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Iao Valley 10k and 5k Road Race

On Saturday July 13th, both visitors and Maui residents participated in the annual Iao Valley 5k and 10k road race. Popular for scenic views of the beautiful state park, over 250 runners gathered in Wailuku for the Valley Isle Road Runners event. The 5k turned around early on the road to Iao, while the 10K racers ran farther into the hilly state park. The weather was sunny and conditions were clear that morning. Both races finished downhill, at the awards and refreshment station located in Wailuku off of Main Street.

Runners head toward the Iao Needle in Iao Valley.

“First of all, it’s a beautiful race. You’re going all the way to the top of Iao Valley, the needle. It’s very scenic. It’s a challenging course,” said Valley Isle Road Runners vice president Jim Lynch. “It’s just fun, beautiful and it’s a local thing. I get to see all my other friends that are at the other races and talk story,” said Jacob Fure, the men’s 5k winner. Fure ran a winning time of 18:20 and won the 10k last year.  The race is put on each year by the VIRR, a non-profit organization that has supported running on Maui since 1970. They host events for all ages from the Maui Marathon and Hana Relay to the Youth Cross Country races.

The Iao run has taken place every year for the past 40 years with few exceptions, according to Lynch. “The mission of the Valley Isle Road Runners is to promote running on Maui, not only for local runners, and put on races and for health benefits, but also all the visitors who come to Maui… give them a chance to enjoy our beautiful island,” Lynch said.

The men’s 10k winner was Kenan Pala. The 15 year old from San Diego ran a 37:27, finishing over a minute ahead of second place. Running was actually what brought Pala to Maui this summer, as he came with Breakaway Training, a men’s triathlon club.

Kenan Pala, the 2019 Iao Valley men's 10k winner.

“[My coach] comes down here twice a year and he offered me to come down here as like a running-training camp, and it worked out great that there’s a 10k in the mountains here while I’m also training,” Pala said. He added that he had just run 8 miles on the Road to Hana the day before as preparation. “There’s a lot of wind here and there’s no wind in San Diego,” Pala said, when describing how the wind and heat set Maui runs apart from those in California. “We get 70s in San Diego, maybe 80s if we’re lucky, but not 90s. It’s definitely good training.”

Lindsey Wilbur, a Maui resident, was the first woman to finish the 10k, crossing the line in 46:33. She said that it was her fifth or sixth time doing this particular race. “The downhill is surprisingly challenging just because it’s so downhill that it kind of cramps you up a little bit,” Wilbur said of the 10k route.

Also participating in the 10k was ten year old Duncan Paine from Albuquerque. Despite it being Paine’s first 10k, he placed second in the 4-19 age group. 

Dana and Duncan Paine participate in the 2019 Iao Valley 5k and 10k.

“We came [to Maui] last year for the first time and we did the Iao Valley 5k and we decided to come back and do it a second time,” said his father, Dana Paine, who participated in the 5k again this year.  “It’s a fun race. Plus, Iao Valley is beautiful.”

When asked why she loves running on island in these types of road races, Wilbur said that there are “lots of great people, tons of community around here and [it’s] just a wonderful place to live and run.”

A group of runners celebrate at the finish line at the Iao Valley 10k.

Valley Isle Road Runners puts on several other community events each year, including more races around the island. For a complete list, visit their website at virr.com

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