Mary Coordt, a four-time women’s champion of the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, took a look around – at the start line in Calistoga early in the day, at the cloudy skies, and down the Silverado Trail heading south – and proclaimed Sunday as a “spectacular day” for road racing.
“I think you’re going to have good times, a good field,” said Coordt, the coordinator for the elite-level entrants in the races. “I think it’s going to be a great day for the marathon and the half. It’s a quality race with a small-race feel. It’s one of my favorites.”
Except for a steady head wind later in the race, conditions for the 26.2-mile marathon race were close to ideal, with runners taking advantage of cool temperatures in the low 50s. There was a very light rain that lasted for only a few minutes.
Sam Long of Boulder, Colorado, a professional triathlete, was the overall champion of the 41st annual Napa Valley Marathon. Long came from two minutes behind at the 18-mile mark and passed Zack Sims, the leader, of Atlanta with just three miles to go in the point-to-point race that is sanctioned by USA Track & Field.
Long crossed the finish line in the front parking lot area of Vintage High School on Trower Avenue in a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 33 seconds. Sims, running in his first marathon and his first distance in a race over 10K (6.2 miles), was second in a time of 2:34:58.
“I gave it everything I had at 20 miles,” said Long, running in only his second marathon race. “It’s a beautiful area, a beautiful course, and a great race. The last two miles felt like they took 30 minutes. I just told myself just to give it all. (Sims) had a phenomenal race. He really, really had a great race.
“I didn’t really expect to overtake him. I knew it was a hope. Anything can happen in the last three miles of a marathon. I’ve been in that position when you get passed. It’s pretty rough. But that’s just life these days, you know.”
Greg Krathwohl of San Francisco was third in a time of 2:42:17.
Liza Reichert won the women’s title, finishing fourth overall, and secured the “B” standard, also qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the marathon. Reichert ran 2:44:06. The “B” standard for the trials is 2:45:00.
Reichert said her primary goal was to hit the trials qualifying mark.
“It was exciting to win,” she said. “It’s a little off my personal best in the marathon. But I knew that this was a challenging course. It was a little bit off of what I had hoped to run time-wise today. But mission accomplished.”
The Napa Valley Marathon, supported by 1,200 volunteers each year, is also a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. Each finisher at Napa receives a race medal.
Men’s and women’s marathon and half-marathon champions each receive a double magnum of wine from Conn Creek Winery in St. Helena. They also get a wine collective, a case of wine that is from different wineries in the Napa Valley.
Men’s and women’s marathon and half-marathon champions in the masters division each get a magnum of wine.
It was one of the biggest days of road racing, with the 13.1-mile Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Half Marathon and the Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K (3.1-mile) Fun Run also part of the event. The same finish-line chute, located in the front parking lot of Vintage, was used for all three races.
“I think the beauty of this marathon is the point to point feature of the course,” said Coordt, a four-time U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier. “I also like the size of it. It’s not too large, where you have to worry about getting a good start. But it’s also just a community feel.
“For me, it’s very special, because it’s my first marathon and the one I’ve run the most. I think for a lot of people, it’s a destination, too. It’s just beautiful, the vineyards this time of year and the mustard is out there.”
Myka Suhr, 10, and Lily Lundquist, 12, who are both from Calistoga, sang the national anthem before the start of the 7:30 a.m. marathon at Rosdeale Road and the Silverado Trail. Suhr attends Calistoga Elementary School and Lundquist is a student at Calistoga Junior/Senior High School.
The runners were cheered by spectators from the cross roads along Silverado Trail and by the volunteers at aid stations.
There were stretches in the race where Long, 23, said he could not even see Sims ahead of him, as Sims was so far out in front of everyone and running alone. The head wind made conditions even tougher.
“I lost him from Mile 15 to 20,” said Long. “I never slowed down really. The whole time, I was kind of battling, ‘Do I run a little slower, or do I run and keep myself in the race.’ I told myself, ‘Keep myself in the race, so that if something happens, I’m able to overtake and get first.’ That’s what happened.
“I’m pretty happy with that. I think I did what I had to do. In the point where I had to pass him, from like the mile before to the mile after, once I saw him, it was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to make a move.’
“Winning a marathon is just as much mental as it is physical, right?”
Long competes in Ironman triathlons, a combination of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. He was second last year at an Ironman in Louisville.
His only other marathon was the Seattle Marathon in2014, when he ran 2:44:45.
Long was a double-major and graduated from the University of Colorado in 2017 with degrees in physiology and psychology.
It was on Big Ranch Road, not far from the finish, where Sims stopped, started walking, and was passed by Long.
“I just felt like my legs were basically going to give out. I was like, I have nothing left in the tank,” said Sims, 25, who graduated in 2016 from the University of Georgia. He ran cross country and track in college.
“I did think I could surprise myself and maybe run 2:27, 2:28. I really wanted to come and break 2:30,” said Sims. “I tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I really just wanted to have fun with it and just try to enjoy the distance.
“I think I just got a little excited. I think I had a few mile splits that were probably a little too fast. I felt like I was holding pretty close to that until about 20, 21 (miles). And then after that, the wheels kind of just fell completely off. I think just never having raced anywhere remotely this far, just kind of shocked my body a little bit.
“And there was a pretty strong head wind. That was tough to dial through.”
Sims graduated from Georgia with a major in broadcast journalism.
It was Reichert’s first time to run a marathon since having her first child, Madeline, a little over a year ago. She also qualified for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.
“The true test (in the marathon) is when you are in that last stretch and holding it together,” said Reichert, 31, a resident of Los Altos Hills, who works as a research coordinator at Stanford Children’s Hospital. Her personal record is 2:42:25, set in 2015.
Reichert ran cross country and track at UC Santa Barbara, graduating in 2009 with a degree in micro biology. She got her master’s in molecular biology.
* Napa’s Michelle La Sala, the founder of Blistering Pace Race Management, is in her first-year as race director.
“I’m very happy with how this race has gone,” NVM board president Jim Cotter said. “Michele La Sala has done a wonderful job of organizing this race and starting our half marathon. The medical team is wonderful. Very, very pleased.”
* The full marathon had 1,300 starters, the half marathon had 1,650 starters, and the 5K had 425 starters, event officials said.
* The race is supported by 15 physicians, 15 nurses and 20 physical therapists from Kaiser Permanente.
* All proceeds from the NVM, a nonprofit organization which is a member of the Road Runners Club of America and Running USA, are donated to local charities and schools in the Napa Valley region. The NVM awards scholarships to high school students in the Napa Valley each year.
* Timothy Englehart of Washington, D.C. won the 5K race with a time of 16:57. Conor Johnston of Sonoma was second at 17:05.
* For more information, visit the marathon’s website at napavalleymarathon.org.