were being safe, so I’m really excited and happy.”

The 13.1-mile footrace is part of the four-day Kona Coffee Cultural Festival that began on Thursday and runs through Sunday. Following current social distancing guidelines, participants were staged and separated by five-minute wave starts from 5:45 AM on Alii Drive in front of Coconut Grove Marketplace. The elite wave headed out first followed by younger age groups, and then older age groups.

The course took runners along historic Alii Drive as they headed south, featuring Keauhou’s challenging hills including running into the infamous “Pit” also known as the End of World before heading back.

In the past, the event also offered a marathon distance but not for this year. McGhee said due to the current COVID safety guidelines with sporting events, she felt more preparation was needed just to “make it happen” for the half marathon event.

“I felt like there are a lot more components to making sure you have the right equipment, and you have to have way more volunteers to help with the staging, so yes, I felt like there were a lot more to figure out especially with COVID,” she said. “But I feel like people felt ecstatic that there is a race they can participate in-person as people are sick of virtual.

“In terms of having no award ceremony, I feel like at this point, people don’t really care about that because all they wanted was to race and see their friends. While I know people do look forward to award ceremonies, I feel like people are willing to take that loss in order to have this, an in-person race. I’m just glad everybody came out and I hope they had a fun time.

Of the total of 228 participants who finished Saturday’s half marathon, 124 were female. Volcano’s John Benner claimed the overall win setting a new course record in a smoking time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 4 seconds. The previous record of 1:17:13 was set in 2015 by another Volcano resident, Billy Barnett.

Kailua-Kona’s Bree Wee won the women’s title in a fabulous time of 1:24:16 and also set a new women’s record. Wee bested her previous time of 1:25:37 set in 2018.

Race announcer and BioAstin Ambassador who is also co-hosting this year’s Kona Coffee Cultural Festival with Hawaii News Now Sunrise traffic reporter, Lacy Deniz, summed up the morning best.

“It is so good to back race announcing and seeing all of the finish line smiles, and the family and friends of runners, I feel blessed for sure. I’m super excited to see more events coming back to the Big Island.”

Columnist Note: My interview with the winners, John Benner and Bree Wee, will be featured in Friday’s West Hawaii Today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.