XTERRA Trail Run World Championship to host 2,000 runners from 12 countries and 35 U.S. States on Sunday
Max King, 31, is no stranger to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. He is the three-time and only men’s champion since the inaugural event in 2008.
“There is a lot that keeps me coming back,” said King, 31. “There is a good prize purse and Hawaiian Airlines miles to the winner, of course it’s hard to pass up when it’s in Hawaii, and I now have a streak going that will be hard to break. I love the challenging course, and it gives me a couple days away from the freezing temperatures of Oregon.”
King is once again considered the favorite on the grueling course at Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu. In the past three years, he has won the race by an average margin of 2 minutes, 49 seconds. He won it last year – when he was feeling sick – by a margin of 1 minute, 20 seconds, which was the closest anyone has come to him during his three-year reign.
King is also the four-time defending XTERRA National Trail Run Champion, and won the 2011 World Mountain Running Championship at Albania in September. In January 2012, he will attempt to qualify for the USA Olympic marathon team at the Olympic Qualifier in Houston.
“There’s always some pressure to keep a winning streak alive, and you never know who will be showing up on the start line,” King said.
While the event will host its largest field ever with 2,000 runners expected on Sunday, none appear to be in the same class as King. In fact, for most in attendance the actual race site itself at Kualoa Ranch will be the star of the show.
Lee Saltonstall, a Hawaii-based runner, has done all three so far and has two age-group world titles to show for it. “Each time the vistas overwhelm me with their magnificent beauty,” said Saltonstall, 64. “It’s difficult to stay focused on the trail because you just want to stop and gaze upon the surrounding ethereal mountains and valleys. Of all the trail races I have done, Kualoa Ranch is, by far, my favorite course to run. Challenging, for sure, but the setting embraces you with its bucolic beauty.”
Part of the lure is the mystery. The trails at Kualoa Ranch are normally closed to the public, and the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is one of only a handful of events that has been granted a permit to stage a race there.
Most of the time, the beautiful natural backdrop of Kualoa Ranch is reserved for filming of movies, television shows, or commercials. Among the credits are blockbuster movies such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, and hit television series such as LOST and Hawaii Five-O.
It has also become the perfect setting to determine the XTERRA Trail Run World Champions.
“Beautiful,” is how Colorado elite runner Bruce Rahmig described it. “Perfect location for a trail run with its mixed terrain – from the very challenging to fast and rolling. While you have to be prepared for some significant climbing, it’s not a race for only one type of runner. You have to be prepared with both speed and strength, so I think it fits a broad array of runners, which is part of the reason you see so many smiling happy runners there. That, and because you’re running through such dramatic terrain it’s hard not to get caught up in just the beauty of the place.”
There are some hidden dangers within that beauty. Although Kualoa Ranch reaches a peak of less than 750 feet above sea level, the 21-kilometer championship course will still feature close to 3,000 feet of total climbing.
As Saltonstall put it: “The advice I would have for first time runners at Kualoa Ranch is to not charge up the first few hills at the beginning of the race, because the last monster hill on the second half is a killer, and will take every ounce of strength you have to make it to the top.”
For those needing inspiration to tackle the challenge, they will need not look far. The race is being dedicated to the memory of Sally Meyerhoff, last year’s women’s champion who died tragically in a bicycle accident this March. In addition, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. will sky dive into the valley then run the 21K with gas masks to honor wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, Cpl. Todd Love in particular. Long-time sponsor Paul Mitchell will be on-site providing professional haircuts in exchange for donations to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and a portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Hawaii Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and its mission to find a cure for diabetes.
Indeed, everyone out there on Sunday will be running for a cause, and one of them – Andrea Huston — fully understands how meaningful that can be.
Andrea Huston is one of more than 5,000 people in Hawaii living with type 1 diabetes, but it has not stopped her from living an active lifestyle – including participation in XTERRA Trail Runs and triathlons.
“Getting out there and accomplishing something like this makes anyone feel good, and it’s good for them,” said Huston, 34. “This is especially true for type 1s, who can literally see the health benefits by checking their blood glucose levels.”
Type 1 diabetes is a disorder of the body’s immune system. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily and constantly monitor their blood glucose levels. “When I exercise, my insulin is used much more efficiently,” Huston said. “Which means that I need to watch out for low blood sugars while I am out there.”
Huston completed the 10-kilometer course at last year’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 14 seconds.
“I do not run trails much, but this race really got me out there,” said Huston, who works with the U.S. Navy at Camp Smith in Honolulu. “Since last year, I have started to run the surrounding trails in Kailua, Aiea Loop and Koko Head.”
In an effort to get more people with type 1 diabetes to run or walk regularly, Huston hosts a monthly training session at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. To learn more about the JDRF-Hawaii Chapter or to make a donation, please visit www.jdrfhawaii.org.
To learn more about the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, please visit www.xterratrailrun.com.