The 42nd Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon and Half Marathon, boasting its largest field ever, did not disappoint on Sunday.
Far from it, in fact.
The field of 5,000 registered runners for the marathon, half marathon and 5K were treated to stellar views, mild weather and the type of hospitality and community feel that have attracted runners from all over the world.
“We kind of need to wait for it to flush out until the very end, but so far so good,” said second-year Race Director Michelle La Sala as the latter half of the marathon field began to come across the finish line at Vintage High School. “We have had lots of happy people finish today, lots of PRs (personal records). It was a really fast day and the weather was great. We’re definitely excited and want to see what we can do from here.”
While a community event in the truest sense, none of the top finishers were Napa Valley natives. Both the men and women’s winners of the full marathon were out-of-staters, but the top finishers in the second annual half marathon hailed from the Bay Area.
With a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 47 seconds, Ryan Smith, 40, of Boulder, Colorado won the full 26.2-mile race on the men’s side, while 47-year old Anne Theisen of Mazama, Washington, was the fastest woman to cross the line, doing so in 2:52:58.
Smith ran alone for the majority of his time on the course on Silverado Trail, which began in Calistoga and ended at Vintage High School in north Napa. He finished almost three minutes ahead of second-place finisher Nicholas Budzyn of Citrus Heights.
Smith said after the race that he actually prefers running alone, and that by looking at previous times he figured that might be a possibility again on Sunday.
“It’s a great marathon,” Smith said. “It’s kind of my jam. I like the low-key ones. It’s just something a bit more mellow and fun about it.”
Sporting a mullet, Budyzn, a collegiate hockey player-turned-endurance runner, had no complaints about his performance.
“I feel like it went great,” he said. “I ran smart but pushed when I wanted to. I was conservatively aggressive and was able to hold it together and finish strong.”
Theisen, meanwhile, had competition nipping at her heels. She came in with arms raised in victory just 20 seconds ahead of Catherine Medvene, 30, of New York. Unlike Smith, Theisen didn’t come in expecting a top finish but that reality showed itself relatively early on.
“People were joking with me because I knew that if you win this one you win a magnum (of wine),” she said after the race, “so people were saying, ‘You’ve got to come home with a magnum,’ and I’m like, ‘Ehh, I don’t know if that’s going to happen.’ But then when I saw how it was all playing out at the beginning of the race and just who was in the pack as far as women, I thought ‘Oh, maybe there is a magnum in my future.’”
Both Theisen and Medvene, who were both running the Napa Valley Marathon for the first time, said they were competing in this specific event because their prior plan of competing in the Tokyo Marathon had fallen through. Organizers for that event closed the race to the public because of coronavirus concerns.
Both said, though, that Sunday’s marathon was a great consolation.
“Didn’t really know what I was coming into today with, and then shifting the mentality of going from a really big race with 38,000 people versus a couple thousand,” Theisen said. “So, super fun. I love this smaller kind of race. The volunteer support is fantastic and everybody is super friendly. It just kind of feels like you have a big family around you, which is great.”
As for the running of the half marathon, which was successfully introduced last year, Cal graduates and training partners Bolota Asmerom, 41, and Collin Jarvis, 28, finished 1-2 in the men’s race with Asmerom coming in just seven seconds ahead of Jarvis. The final counts – Asmerom 1:07:09 and Jarvis 1:07:16 – were so close because of a late push by Jarvis after Asmerom created some distance in the latter half of the 13.1-mile race.
That was somewhat according to plan for the duo.
“We said we’d run together for half, go with the top pack till the halfway point, and then after that we’d start switching off,” Asmerom said. “It didn’t quite work out like that, but we ran together for most of the way. I broke off, but then he caught me towards the end.”
Both competed on the Cal track and field team.
On the women’s side in the half, another pair of training partners and teammates finished in succession. Oakland’s Jessica Smith, 39, crossed first in 1:17:34 and Hillsborough’s Kelly Couch, 42, came in second in 1:20:31. The two are members of the all-women Impala Racing Team based in San Francisco. Smith’s time was a personal record, which she said was motivated by watching some her teammates compete in the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials on Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia.
“We have nine teammates that were there yesterday and watching them tough it out on such a hard course and just being such an impressive, elite group of women is just so inspiring,” Smith said. “So I think coming into today there was a lot of energy, like, ‘this is going to be a fun day on a much less challenging course.’
“The last three miles were a bit of a grind for me. But I was just like, ‘If they could do that yesterday going up and down all those hills, I can get through the next 12 minutes, or 15 minutes.’”
In the 5K, Lupe Caba, 34, of Reno, Nevada had the top finish in the men’s race with a time of 16:26. On the women’s side, Kate Rye, 19, of Incline Village, Nevada had the top finish of 19:21.
Locally, the top finishers in each gender of all three races were as follows.
Male: William Sitch, 43, Napa, 3:03:38
Female: Shari Costanzo, 44, Napa, 3:07:03
Male: Jorge Lualua, 29, Yountville, 1:32:25
Female: Amber Elias, 17, Napa, 1:35:01
Male: Phil Tessier, 40, Napa, 21:59.
Female: Maggie Chapin, 16, Napa, 22:12
Gus Morris' top 5 most memorable stories of 2019
Prep sports in the Napa Valley this past year provided some incredible stories I was honored to tell. Here are some I thought stood out from the rest.
St. Helena junior Harper McClain won the first cross country state title in school history and also qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals.
St. Helena running back Ivan Robledo cemented himself as one of the greatest backs in school history with his late-season performance against …
All four Upvalley soccer teams all advanced in the 2019 North Coast Section Winter Soccer playoffs, several in dramatic fashion.
St. Helena catcher Caleb Jeske had a historic junior campaign, breaking a 20-year school record for hits in a season while leading the Saints …
For winning first girls section title in school history, members of the 2018 Calistoga volleyball team was named the Napa Valley Register's Co…
Contact Gus via phone at 707-304-9372 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustGusMorris.
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