Rani Henderson | The sights of Puuwaawaa


It was once the most diverse forest in Hawaii, but wildfires and more than a century of grazing by domestic livestock and feral animals left few remaining patches of native vegetation.

Puuwaawaa lies on the northern flank of Hualalai, extending from sea level at Kiholo Bay to a mile in elevation near the volcano’s summit. Today, it is protected as a state forest reserve in the upper regions and a state park near the lower coastal areas.

Literally meaning “many-furrowed hill,” the higher Puuwaawaa region features an exotic native dryland forest, home to endangered bird and plant species, and its most prominent landmark — a majestic ancient volcanic cinder cone.

Views from the top of Puuwaawaa are staggering — boasting panoramic portraits of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai and the Kohala mountains.

With the Puuwaawaa dry forest region so rich in history and astounding natural beauty, tomorrow’s Run for the Dry Forest 10K, 5K and Keiki trail runs should be on every runner’s bucket list.

Race Director Lyman Perry, a botanist with the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, who works primarily with endangered plant species, began the event in 2005 with co-worker and friend Dan Goltz.

“We wanted to increase public involvement to this area and thought it would be a great way to introduce people to this place,” Perry said.

In its seventh year, Perry’s partnership with People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, a nonprofit bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, uses the proceeds of the event to support conservation, preservation and restoration of Hawaii’s dry forests.

Each year an endangered plant or animal from Puuwaawaa is featured at the event, to raise awareness and education of these exotic wonders. This year’s featured plant is the Kokio, a native hibiscus relative that will grace the event finisher T-shirt.

Perry, an accomplished athlete and a top distance runner in the state, sees that his long-term efforts are worth the hardships that come with organizing an event in such a remote area. “It’s rewarding to see people exposed to this place then return and do work to help the ahupuaa (traditional land division),” he said.

“I want them to learn something new in their own backyard,” Perry said. “And know they are a part of a great community that works hard together which makes Hawaii so special.”

As one of the few off-road running events offered on the Big Island, consider this a “must-do” event. Pack a cooler and take a scenic drive out to Puuwaawaa for tomorrow’s race. Start time for the challenging 10K course is 7:45 a.m., with the 5K run/walk kicking off at 8, followed by a noncompetitive 1/4-mile Keiki Run at 9:30.

Registration is slated from 6 to 7:15 a.m. on-site. Fees for the adults are $40 and $25 for children 14 and younger. Registration details and directions to Puuwaawaa can be found at pathhawaii.org.

Last Saturday’s Honokaa 5K and Half Marathon, Plus 30K Waipio Challenge greeted participants with sunshine and blue skies, perfect running conditions for the second annual event.

Nestled in the heart of the old plantation town, the Honokaa Sports Complex served as the start and finish point for the scenic out and back courses.

In the 30K distance, defending champion Chris Gregory of Hilo separated himself from the field as he throttled his way to the Waipio Valley lookout and back in an outstanding time of 1:54:01 — translating to a speedy 6:06 per mile pace. Second to cross the finish line was Hilo’s Jonathan Peralto in 2:03:13, followed by Kailua-Kona’s Kenneth Stover at 2:16:12.

Hilo’s Yuka Blinn easily won the women’s race in a stellar time of 3:07:27. In second place was Ashley Drake in 3:23:40, with Amanda Vuniwai rounding out the podium in 3:32:21.

Alan Ryan of Laupahoehoe claimed victory in the men’s division of the half marathon in a great time of 1:27:24. Ryusuke Murao took second in 1:28:40, and Hilo’s Joe Barcia followed in third at 1:29:52.

Kona’s Nancy Kramer was all smiles when she crossed the finish line, winning the women’s half marathon in a fantastic time of 1:51:48. A few minutes back was Erin Rene in 1:54:32, followed by Winona Chen in 1:55:02.

The race for first in the men’s 5K was a close duel between Nemanja Jovanovic and Patrick Baker. In the end, Jovanovic had the most gas left in the tank as he sprinted for first in 20:35. Baker kept it close for a second place finish in 20:58, followed by Hauoli Akau in a solid 22:38.

Abby Melling took top honors in the women’s 5K division in 25:09. Kelly Hudik and Wendy Clark followed in 27:37 and 28:03 for the women’s top three.

Also coming up this weekend is tomorrow’s Race The Reaper 5K, presented by the Kealakehe Waverider Triathlon Club. Start time for the Halloween themed race is 5 p.m. at the Kona Community Aquatic Center. The $15 entry fee benefits the Kealakehe Waverider Triathlon Club. For registration details, visit waveridertriclub.org.

On Sunday, Frozen Pea Productions will host Peaman’s Thrash and Dash Biathlon. Start time for this free 1/3-mile swim and 2-mile run is 8:03 a.m. Masks, snorkels and fins are welcome — no entry forms, just sign out when finished.