Site has been used for numerous movies and TV shows
Runners come and go at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, but one star of the show remains true every year. Kualoa Ranch.
The 4,000-acre working cattle ranch on the northeast coast of the island of Oahu, Hawaii, is the lure that keeps bringing more than 2,000 runners from around the world to the race every year.
This year's event is scheduled for November 24, and runners from 10 countries and 36 different states are registered to take on the unique challenge that only Kualoa Ranch can offer.
"The XTERRA half-marathon course at Kualoa is a pretty challenging and technically demanding race," said 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 up-hills. The terrain is rugged and technical at times, but the scenery is breathtaking throughout the whole race."
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.
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 21-kilometer championship course takes runners on wild adventure that includes narrow single track along the top of a mountain, dirt roads, cow pastures, stream crossings, tropical forests, and passes alongside some of the remaining movie production sets.
Oregon's Max King, who has won the race at Kualoa Ranch four times in his career, said: "The scenery of the course easily stands out as one of the main draws to the Kualoa course. 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 said. "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."