The theme for this year’s Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, a 26.2-mile race from Calistoga to Napa, is “40 Years Running.”
It’s a milestone year for the race, which is celebrating its 40th year. Just over 2,000 entries have been received so far for the marathon, which will be held on Sunday, March 4 starting at 7 a.m. from Rosedale Road and the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. Sanctioned by USA Track & Field, the race is held on a point to point course, taking runners south to Napa along the Silverado Trail, to the finish line in the front parking lot area of Vintage High School on Trower Avenue.
“It’s a pretty big year for us,” said Dave Hill, who along with Rich Benyo are co-race directors. “Forty years running is quite an accomplishment, and to be able to grow the marathon like we have. There are many marathons and runs every week, and you’re competing for everyone’s dollar.”
The Napa Valley Marathon will continue to accept entries up until race day. The cost is $155 per person. The race is limited to the first 3,000 entries, race officials said.
This year’s race is also the Road Runners Club of America National Marathon Championships and is part of the RRCA Championship Event Series for the marathon distance. This is the 60th year of the RRCA.
“We are proud of our long-running relationship with the RRCA,” Benyo, board chairman of the Napa Valley Marathon, said in a press release. “Their efforts over the years have made running a more organized and accessible sport and lifestyle.”
Each finisher at Napa will receive a race medal. The men’s and women’s overall champions of the race will receive their weight-in-wine provided by the Andretti Winery.
“The RRCA champions the development of community-based running clubs and events that serve runners of all ages and abilities in pursuit of health and competition,” the RRCA, which is based in Arlington, Virginia, said on its website, www.rrca.org.
There have been very few changes to the marathon’s course, which is certified by USATF and takes runners through St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville and Napa. The finish line area was moved a few years ago, allowing spectators to see the runners better.
The first Napa Valley Marathon was held in 1979.
“We have one of the most beautiful courses in the world,” Hill, the treasurer of the marathon, said in a press release. “It’s been a real stable course.
“In the four decades of putting on the race, we’re kind of spoiled, in that we’ve been able to use the same course. Some races are forced to change their course every few years. Ours has always been the same.”
The Napa Valley Marriott will serve as race headquarters on March 2 and 3. The race features a running and fitness expo and the Kaiser Permanente Marathon College, which is open to the public at no charge. The expo is held on both days and the Marathon College, which will include Joan Benoit-Samuelson, winner of the gold medal at the first women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles in 1984, is on March 3.
Benoit-Samuelson, who makes her home in Maine, will be the featured guest and the keynote speaker at the NVM expo. She is entered in the Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K, which starts and ends at the marathon finish area on March 4 beginning at 8 a.m.
“I’m looking forward to returning to the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon to celebrate the 40th running of the event at age 60,” Benoit-Samuelson said in a press release. “I’m hoping I’ve aged well and can deliver a smooth and fast pace in the 5K before toasting the marathoners as they finish 26.2.”
NVM officials said Benoit-Samuelson will participate in a 90-minute “Conversation with Joanie” at the Marathon College, from noon until 1:30 p.m., on March 3.
Kaiser Permanente has been the NVM’s presenting sponsor since 2006.
“We’re very proud that they are our sponsor,” said Hill. “They’ve provided a lot of behind-the-scenes support for us, including the medical doctors and registered nurses. It’s very, very well organized. This is probably one of the safest marathons around.”
Last year’s races were won by Benjamin Heck, who captured the overall title, and Erica Weitz, who was the women’s overall champion.
Heck, a resident of San Carlos, hit the finish-line tape in a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 11 seconds.
Weitz, who is from Orlando, Florida, ran 2:48:48.
It was the Road Runners Club of America Western Regional Championship. There were 1,360 starters. There were 2,000 runners registered for the race, according to race organizers.