Run The Good Race

The Namahana mountains surround the ‘Ohana Fit Fest obstacle trail run along Wai Koa Loop Trail.

In addition to encouraging healthy living and positive family dynamics, ‘Ohana Fit Fest 5K & 10K Obstacle Trail Run/Walk is a chance for the community to raise funds for local nonprofits.

The 2019 ‘Ohana Fit Fest 5K & 10K Obstacle Trail Run/Walk takes place Saturday, Oct. 5, at Anaina Hou Porter Pavilion and Wai Koa Loop Trail in Kīlauea.

Over the years, the event has truly become a reflection of the best that island living has to offer. In a single day, ‘Ohana Fit Fest manages to highlight the immeasurable natural beauty of the Garden Isle and encourage families to enjoy a healthy lifestyle — all while giving back to the community through nonprofit funding.

The family-friendly event was created six years ago by Kaua‘i North Shore Community Foundation as the group was looking for ways to generate awareness and enhance health and wellness in its community.

Family and friends often run ‘Ohana Fit Fest courses together.

Fit Fest started on the beach at Pinetrees in Hanalei, and event founders Ken Rosenthal and Maylette Garces chuckle at their memories from that initial outing.

“When I think about the first event on Hanalei Bay, we had about 60 or 70 people, and I’m pretty sure most of them were volunteers. We asked them to run the circuit because we needed people to do it,” laughs Garces.

The two can now marvel at how Fit Fest has grown in such a short amount of time. The event expanded every year — so much so that it outgrew the beach and was moved to Anaina Hou Community Park. For this year’s ‘Ohana Fit Fest, organizers expect about 400 runners and walkers, plus another 100 spectators and volunteers.

Runners will have to crawl, scale, balance and more through obstacles, like the spider webs and pallet climb (below).

“I think back to how excited we were the first year, creating this event on the beach of Hanalei, and then to last year’s event, which was over five times its size,” says Rosenthal. “Last year, Maylette and I both had tears in our eyes as we gazed out amongst the hundreds of people in our community coming together to celebrate health and fitness together … how it has grown and continues to take a life of its own. I’m getting a little teary-eyed right now thinking of how our baby, ‘Ohana Fit Fest, has grown.”

For this year’s event, the ‘Ohana Fit Fest expo will be staged at Anaina Hou Porter Pavilion, and the 5K and 10K obstacle trail run/walk will take place on the beautiful Wai Koa Loop Trail.

Dedicated volunteers Mike and Laura James are the creative force behind designing the trail’s obstacle course.

“We place several surprises and challenges in the runner’s way just to spice up the event,” Mike says. “Our runners should anticipate obstacles that may require a little climbing, carrying, balancing, crawling, getting a little wet and challenging their mental toughness, all in the name of family fun.”

Adds Laura, “The true star of the obstacle run is its location on the Wai Koa Loop Trail. The natural beauty of this location on the North Shore of Kaua‘i changes with each turn taken along the course. The runners will meander through the lush Kīlauea Forest and the largest mahogany plantation in North America, and delight in water lilies as they pass tranquil lagoons. Listen to the songs of birds or the silence of peaceful stillness, and be awed by the majestic Namahana mountains that tower in the distance.”

Aside from the natural beauty of the course, there is also the camaraderie and sense of community that the event provides.

“I’m excited to see friends, family and strangers hold hands for the pule to bless each other and the event,” says Garces. “Though we may not know each other, the pule symbolizes that we are one ‘ohana. I’m also looking forward to seeing a sea of blue at the pule and participant warmup. Blue is the color of this year’s event shirt. Participants get their shirts when they checkin and, if it’s like last year, hundreds put on their shirts for the run or walk. It’s thrilling to see hundreds wear their shirts at the same time.”

Runners of all ages will enjoy 2019’s ‘Ohana Fit Fest 5K & 10K Obstacle Trail Run/Walk.

Proceeds from ‘Ohana Fit Fest are donated back through the Fit Fund to other nonprofits that have as their focus health and wellness programs that benefit North Shore residents. This year’s event is in partnership with nonprofit Anaina Hou Community Park, which will receive a portion of the proceeds to help fund the great work they do for the community.

Other 2019 Fit Fund recipients include Hanalei Elementary School PTA to rebuild the school’s gardens for its healthy snacks program; Hanalei Hawaiian Civic Club for the Hā‘ena Run; Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association for junior lifeguard program equipment; Keala Foundation for its Anahola keiki crossfit program; Kaua‘i Outrigger Association for the state outrigger championship held this year in Hanalei; Namolokama O’ Hanalei Canoe Club for the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge; and Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay Foundation for CPR training as part of its Heart of Gold Campaign.

Jill Lowry, Mayette Garces, Alanna Lesueur, Ken Rosenthal and Robyn Petterson are ready for this year’s event. DENNIS FUJIMOTO PHOTO

For more information about Kaua‘i North Shore Community Foundation and its projects, visit knscf.org. To check out more on this year’s ‘Ohana Fit Fest and to register, visit ohanafitfest.com.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Rosenthal at krosenthal@cdcloans.com or Garces at maylette4959@gmail.com.