Competitive Women's Field Ready For Napa Valley Marathon
Joan Benoit Samuelson Will Inspire Women's Olympic Trials Aspirants
NAPA, Calif. - February 22, 2008 - In 1984, when Joan Benoit Samuelson
won the Olympic gold medal in the very first Olympic Games marathon for
women, the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon was already six years old. And, in Napa, women were already competing at the 26.2-mile marathon distance -- just as they had since Kathrine Switzer broke the female gender "barrier" at the Boston Marathon in 1967.
For the 30th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon on Sunday,
March 2, Benoit Samuelson will, appropriately, be on hand as a group of
focused women pursue their own "Olympic" dreams in an Olympic year.
Their individual goals?
To be on the starting line for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Women's
Marathon, which will take place in Boston on April 20.
The Trials race will select the three women for the U.S. women's Olympic
marathon squad that will compete at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in
Beijing, China in August. For these Napa Valley Marathon entrants,
though, simply toeing the line at the Trials with women who will contend
for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team is their ultimate athletic objective.
The talented women will run the Napa Valley Marathon as a "last chance"
qualifying attempt for the Trials.
"Qualifying for the Marathon Trials is a goal that women definitely put
out there, and people, by nature, try to achieve their goals," said
Benoit Samuelson, 50, who has qualified for each of the seven U.S.
Women's Olympic Marathon Trials races since 1984. "For a woman who's
competitive, the Marathon Trials is a logical goal. That's the reason
these women are coming to Napa."
Relatively few long distance runners have the ability or dedication to
make it to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Approximately 125 of
America's top female distance runners will participate in this year's
women's Marathon Trials race. Specifically, at Napa, half a dozen women
will aim for a finishing time that is 2 hours, 47 minutes-flat or faster,
the "B" standard set by USA Track & Field to qualify for the Trials. The
women's "A" standard is 2:39:00 (which awards travel and lodging expenses for the Trials to the women who achieve it).
The qualifying window for the Trials began on January 1, 2006. It will
end on March 23, 2008, just three weeks after this year's Napa Valley
Marathon. Women seeking a Trials qualifier, in a marathon with an
excellent chance for fair weather, have two final opportunities in
California: the Napa Valley Marathon and the City of Los Angeles Marathon
(on the same day as Napa).
For the hopeful women who will run the fast Napa Valley Marathon course,
just landing a spot at the Trials will validate their own, personal
Olympian efforts. All of the aspirants have previously run marathon times
within striking distance of the 2:47:00 standard. If they can achieve it,
a personal "gold medal" will be theirs. They will gladly pay their way to
Shaluinn Fullove, a former track and field and cross country competitor
at Stanford University, is intimately familiar with trials and
tribulations. In the early spring of 2005, the 30-year-old Palo Alto,
Calif. resident was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After receiving a
thyroidectomy and radiation treatments, Fullove eventually resumed
serious training and recorded a time of 2:51:06 at the 2006 LaSalle Bank
Chicago Marathon. Now, Fullove will compete at the Napa Valley Marathon
with a goal of qualifying for the Marathon Trials.
"It's been a longtime goal. It's taken two years to get here," said
Fullove, who works as a marketing manager for Google Inc. "I was really
shocked when I was diagnosed with cancer. For someone who's used to being really healthy, and takes pride in being fit, it really rocked my world.
Now, I'm ready for this (Napa). Hopefully, it's just the beginning."
Ginger Reiner of Cambridge, Mass. will come to Napa with a goal of flying
back home as an Olympic Trials qualifier.
"It would be an honor to toe the line with some of the best women runners
in the U.S. and race the Trials right in my hometown," said Reiner, 30, a
Boston high school math teacher who regularly trains on the Trials
course. "I'm glad that there are several women at Napa who will be going
for the same time."
Reiner places high in road races and triathlons. She placed third in her
age group, and 39th overall, at the 2004 Ironman Triathlon World
Championships in Hawaii. Her best time to date in a solo marathon is
Dr. Kari Bertrand of Gilroy, Calif. will contend for the women's title at
Napa while attempting to qualify for her second consecutive U.S. Women's
Olympic Marathon Trials. Bertrand competed in the 2004 Trials while she
was ten weeks pregnant. She received permission from a physician
(herself) to do that. The 2:46:47 marathoner specializes in
Caroline Annis has already qualified for her second consecutive Marathon
Trials. Annis, 27, of San Francisco, will run Napa as a training run.
Annis' personal marathon best of 2:43:46, recorded at the 2005 Boston
Marathon, is the fastest time among the female entrants at Napa. Annis
will run "right on qualifying pace" to encourage the other women,
according to her coach, Tom McGlynn. McGlynn also coaches Fullove, and
Claudia Becque (Chicago, Ill.) who is another Trials aspirant entered in
the Napa Valley Marathon.
"Napa is the perfect course to qualify on," said McGlynn about the
point-to-point 26.2-mile race route that runs the length of the famed
Napa Valley wine-growing region. "You don't have sharp turns on the
course. There aren't a lot of long. straight stretches where you can see
miles ahead. Rather, the road meanders, so it's psychologically
McGlynn, a resident of Burlingame, Calif., has intimate knowledge of
At last year's Napa Valley Marathon, men's winner Steve Sundell of
Redwood City, Calif. qualified for last November's U.S. Men's Olympic
Marathon Trials with a finishing time of 2:21:03 the fastest men's mark
at Napa since 1988. Sundell's training partner -- McGlynn -- placed
second and also qualified for the Men's Trials.
The 2008 Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, however, will feature
women, spotlighting their personal quests for excellence.
Among the 2,300 runners entered in this year's marathon, 45 percent are
women. According to the Running USA Road Running Information Center,
females compose 40 percent of the estimated 410,000 finishers in all U.S.
marathons annually. That's a fair progression from Benoit Samuelson's
heyday in the 1980s when only about 10 percent of marathon participants
"Given an opportunity, women are going to knock at the door and open it
and run through," said Benoit Samuelson. "Running is a very accessible
sport for women, especially for working mothers who want to participate
in recreational sports, or be fit."
Benoit Samuelson plans to accompany Napa Valley Marathon participants
--at least partway through the race -- as a training run in preparation
for the Women's Marathon Trials. She will also deliver the event's
keynote address on Saturday, March 1 at 1:00 p.m. at the Napa Valley
Marriott Hotel & Spa (race headquarters).
Benoit Samuelson has already announced that the 2008 Trials will be her
last one, ending a superlative Olympic career.
Time to pass the baton to up-and-coming women aiming for their first
The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon starts on Sunday, March 2 at
7:00 a.m. sharp in Calistoga on the Silverado Trail near the intersection
of Rosedale Road. The race finishes at Vintage High School in Napa. Top
runners are expected to reach the finish between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
Runners will receive official times up until 1:00 p.m. when the course
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The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Calistoga Mineral Water Company, Gatorade, ASICS America Corporation, Silverado Trail Wineries Association, Marathon & Beyond, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, GU, CBS 5 and UPN Bay Area, Comcast, Napa Valley Register, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, the Napa Running Company, KCBS 740 AM, Silverado Brewing Company, DJ's Growing Place, and Wine Country Inn/Napa Valley.
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