XTERRA Runners Will Run Through History, Movie Sets

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship sends runners on a challenging 21K course through historic Kualoa Ranch on the windward side of Oahu. Photo: XTERRA

The sixth-annual XTERRA Trail Run World Championship will be held Sunday on Oahu.

Every trail running course is unique, but there are few with the history and intrigue as the one that hosts the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Recall the surroundings in the movie “Jurassic Park” and the TV show “Lost” and you’ll get an idea of what runners will experience in this year’s 21K championship on Nov. 24.

Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch on the northeast coast of the island, and is part of the allure that has attracted more than 2,000 runners from around the world to the race every year.

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“The XTERRA half-marathon course at Kualoa is a pretty challenging and technically demanding race,” says Polina Babkina, a Honolulu resident who placed third at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. “The course is also one of the most beautiful and amazing courses I’ve ever run. The race sends runners maneuvering through the forest, crossing over streams, and across some relentless uphills. The terrain is rugged and technical at times, but the scenery is breathtaking throughout the whole race.”

Runners from 10 countries and 36 different states are registered for this year’s event, which also includes a 5K and 10K. Part of the allure is the mystery of Kualoa Ranch. The trails are normally closed to the public, and only a handful of races are allowed there each year. In essence, there is no “home-course advantage” because no runners are allowed to practice on the trails. Furthermore, the property was one of the original settling points of some of Hawaii’s earliest visitors in the 13th century and was owned by Hawaiian royalty for hundreds of years. In fact, the XTERRA course runs through ranch property that was purchased from King Kamehameha III in 1860.

The beauty of Kualoa Ranch may often be closed to the public, but it has certainly been put on display on the big screen. Hit movies such as “Jurassic Park,” “Godzilla,” “Battleship,” “Pearl Harbor,” “50 First Dates” and others have featured Kualoa Ranch as a prominent backdrop. Hawaii-based television shows “LOST” and “Hawaii Five-O” also filmed regularly at the Ranch.

As for the race itself, the 21K championship course takes runners on wild adventure that includes narrow singletrack along the top of a mountain, dirt roads, cow pastures, stream crossings, tropical forests and passes alongside some of the remaining movie production sets.

“The scenery of the course easily stands out as one of the main draws to the Kualoa course,” says Oregon’s Max King, who has won the race at Kualoa Ranch four times in his career. “Not only that, but it’s a challenging half marathon that still requires a good amount of speed training to do well. It’s got everything a good trail race should have.”

Babkina did the race for the first time last year, and said she could not help but notice the sights along the course, even though she was racing at a fast pace with the leaders.

“Even though I tried to pay attention on rugged trail road, it was hard not to notice spectacular views from  the top of the hills,” she says. “Kualoa Ranch is an area of Oahu that’s very rich in nature. There is no doubt the XTERRA half-marathon course is one of the most scenic races I’ve ever competed in.”

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