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Front Street Mile returns, with protocols

Smaller field, starting waves among changes for Saturday’s races

Runners in the 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer races head down Front Street during the Front Street Mile and 5K/10K on Sept. 14, 2019 in Lahaina. After last year’s event was canceled, the 20th annual Tommy Bahama Front Street Mile is set to run Saturday. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN file photo

KAHULUI — Although the Tommy Bahama Front Street Mile and 5K/10K will look a bit different this year due to COVID-19 protocols, the 20th edition of one of Maui’s biggest community running events is nonetheless highly anticipated.

Rather than mingling with family and friends along Front Street in Lahaina like in the past, or standing shoulder to shoulder on the starting line, this year’s mile and 5- and 10-kilometer events will be more of “get in and get out” type of races.

However, since the Front Street Mile was canceled last year due to the pandemic, race director Rudy Huber said that he is excited to host the event on Saturday and give keiki and adults the opportunity to run again.

“You get your medal, you get your T-shirt, and that’s it,” Huber said on Monday. “We’ve really tried to adjust everything to accommodate for safety and also for the community, the people who love to run, and for the kids to be able to have fun at the same time.”

There has been a lot of “stress and pressure” having to adjust to the ever-changing rules while planning a sporting event, Huber said, but “I’m happy with what we got coming and I hope people understand that this is a community event– we’ve had it for 20 years.”

Emily Kermode (right) runs beside Keilani Maldonaldo in the girls 8-9 mile race during the 2019 Front Street Mile. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN file photo

All the races on Saturday will go at staggered start times from the start/finish area at Tommy Bahama, located at 900 Front Street, to allow for social distancing before and after the races.

For example, the 10K will go in waves of 10 people every minute starting at 6:20 a.m. The 5K waves start at 6:30 a.m.

The mile will begin at 8 a.m., going in waves and starting with the lowest age groups — 8- to 9-year-olds, 10-11, 12-13, 14-17, 18-39, and then the masters division.

The mile route will still include a run down Front Street toward the banyan tree.

Huber said that the warm-up area will be within the Outlets of Maui and recommends that runners not come out until a few minutes prior to their assigned start time.

Caile Kohlbrenner of Kihei heads to a win in the women’s open division of the Front Street Mile on Sept. 14, 2019. This year’s event is Saturday, with the mile race starting, in waves, at 8 a.m. Courtesy photo

Masks must be worn unless actively warming up or racing. Participants must bring their own water, and spectators and runners must exit the finish line area once the race is complete.

Mandatory packet pickups are from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday outside the Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar in Lahaina. Organizers say this will help cut down on groups gathering on race day trying to get their bibs and shirts.

Due to limitations, there are fewer than 300 entries between the three races stretched throughout the morning. In past years, there were typically about 900 runners and another couple hundred spectators.

For those who may feel hesitant about participating this year, they have the options to run virtually or defer their entry to the 2022 Front Street Mile event, Huber said.

“It’s just about being flexible to host an event, a fun event that’s been around for 20 years, an event that’s for the community and the kids, but also learning how to make it safe for everyone and hence the smaller waves,” he said. “I think the way I designed it, you know, it’s going to be pretty easy and safe. We’re not going to have people at the finish line or have any spectators hanging out over there like there used to be in the past.”

Saturday’s event will also pay tribute to longtime runner and coach Dennis Nakamura, who inspired Huber to kickstart the inaugural event over two decades ago.

Running down through the historic Lahaina Town has since become a tradition for many families and athletes.

“If it wasn’t for him mentioning it to me, it probably wouldn’t be happening right now, so lots of credit goes to him and his influence,” Huber said. “It’s been a success. We’ve had some great elite athletes that have come out and run the mile on the women and men’s side, and we’ve had some great youth athletes that have run the mile that did big things after in high school and college, and it’s great to see athletes now who are in their 20s and 30s and they have kids who are running it.

“It’s just cool to see that this event has made such an impact on the community,” he added. “It’s a cool thing and I’m proud of that.”

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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