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Running in the background

  • COURTESY XTERRA
    Runners in last year’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship trek the 5K course at Kualoa Ranch. Kualoa also features a 10K course and 21K course.
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Kualoa Ranch is one of the most beautiful places on Earth to run.

It is also one of the most exclusive places on Earth to run, and that is why the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is such a popular race.

» Where: Kualoa Ranch
» When: Dec. 5, 9 a.m. start
» Who: More than 1,500 runners of all ages and skill levels from around the world
» Distances: 21 kilometers, 10 kilometers or 5 kilometers
» Entry fees: $55 for 21K, $35 for 10K, $30 for 5K
» Student/Military entries: $50 for 21K, $32 for 10K, $27 for 5K
» Kualoa Ranch Adventure Walk: $25
» Online registration: www.xterratrailrun.com

More than 1,500 runners from around the world are expected to gather at Kualoa Ranch on Dec. 5 to participate in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. In addition to determining the best trail runners in the world, the race offers a rare opportunity to run the picturesque trails at Kualoa Ranch.

The 21-kilometer course, for example, will take runners through open pastures, across streams, into rainforest-like sections and along steep ridges that overlook the ocean.

Every time you start to think it is hard, you look up and are amazed.

Kualoa Ranch’s beauty has been on public display as a backdrop for the hit television series "Lost," and blockbuster movies such as "Godzilla," "Jurassic Park" and "50 First Dates." But except for a handful of trail runs and triathlons per year, the courses at Kualoa Ranch are closed to the public.

In essence, there is no home-course advantage because no runners get to practice on it, and that is part of the appeal.

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to run in Kaaawa Valley, where movies and adventures are made.

Although the event is called a world championship, there is no qualifying process, and it is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In addition to the 21-kilometer championship course, there are also separate 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer courses for less-experienced runners.

Here are some tips to help prepare for a trail run:

* Practice courses on Oahu:

» Pill Box (Kailua) — breathtaking views along Lanikai Ridge, from Kaneohe to Mokapu lighthouse, great challenging hills, heat and loose dirt.

» Peacock Flats (North Shore) — miles of trails running from the North Shore to the West side, with great views of the Pacific coast and undulating terrain.

» Pali to Waimanalo Trail — lush, green and plenty of fruit to eat on the way down the 11-mile trail from the Pali Highway to the country living of Waimanalo.

» Kaneohe Botanical Gardens — easy trail for runners and hikers of all ages and levels; exotic flowers and views of the Koolau Mountains make this trail a true paradise.

» Tantalus Trail — home of the H.U.R.T 100-miler, this trail boasts of waterfalls, vegetation, and fancy footwork through roots, rocks and mud, from the Oahu Club Nature Center to Manoa Falls and beyond.

» Royal Summit (Aiea) — wonderful views of Pearl Harbor and always dry; trail is a great backup in winter rains.

Advice for beginners:

Trail running is a great activity to get into at any age or level. Depending on the distance, you will need a hydration belt or pack to fuel properly on the course. Trail shoes aren’t required but recommended to give the best traction on the terrain. Pick shoes that match the area where you will be primarily running and make sure they fit correctly. You want them to stay with you on the ups, downs, twists, turns and jumps along the trail.

Trail running vs. road running:

Off-road running is typically more challenging due to undulating terrain and mental focus required. The rapid hill intervals keep you anaerobic and provide an excitement not found on the road. Get lost in the views of Hawaii — in the thrill of the great outdoors.

Safety tips:

Never wear a hat or listen to music while trail running. You want to keep your senses and sight open to animals, trees, bikes and other runners. Be sure to always have ample water, fuel and a whistle. Never go alone, and always tell someone where you are going.

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Amy Eck is an outdoor enthusiast and a Hawaii Xterra Ambassador. She is the US Navy Port Engineer for the USS Lake Erie, a guided missile cruiser at Naval Station Pearl Harbor. Eck fuels the multi-sport lifestyle as a coach for Camp Bennett, and as a sponsor for the Freedom Fest Hawaii Race held every Independence Day at Kualoa Ranch.

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