NAPA, Calif. — March 5, 2017 — On a cool morning punctuated by sun, intermittent rain, and brief hail, a marathon newcomer and a veteran emerged as victors at today’s 39th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon. In only his second marathon, Benjamin Heck, age 24, of San Carlos, Calif. secured the men’s overall victory while Erica Weitz, 28, of Orlando, Fla. claimed the women’s title. After negotiating the length of the scenic Napa Valley through vineyards in the heart of California’s renowned wine-growing region, Heck crossed the finish line at Napa High School in two hours, 29 minutes, and 11 seconds. Weitz claimed her win in 2:48:48.
Heck ran in a pack of four men early in the race but soon pulled into a sizeable lead, hitting the 10-kilometer split point on the rolling, 26.2 mile USA Track and Field certified course in 34:24 and 16 miles in 1:28:51. The 2014 graduate of University of California-Riverside was on pace for the 2:25:00 finish that he had hoped for. Last July, Heck finished fifth in the hilly San Francisco Marathon in 2:36:00 and aimed to better that time by 11 minutes at Napa.
“I was feeling good but at about 18 miles my legs really started cramping badly,” Heck said. “My calves really weren’t cooperating. But before that I looked around and I was something like 2-1/2 minutes ahead of the next person. So, I said I’m just going to enjoy this. The course is absolutely gorgeous. I train by myself so it was just like a normal training day, except it just hurt a lot more. I’m happy with it. I won and that was the number one goal today.”
After graduating from college Heck, who works full time doing health and safety research, had temporarily hung up his training shoes for a year. He thought he might permanently give up his running pursuits. Now, he’s happy that he changed his mind.
“With experience and each marathon you get a little bit more confident,” he said. “My training has been going really awesome. I felt really confident coming in and during the race.”
In the race for the runner-up spots, Galen Burrell (37, Boulder, Colo.) finished second in 2:33:25 and Kaleb Keyserling (30, Portland, Ore.) was third in 2:34:40.
“This year I really wanted to try and mix it up and do a fast road marathon,” said Burrell who is primarily a trail and ultramarathon runner and is coached by 2014 NVM men’s winner Matt Flaherty. “I knew a 2:30-range marathon was in striking distance for me, but I got knocked off pace by a chest cold about three days ago.”
Pre-race favorite Chris Mocko (Mill Valley, Calif.) failed to finish after placing second overall in the Way Too Cool 50K (31 miles) Endurance Run in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Jeff Tomaszewski (41, Coronado, Calif.) pinned down the Masters (age 40 and over) win in 2:43:14.
In the women’s race, eventual winner Weitz and 50-year-old Corina Canitz (Brookfield, Wis.) shared the lead until 16 miles where Weitz ventured to the front and gradually extended her lead to a 2:48:48 winning performance. Canitz finished 40 seconds behind in 2:49:28 for the overall runner-up spot and superb Masters victory. They encountered rain, hail and a headwind over the final stages of their race.
“I felt pretty awesome the first 15 miles, and then felt good from 15 to 20,” Weitz said. “It started to get kind of hard at mile 21, but I tried to take it one mile at a time. With two miles to go I heard that (Canitz) was 400 meters behind me so I thought I have to pick this up. I know I can do better by kicking a little earlier. I just focused on the win and tried not to think too much about the prize. I can think about it now. It feels like a dream.”
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 Andretti Winery Napa Valley.
Women’s second placer Canitz, a mother of four, broke her previous marathon personal record of 2:51:26 in the race. She started racing at age 39 and won the women’s age 45-49 age division at last year’s Boston Marathon.
“I thought I could catch (Weitz) over the second half but she was very strong,” said Canitz who has finished 23 marathons.
The Napa Valley Marathon’s scenic point-to-point, USA Track and Field certified course through the Napa Valley wine growing country hasn’t changed in the event’s 39-year-old history.
In the accompanying Greater Kiwanis Club of Napa 5K Run, Brian Collett (age 32, Berkeley, Calif.) topped the men in 17:25 and Amaida Watters (age 38, Ashland, Ore.) led the women in 19:18.
Despite this year’s variable race conditions, the Co-Race Directors of the marathon, David Hill and Rich Benyo, deemed this year’s event a success.
“Over the many years directing this race I’ve never seen weather quite like this,” Hill said. “There was snow on the mountain overlooking the valley. I’ve never seen that before. At the 7 a.m. start it calmed down and it was really gorgeous with sunshine. We had a smaller than average turnout this year (1,360 starters and 1,269 finishers) because I think the weather held a lot of people back. However, I got a number of comments about how well the race is organized. We pride ourselves on that.”
All proceeds from the Napa Valley Marathon (a non-profit organization) are donated to local charities in the Napa Valley.
Full race results for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon will be available on the event’s web site at www.napavalleymarathon.org.
The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Whole Foods Market, ASICS, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, Running USA, Legendary Napa Valley, Andretti Winery Napa Valley, KPIX CBS5 and KBCW, XFINITY, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, KCBS AM and FM Radio, Gatorade, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Essentia, and Southgate Mini Storage.
Top 5 Men
Top 5 Women
Top 5 Men
Top 5 Women