Runnin’ with Rani: Records fall at weekend holiday events


Having a single record broken in a long-standing race event is monumental, but when three records are broken in one weekend, the coincidence is historic.

Sunday’s ninth annual Jingle Bell Beach Run lived up to its hype as a record-setting 600 costumed participants — double last year’s number — registered for the Christmas-themed event.

Nearly half of the festive field traveled in from out of state, some from as far away as Alaska, Canada and China, to jingle, jangle and carol their way down Alii Drive for the 5K, 1-mile and, crowd favorite, Santa’s Keiki Dash.

With a costume contest, age-group awards, raffle giveaways and $100 incentives up for grabs, it’s no wonder such a diverse group gathered for this epic event. Many of Hawaii’s fastest runners were in attendance alongside a menagerie of creatively designed costumes. Even musician LT Smooth dressed the holiday theme and showed up for the fun.

In the competitive 5K race, Volcano’s Billy Barnett and Kona’s Thomas Vonach both shot straight to the front, leading the holiday parade down Alii Drive. From there it was “mano a mano” as the duo shook hands for the best man to take the win — during their shoulder-to-shoulder blistering 5-minute per mile pace — attempting to break Chris Lieto’s 2010 course record of 16 minutes and 18 seconds.

Not far behind and having a fun duel of their own were the top women, 22-year-old Canadian Bridget Pyke and Kona’s professional triathlete Bree Wee.

In the end, it came down to the wire for the lead men. With half a mile to go, Vonach turned on the jets and blazed through the finish line to take the win and set a new course record of 16:12 – earning himself the $100 record-breaking incentive. Barnett followed close behind with a speedy second place finish in 16:28. Hilo’s Chris Gregory rounded out the men’s podium at 16:57.

“I knew coming into this race breaking the record was possible,” Vonach said. “But I also knew that I would need to work hard for it. Luckily, I had Billy to push me all the way.”

In the women’s race, Pyke, a former collegiate cross-country runner, also had the women’s course record of 17:53 in mind, along with the cash incentive for rewriting the record book. Pyke managed to push a sweltering 5:42 pace per mile on the scenic out and back course to sprint through the candy cane finish line first — beating the course record by 12 seconds in a stellar time of 17:41.

Pyke’s family has been vacationing over winter break in Kona during the past few years. She remembered seeing the mass start of the race last year.

“I told myself that I would do this race when we returned this year, and so here I am and I’m glad I did it,” Pyke said.

Wee followed in second with a great time of 18:36. My son Cole and I baby-jogged our way in to wrap up the women’s top three in 19:20.

In the mile race, Eric Miya of Renton, Washington had the speediest legs to take the win in an amazing time of 5:06. Second in the male division was Waimea’s Michael Spetich in 5:19, and Thomas Johnston of Holualoa in third at 6:07.

Last year’s female champion Skyler Kiser of Kailua-Kona defended her title, crossing the finish line in a fantastic time of 7:36. Kapaau’s Sydney Cochran was second in 8:06, followed by Waimea’s Maile Imonen rounding out the podium in 8:31.

One hour after Vonach and Pyke’s record-setting finishes, yet another record would be broken.

Team Mango’s Journey to La-La Land’s 17-mile cycling and running race is notorious for it’s relentless uphill climb, starting at the bottom of Lako Street and finishing at the top of Kaloko Drive.

Even with a slight course modification for Hualalai’s recent road closure, the route maintained the same vertical ascent of 4,700 feet as last year, setting the stage for a rewarding challenge.

The men’s course record of 1:28:05, set by Brent Ruegamer, has stood firm since 2001, while Susan Dell set the women’s record of 1:36:45 in 2006.

A field of 26 cyclists set off on this grueling challenge that included several of the state’s best. After summiting Kaloko Drive, it would be Waimea’s young gun, Maxfield La Fortune, who crossed the finish line first — shattering Ruegamer’s 12-year-old record by a stout 5 minutes and 35 seconds to set a new race record of 1:22:30.

Second and third place would also finish under the old course record. Oahu’s Eric Lau crossed the finish line in 1:26:24, followed by Swift Team junior rider Brad Butterfield in 1:27:16.

Kailua-Kona’s Kym Kiser was the first female to the top in a fantastic time of 1:44:15, followed by Shirley Pratt in 2:06:32, and Allison Alterman in third with 2:12:43.

Three runners challenged themselves to the 17-mile uphill grind. Caleb Westfall was first to the top in 4:08:14, with Rob Van Geen in second at 4:28:12, and Jono Lava People in 5:02:35.

It certainly was a great day for everyone to celebrate the holiday spirit while adding a new chapter to the racing history books.

Coming up this weekend, for those who would like to wish Peaman a happy 50th birthday, Peaman’s Birthday Bonanza starts at 8:03 a.m. Sunday at Kaiakeakua Beach. The birthday-themed event features a half-mile swim and 3.9-mile run on Alii Drive. A shorter Pea Wee course will be available for keiki. The event is free with no sign-up required. Racers sign out when they finish.