This month we are excited to share a guest blog “partner highlight” of Dr. Alyx (Luck) Barnett, founder of Hawaiʻi Mountain Running (HMR). Since 2020, Hawai‘i Mountain Running and runners have collectively raised over $5,000.00 for HWF programs and projects!  In addition, HWF team members have been there to support (and race) in four different HMR events and encourages you all to sign up for the next “Time for Wine” race around the beautiful Volcano Winery vineyard.

Q&A Sesh with Alyx:

• When and how did you first get into distance running? When I was a child I raced horses nationwide and also internationally in endurance style events, 50-100 mile races primarily. When I learned it was something also done by humans alone without the assistance of a horse I was instantly intrigued. I began running at 7 or 8 and by 9 or 10 was running ultra distances next to my horses. I never thought anything about it being an odd sport, so when I went to high school young at 13 I was instantly successful at cross country and track. It’s been a part of my life ever since!

• Tell us a little bit more about Hawai‘i Mountain Running and its origins. My husband Billy had dreamed of putting on races, to share some of his favorite locations. Unfortunately, permitting with private land owners and DLNR is a challenge. However, there’s nothing I enjoy more that figuring out how to overcome a challenge in the name of something good. Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund was enough of a reason to spend the effort.

• What is your favorite part about hosting trail races? Sharing beautiful places with people and challenging them to push themselves more than they thought capable.

• What is your favorite native species? I love the unique ‘ōpae‘ula in some of my favorite secret locations, and the beautiful ‘ōhiʻa lehua that surround my home in Volcano. Seeing their symbiotic relationship with newer lava flows is so beautiful as an example of the creativity and strength of nature left uninterrupted. But picking favorites seems like choosing a favorite child or pet, the more I learn about Hawai‘i native species the more infatuated I become!

• Why did you select Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund to be your beneficiary? I was lucky enough to get to know Megan Lamson Leatherman through my husband and her husband’s friendship. Getting to volunteer with them, seeing first-hand the work they do, knowing the behind the scenes of how much they depend on volunteers and donations, and also knowing the sacrifices the few staff they pay make to keep it going… All of these reasons combined made me confident that the money couldn’t go to a better place.

• How do you think runners could do a better job protecting the ecosystems they traverse? Knowledge is power. From learning the obvious, like using the least impactful shoes on the terrain and packing out litter, to education on native species and issues, to avoiding bringing in invasives… the more you know, the better you can do. So educate yourself on your region, what it’s issues are whether that is invasive species, forest fires, or potentially overwhelming traffic. And make choices about your running locations with the land in mind over that of your personal selfish desires.

• What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new ultra runner? Be open to the adventure that is life, slow down and smell the flowers, trees, be gentle to yourself and the wildlife, and pick up after yourself while avoiding making unnecessary waste!

Inspired to get your RUN on? Find out more about Hawai‘i Mountain Running on their website, or follow HMR on their social media pages (@hawaiimtnrunning). We are WILD about this partnership and look forward to hitting the trail again soon to support native wildlife and our coastal habitat restoration efforts.

Alyx and Megan during the Bokoa Combo Platter (November 2020).