NAPA, Calif. – March 2, 2014 – Matt Flaherty of Bloomington, Ind. and Jenny Kadavy of Concord, Calif. garnered big wins in competitive fields at today’s 36th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon. Flaherty, 28, an accomplished runner who was crowned the 2013 U.S. 50 Mile Road Champion, improved upon his fourth place finish at last year’s Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) while recording a winning time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 15 seconds. Kadavy notched the women’s victory in 2:40:47 on a day that presented near-ideal weather conditions for distance running: overcast, little wind, with temperatures hovering around 48 degrees at the start. Light showers sprinkled the later finishers, but didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of about 2,700 marathon entrants.
In the men’s race Flaherty was content to pace himself behind two-time NVM champion Chris Mocko (San Francisco, Calif.) and Ryan Donovan (Fort Collins, Colo.) in the early stages of the race, a strategy that eventually paid off for him on the scenic, gently rolling, point-to-point course from Calistoga to Napa. Co-leaders Mocko and Donovan ran together for 10 miles at which point Mocko assumed the lead. At the halfway point (13.1 miles) Mocko had a 30 second gap over Donovan and 44 seconds over Flaherty, and appeared to be in control.
“I knew Chris (Mocko) was fit and that he ran a 1:06:35 half marathon a few weeks ago (at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon),” Flaherty said. “I just kept telling myself don’t get too far out of reach because you never know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t confident that I was going to beat him but I figured I needed to hang in there and give myself a chance.”
That chance turned to reality for the accomplished ultramarathoner (distances of 50 kilometers and longer) and licensed attorney. After passing Donovan and assuming second place midway through the race, Flaherty, who placed fourth at last year’s NVM, set his sights on Mocko.
“I started to gain on him a little bit around mile 20,” Flaherty recounted. “I tried to keep my head up the entire race and keep an eye on him. Around mile 21 I saw him stop and stretch, so I knew he had some issues. I think I saw him stop and stretch three times from miles 21 to 25 and that definitely helped me cut the gap. He kept going strong, but that let me know I had a better chance than I thought.”
After the race, Mocko described his difficulties, which stemmed from a lengthy hamstring injury that affected his ability to train adequately last year: “At 16 or 17 miles things weren’t really going great,” he admitted. My leg started acting up a little bit again. Once you get that first negative thought it’s hard to get it out of your system. Matt (Flaherty) ran a really strong race today."
With 1.3 miles left in the 26.2-mile race, Flaherty passed Mocko and continued to the finish line at Napa’s Vintage High School, recording a winning time of 2:26:15. Mocko (2nd, 2:28:36) and Donovan (3rd, 2:31:10) followed.
“Napa is one of my favorite marathons,” Flaherty commented. “I love point-to-point courses. It’s well run, a good size, and a really fun race,” said Flaherty who is sponsored by Salomon, a mountain sports apparel company.
Unlike the men’s contest, the women’s race was a one-woman show as Jenny Kadavy (nee’ Wilson), 31, fronted the competition from wire to wire and was unchallenged. Her winning time of 2:40:47 earned the University of California, Davis graduate a personal record (improving her previous best marathon by eight minutes). It also was under USA Track & Field’s 2:43:00 “B” standard qualifying time for entry into the 2016 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, which was Kadavy’s goal.
Kadavy was initially accompanied by two-time NVM women’s champion and course record holder Devon Yanko (nee’ Crosby-Helms ). Yanko (San Anselmo, Calif,) had to drop off the pace at two miles, eventually finishing third in 2:52:54. Meredith Placer (Tucson, AZ), a former miler at Wake Forest University, grabbed the second place spot in 2:52:26 in her debut at the marathon distance.
“I just wanted to go out at a consistent pace, and not too hard,” said Kadavy (Asics Aggies Running Club) who bumped up her training to a modest 55 miles per week last December to prepare for NVM. “I think I kept that pace well. Nobody was challenging me, so I just ran my myself. I just wanted to do 2:42 at least and get in that range.”
Graham Cooper (age 44, Piedmont, Calif.) garnered the men’s masters (40 years of age and older) victory in 2:44:32. Mary Lynch (47, Santa Ana, Calif.) secured the women’s masters win in 3:08:51 and placed 10th overall.
Both overall winners, Flaherty and Kadavy, were crowned Road Runners Club of America national marathon champions. The marathon served as Road Runners Club of America’s 2014 National Marathon Championship.
Known as “the Biggest Little Marathon in the West,” the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon rewards male and female open and masters winners with oversized bottles of wine etched with their championship accomplishments. The male and female winners of the race also receive their “weight-in-wine” donated by the Silverado Trail Wineries Association.
In the accompanying Greater Kiwanis Club of Napa 5K Run, Alan Reynolds (50, Sausalito, Calif.) and Rylee Bowen (14, Santa Rosa, Calif.) emerged as victors. Reynolds’ time was 17:13 and Bowen’s was 18:03.
All proceeds from the Napa Valley Marathon (a non-profit organization) are donated to local charities in the Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Gatorade, ASICS, Silverado Trail Wineries Association, Marathon & Beyond, Visit Napa Valley, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, GU, KPIX5 and KBCW, XFINITY, Napa Valley Register, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, Napa Running Company, KCBS AM and FM Radio, Arrowhead Water, Wallaby Organic, Running USA, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Napa Valley Wine Train, Southgate Mini Storage, Napa Smith Brewery.