Mark Winitz, long time contributor to American Track & Field and California Track & Running News wrote this piece on the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon….
updated March 5, 2012
— On a calm bright morning, almost ideal for marathon running, Chris
Mocko, 25, of San Francisco, Calif., and Devon Crosby-Helms, 29, also of
San Francisco, emerged as victors at today’s 34th Annual Kaiser
Permanente Napa Valley Marathon. Mocko successfully defended his men’s
title from last year. Crosby-Helms scored her second win at the
Napa Valley Marathon (NVM). She also won the race in 2007. A
sell-out crowd of 2,500 marathon entrants raced through the scenic Napa
Valley wine-growing region as colorful air balloons hovered overhead and
mid-day temperature reached the middle 70s.
Mocko broke the
finish line tape at Napa’s Vintage High School in 2 hours, 24 minutes,
and 38 seconds, an improvement of 2 minutes and 24 seconds over his 2011
winning time. Crosby-Helms ascended the winner’s podium after recording
a new women’s course record of 2:39:37 just seven weeks after competing
in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston where she placed 36th
among women. The previous women’s course record of 2:39:43 at NVM was
set by Diana Fitzpatrick in 1992.
The temperature at the 7:00
a.m. start was 39 degrees as Crosby-Helms took an immediate lead in the
women’s contest and never looked back. It was a satisfying effort for a
woman who has built a running reputation on strong ultramarathons at
distances from 50 kilometers to 100 miles. Crosby-Helms is now using
marathons to set herself up for breakthrough performances at
two challenging ultras in South Africa: the Two Oceans Marathon (56
kilometers/34.8 miles) on April 7 and the Comrades Marathon (56 miles)
on June 3.
“It’s pretty cool because I’ve never set a course
record in a major marathon before. In ultras it’s less of a big deal,”
said Crosby-Helms who ran the fastest 100K time by a U.S. female in 2011
(7:46:34), and the 11th fastest ever, while recording a course record
at the U.S. 100K Championship in Wisconsin. “But the women’s course
record at the Napa Valley Marathon has stood for [20 years]. I had that
in mind from the start. When I was on 6-minute (per mile) pace,
I felt like I had to go for it.
“I’m trying to learn how to race
on the roads. Ultras are very different. It’s, like, how comfortable
can you be? In marathons, however, you try to get in that place where it
hurts a little bit. So, I’ve been focusing on high-quality
Tammy Lifka (Glenn Ellyn, Ill.), age 41,
finished in second place behind Crosby-Helms in 2:56:33 and won the
women’s masters (age 40 and over) title. Kristin Walstad (Alta, Calif.)
was third in 2:58:14.
Among the men, Mocko and John Van Metre
(San Jose, Calif.) broke away early and proceeded together over the
rolling 26.2-mile, point-to-point marathon course that is certified (for
distance) by USA Track & Field. The pair occasionally chatted as
they went through the 13.1-mile halfway point in 1:11:36.
out there trying to run similar times, so it made sense for us to
run together,” Mocko said. There were moments when [Van Metre] was
really pushing me. I hadn’t intended to run that hard so early, but I
knew I had to stick with him because we were out there running as a
At 14 miles, Mocko gained a slight lead as Van Metre
slowed in an unsuccessful attempt to collect his fluid bottle at an aid
station. Mocko let Van Metre catch up and shared his water with him
before surging and pulling away for good at 14.5 miles.
a real gentleman,” said Van Metre who placed second in 2:25:57. “I
like running on hills, and I train on them a lot, so the rolling hills
on this course were great for me. I even had a little kick at the end.”
Robert Wiley (Gurnee, Ill.) finished third in 2:28:00, as he ran the entire distance unaccompanied behind the two leaders.
took it out a little stronger than I wanted to run, so I decided to
run my own race and try to pick them off,” Wiley said. “But, it warmed
up out there, and I didn’t want to get in over my head. But the course
is beautiful, there’s great competition, and I can’t complain.”
familiarity of the course, and his hard training on the hills of
San Francisco, gave him the edge for victory.
“I think I’m more
race savvy and conditioned for the longer distances now,” said Mocko who
has five marathons under his belt. “I haven’t been doing a lot of speed
work, but I’ve been doing a lot of 25- to 27-mile long runs, and
it certainly paid off today.”
Victor Ballesteros (San Rafael,
Calif.), age 41, placed fifth overall and took home the men’s masters
(age 40 and over) crown in 2:37:51. Steve Radigan (60, Fremont, Calif.)
preserved his streak of 34 consecutive NVM’s by finishing in 3:59:10
race once again served as the Road Runners Club of America’s
Western Regional Marathon Championship. Known as “the Biggest
Little Marathon in the West,” the race 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” from the sponsoring Silverado Trail
“It was a beautiful day in Napa Valley and
we’re very pleased to be affiliated with Kaiser Permanente,” said David
Hill, who co-directs NVM with Rich Benyo. “We couldn’t ask for a better
day with a record number of starters (1,834), and finishers (1,770).”
accompanying Kiwanis 5K Fun Run, Dale Taylor (23, San Francisco,
Calif.) was the men’s winner in 15:31 and Stephanie Pancoast (23,
Stanford, CA) was first among women in 16:41.
Full race results for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon are available on the event’s web site at www.napavalleymarathon.org
All proceeds from the Napa Valley Marathon (a non-profit organization) are donated to local charities in the Napa Valley.
Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from
Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Gatorade, ASICS, Silverado Trail Wineries
Association, Marathon & Beyond, Road Runners Club of America, USA
Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa,
GU, CBS 5 and The CW, Comcast, Napa Valley Register, KVYN/99.3 The Vine,
KVON 1440 AM, the Napa Running Company, KCBS 740 AM, Silverado
Brewing Company, Wine Country Inn/Napa Valley, Arrrowhead Water,
Calistoga Beverage Company, DJ’s Growing Place, Wallaby Organic, Napa
Valley Bike Tours, and ZICO.
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