It was a perfect morning for a foot race on the mountain road at Falefa on Saturday. This is the only race that runs twice during the year, in January to kick start Samoa Events’ annual programme and in November to close the year.
Expats Matthew Howden, 33, and Anna Rivara, 28, won the premier 10km races.
The 10km race is a gem of a course, popular with visiting runners from around the world. It overlooks Falefa Falls at the start and loops around Falefa Bay. From the elevated view the Bay is stunning in the early morning calm.
Encountering very few cars on the quiet mountain-side road makes this course a runners’ paradise.
There were eight in the premier 10km race, a few more lined up for the shorter distances.
In the men’s race it was Aussie, Howden who took the win on Australia Day. He led from the front with two Italians on his tail, Andrea Piras and Andrea Bolzoni.
It was the first time running the Falefa course for the three, and they were all smiles throughout the race.
“Spectacular! The scenery, quiet coastal road, lush rainforest, waves breaking on the reef off in the distance, those were the best things about the run,” Howden said after the race.
The other aspect of the day that struck with Howden was the friendly atmosphere despite it being a race.
The Australian didn’t have a specific plan for the race. He said things worked themselves out after the first kilometre when he decided to open it up.
“After the first kilometre I had warmed up and started to increase my pace,” he said.
“After the halfway point I saw I had a bit of a lead but I kept expecting them to come galloping past me.”
In the end, Howden’s winning time of 56mins 02secs was 90-seconds ahead of Piras who finished second. Bolzoni was another minute back.
The women’s race was also hotly contested. The women’s podium was the same as the November 2018 race but with a twist.
Then, it was Rivara who finished third behind Kat Riley (Aust) and Akiko Ano (USA). This time, Rivara took five minutes off her time from two months ago to cross the finish line in first place in 1hr 03mins.
In the 6km race two more Australian expats Andrew Colquhoun - 31mins 26secs, won the men’s race and Laura Howden finished first in the women’s race in 41mins10secs.
The Samoa Events weekend run series continues this weekend with the Apia 10km run followed by the South Coast 10km next Saturday.
The three races serve as a platform for local runners to kick start their training for the Savai’i International Marathon in April.
Samoa Events is already fielding international bookings for that race from as far afield as Europe and the United States.