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Napa Valley Marathon

Runners are shown at the start line in 2016 for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, a 26.2-mile race, in Calistoga. The race is held on a point-to-point course.

Submitted Photo

A field of determined entrants from 16 countries, 44 U.S. states, and Washington, D.C. will gather for the 40th annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon and Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K Run on Sunday, March 4.

American marathoning icon Joan Benoit Samuelson (Freeport, Maine) will return to this year’s event as a special guest and competitor 34 years after winning the inaugural U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials race in 1984 and then earning the gold medal in Los Angeles at the first women’s Olympic Games marathon.

On Saturday, March 3, Benoit Samuelson will be the keynote speaker among a panel of distinguished speakers at the annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon College. The Marathon College is an innovative speaker/seminar program that includes a “faculty” composed of respected running authorities and celebrity runners. It takes place at KP-NVM’s Sports and Fitness Expo, set for Friday and Saturday on race weekend at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa.

The Expo, including the Marathon College, is free for the general public. Benoit Samuelson will deliver her keynote address from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The following day (Sunday, March 4) Benoit Samuelson, who turned 60 last May, will take to the roads in KP-NVM’s companion race, the Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K. The 5K begins at Vintage High School at 8 a.m. and ends at the marathon finish line (also at Vintage High) before the first marathoners arrive at approximately 9:20 a.m.

Benoit Samuelson’s legacy in the sport of road running is unmatched. She was ranked No. 1 in the world in the marathon on two occasions and is a former world and U.S. record holder in that event. In addition to the Olympic Games, her major victories include wins at the Boston and Chicago Marathons.

At age 50, Samuelson qualified for and competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon. Perhaps most significantly, with her tireless advocacy, speaking engagements and public appearances, Samuelson has been USA’s most high-profile advocate for distance running, and especially women’s running, for decades. In 2004, Samuelson was inducted into USA Track & Field’s Hall of Fame.

In 2013, at the age of 55, Benoit Samuelson competed in KP-NVM’s Kiwanis Club 5K where she placed second among women and eighth overall in 18:46 – missing the U.S. women’s age 55-59 record by 14 seconds. She had hoped to eclipse the current U.S. women’s age 60-64 record and world best of 19:04 at this year’s Kiwanis Club 5K; however, she hasn’t returned to full running form after having arthroscopic knee surgery in late November.

In 2008, at age 50, Benoit Samuelson ran 20 miles of the Napa Valley Marathon as a training run in preparation for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials where she ran 2:49:08.

“It’s the cutest, scenic, undulating course I know,” Benoit Samuelson said. “I think it’s a potential PR course for many runners.”

The point-to-point 26.2-mile route, which is certified by USA Track & Field for accurate distance, runs from Calistoga to Napa.

“Joanie is definitely a charm. I can’t think of a better ambassador of running and motivational speaker for our 40th anniversary race,” said Rich Benyo, a former executive editor of Runner’s World magazine, who co-directs the marathon with David Hill. “She’s a magnet for runners of all ages, shapes, and abilities who just want to spend a single moment, or an hour, in her magical presence.”

The 2018 Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon is a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon and will serve as the Road Runners Club of America National Marathon Championship.

For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, visit the marathon’s website at Runners can register for the marathon and Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K Run online.