NAPA, Calif.-March 1, 2020-4,500 eager competitors lined up at the starting lines for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) and Half Marathon-the largest turnout in the event’s 42-year history. There were also approximately 600 starters in the accompanying Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K Run. The weather was almost ideal for running: Mostly overcast, and low to mid-40-degree temperature.
In the traditional 26.2-mile full marathon race that traverses the length of the scenic Napa Valley wine producing region, Ryan Smith (age 40, Boulder, Colo.) and Anne Theisen (47, Mazama Wash.) emerged as men’s and women’s overall victors.
Smith, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Scotland with solid credentials as a marathoner, ultra-marathoner, and trail runner, crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 47 seconds.
“I was surprised by the time because I actually didn’t feel it was going that well,” said Smith who was largely unchallenged by other competitors the entire duration of the race. “I was just running to my plan. I mostly went by feel and didn’t glance down at my watch too much. It’s actually been quite awhile since I’ve run a marathon because I’ve mostly been doing 50s and 100s.”
Last year Smith emerged as men’s victor at the very competitive Leadville Trail 100 mile race, a grueling journey through the Rocky Mountains.
Nicholas Budzyn (34, Citrus Heights, Calif.) was second place male at NVM, running 2:30:34.
“All day I was in second place by myself,” Budzyn said. “I had an eye (on the leader) almost the entire time, but just wasn’t making up distance. I was happy just running alone.”
In the women’s race, Theisen battled with eventual second placer Catherine Medvene (30, New York, NY) for 16 miles before taking the permanent lead and heading to the finish line at Napa’s Vintage High School for a solid victory. Her time of 2:52:58 was a personal best by three minutes. Medvene followed in 2:53:18.
“I felt really fantastic through the entire race,” Theisen said. “My quads started to squeal a little bit at mile 23, but it was nothing that I couldn’t manage. Near the end I heard from the crowd that (Medvene) was approaching so I really had to hit the accelerator. This race has a great course, great size, and is very well managed.”
Theisen attributed her victory to a solid weekly training program that includes running about 50 to 60 miles and 30 to 40 miles of Nordic cross country skiing for strength. On top of that she’s married, a mother of two teenage boys, and an owner of a marketing and graphic design business.
Medvene said that she trailed Theisen by about 20 yards for the entire race which resulted in a huge 18-minute improvement over her previous personal best.
In the accompanying Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Half Marathon (13.1 miles) event Bolota Asmerom (41, San Leandro, Calif.) grabbed the men’s victory in 1:07:09. Asmerom is a veteran track and road runner with a sparkling career who owns a 13:15.16 5,000-meter personal best on the track. Collin Jarvis (28, Oakland, Calif.) placed a very close second in 1:07.16. Jarvis is coached by Asmerom and the pair train together. It was no coincidence that Asmerom and Jarvis ran the entire NVM Half Marathon as a supportive pair.
“We ran together for most of the way,” Asmerom said. “Then I broke off. Then he caught me and gained a big lead. Then I slowly pulled him back in and took the lead. It was all I could do to hold him off for the last two miles.”
Asmerom said the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials race (held the day before NVM) provided him with inspiration to perform well at Napa. Asmerom’s friend and former training partner, Abdi Abdirahman, placed third and made his fifth Olympic team at the Trials. Asmerom related. “I said ‘if he can do it then I can do it.’”
“It was great to run with my coach,” runner-up Jarvis commented about his NVM Half Marathon race with Asmerom, “He’s a good friend of mine and he was at my wedding last year. He was an Olympian (representing Eritrea) back in 2000. We train together and he’s a great coach. I never want to lose. I’m not happy about losing, but if I’m going to lose he’s not a bad guy to lose to.”
Jessica Smith (39, Oakland, Calif.) was the women’s half marathon winner in Napa, registering a winning mark of 1:17:34. It was a personal best for Smith.
The overall male and female winners of the NVM full and half-marathons receive an etched double magnum, as well as a Napa Valley Collective case, which is a 12-bottle selection of the finest wines in the valley. 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 are available on the event’s web site at www.napavalleymarathon.org
The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, New Balance, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, Legendary Napa Valley, KPIX CBS5 and KBCW 44 Cable 12, XFINITY, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, KCBS All News 106.9 FM and 740 AM, Napa Smith Brewery, Athletic Feat, Raley’s, Nob Hill Foods, Nuun Hydration, Nakedwines.com, my EP Events, Clif Family Winery, Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa, Kicking Horse Coffee, The Bibrave 100, Brave Like Gabe, and Conn Creek Winery.
For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, please visit the marathon’s web site at www.napavalleymarathon.org