One Sweet Run
Avid runners and walkers will lace up their sneakers Saturday for the 14th annual Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run.
Meteorologists predict the upcoming winter season to be rainier than usual, but Thomas Lodico and Becky Like of Rotary Club of Kauai hope it stays dry Nov. 12. In fact, one of the reasons they prefer having the race on the perpetually sunny South Shore is to avoid potential downpours.
Another reason is the gorgeous scenery.
“It’s picturesque,” says race director Lodico.
Before Rotary Club of Kauai took over the race, it was organized by fitness enthusiast and health advocate Pam Kruse, and the beauty of the South Shore is exactly why she selected the route.
She enjoyed running along the dirt road that passes the former mill (home of the first large-scale sugar plantation operation in the state) to Mahaulepu Beach, and knew others would appreciate it, as well.
“We just liked the area and thought it would be a cool place to run,” she says.
Kruse’s intention was to host an event for runners on Kauai — prior to that, people had to travel off island to participate in competitions.
The race, which was started in the early 2000s, actually was held at Kukuiolono Golf Course its inaugural year. Formerly called “Santa Claus Run” because it then was held in December, it changed its locale to Lihue the following year and eventually settled in Koloa.
But its beauty wasn’t the only reason Kruse choose the route. She also was inspired by a watercolor of the historic mill painted by one of her clients, Helen Mehl.
She is glad the route in Koloa stuck, and she fondly recalls, during the early years of the race, needing to ask ranchers to clear cattle off the dirt road in time for the run.
The event’s name eventually changed to Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run, and now the route traverses paved roads and bypasses the plantation altogether.
It’s also grown in size. “It’s huge now. Tom’s done a great job,” says Kruse, who handed the reins to the Rotary Club of Kauai in 2007.
The race traditionally had about 200 participants, says Lodico, who helped organize it back when it was called “Santa Claus Run.” Now, at least 600 enter the 5K run or walk, 10K and half-marathon races, and some 30 percent even travel from the Mainland, as well as other countries, including Canada, to participate.
Rotary Club of Kauai president Like is excited to be involved in the race this year. Having experienced it before, she knows what to expect.
“Everybody’s euphoric after having run and cheering everyone else on,” she says regarding one of her favorite aspects of the run.
Another reason Lodico and Like feel good about continuing to put so much time and energy into the event is that proceeds go to scholarships for Kauai Community College students, as well as Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.
The Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run is just one of many things Rotary Club of Kauai has done for the community in the past 79 years. “We call ourselves the mother club on Kauai,” says Lodico, as it’s the oldest Rotary club on the island.
Besides the run, the club focuses on international efforts and provides a youth exchange program with Japan. Volunteers also help out during crises that occur overseas, such as sending “shelter boxes” to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew devastated the county in October.
“It’s nice to be a part of something bigger that’s making a difference,” says Like.
The 34-member club also hosts the Lights on Rice Parade, and it targets environmental projects, mostly in Lihue, where it is based. Beautifying Nawiliwili harbor and working with organizations such as Malama Huleia are just a sample of many projects in which they are involved.
But, right now, Rotary Club of Kauai is focused on conducting another successful Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run and raising funds for Kauai keiki.
Participants in the run, of which Wilcox Health is the title sponsor, check in at Anne Knudsen Park in Koloa. There are different start times for the different races, the first beginning at 7 a.m. A complimentary breakfast for participants starts at 8 a.m. and winners will be announced at 9:30, with awards going to the top male and female finishers, as well as age groups. Medals also will be awarded to all half-marathon finishers. Race packet pickup is Friday (Nov. 11) between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Kukui Grove Center.
To register, visit oldkoloasugarmillrun.org.