Mark Winitz
Win-It!z Sports Public Relations
Tel: (650) 799-3319


Runners Carry Numerous Personal Motivations and Goals into 42nd Annual Race  

NOTE TO EDITORS: Short profile stories are included in this release about the following Napa Valley Marathon entrants: We will gladly provide you with additional information about these entrants or other entrants. Max Neumayer (52, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.), Helen Barnett (37, Wilshire, England/United Kingdom), James Buckley (29, Providence, R.I.), John Volkman (69, Fresno, Calif.) and Jodi Volkman (51, Fresno, Calif.), Tara Carter (42, Fort Collins, Colo.), Esmail Rahimian (60, Los Gatos, Calif.), Jill Benson (44, Fremont, Calif.), and Melvin Sandvig, 73, (Agoura Hills, Calif.).

NAPA, Calif.—February 13, 2020—A field of determined entrants from 21 countries, 47 U.S. states, and Washington, D.C. will gather in California’s Napa Valley for the 42nd Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday, March 1, 2020. There is also a 5K race sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa. The Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) asks each entrant to describe on their entry form their reasons for entering the race. Among the varied responses each year, many illustrate how the challenges of a 26.2-mile race spur marathoners to undertake charitable deeds that assist others who face adversity, or to overcome personal adversities themselves. A high percentage of respondents also cited the reputation of NVM as one of the best organized marathons in the U.S., and the allure of the picturesque Napa Valley wine growing region, as primary reasons for entering the race.

Every Napa Valley Marathon participant assists important local causes. All proceeds from the Napa Valley Marathon (a non-profit organization) are donated to local charities and schools in the Napa Valley region. Numerous NVM participants, however, choose to go beyond NVM’s annual philanthropy by dedicating their race to others, often raising donations that fund the charities of their choice.

On January 9, 2018 Forbes Travel Guide rated NVM among the top 13 marathons in the world “worth traveling for,” an honor it has bestowed on NVM three times in the past four years. On January 28, 2016 The Economic Times ranked NVM at the top of its list of the “world’s best marathon locations to inspire you to lace up and get training.” Runner’s Worldmagazine selected NVM as one of the top ten U.S. marathons for first-time marathon participants in its January, 2011 issue. My Best Runs/World’s Best Road Races has ranked NVM as one of the world’s best 100 races (regardless of distance). American Express’ Departures magazine declared NVM as #7 in their “ten travel-worthy races that make for truly memorable journeys on the run.”

Entry limits for NVM are largely determined by the number of available hotel rooms in the world-renowned Napa Valley wine producing and tasting region.


Selected NVM entrant stories appear below.

Max Neumayer (52, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) ran his first and only marathon at the Napa Valley Marathon in 1995 while serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Travis Air Force Base (about 19 miles from Napa).  He finished that 26.2 mile race in 4 hours, 23 minutes, and 21 seconds (a pace of 10 minutes and 3 seconds per mile).

“I was moved by the Air Force away from California but I recall those years living in Napa very fondly,” said Neumayer who now lives in Florida with his wife, Rena. “Rena, and I love Napa and have continued to return there for vacations over the years.”

After his inaugural marathon at Napa, Neumayer continued to run for fitness, mainly a few times per week for two to five miles. In the last five years he started running more frequently and entered 5K and 10K races in Florida.  In the past two years he worked up to running a few half marathons and scored a personal record time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

“Last year I realized that I was coming up on the 25-year anniversary of the Napa Valley Marathon, and, as a challenge to myself I thought I’d try to run it again,” Neumayer said. “My wife will be running the half marathon and our daughter will be cheering us on. Plus, we’re overdue for another Napa vacation.”

Neumayer’s personal goal for this year’s NVM is to beat his time there from 25 years ago, but as a secondary goal he’s aiming to finish sub-4 hours.

Helen Barnett (37, Wilshire, England/United Kingdom) moved with her husband and two young children (ages 5, and 2) to Charlottesville, Va. in 2018. Her husband is serving in the British Army and with the American military as an exchange officer for two years.

Barnett started running in 2007 when she was training to join the British Army herself. She left the British Army ten years later as a Major to care for her children while her husband continued to serve, but she didn’t give up the military’s fitness ethos.  She kept running and competed in several half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks, but never a marathon.

“It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years but have never had the time to train seriously for,” Barnett said. “So, Napa will be my first marathon.”

Barnett’s additional incentive for pointing towards a marathon is congenital heart disease which was diagnosed in 2015 in the form of a hole between her left and right atria. It has since been repaired.

After moving to Charlottesville, Barnett has been running more frequently, and with more determination.

“This is the first time since I left University that I haven’t had a full time career so I needed to run to stay positive, motivated, and keep my buzzing mind calm,” Barnett said. “I decided that I finally had the time to train for a marathon, which has been on my bucket list for so long. I decided that the Napa Valley Marathon was the one for me because travelling in California is also on my bucket list. So I’m taking a few days off mothering to treat myself to some fantastic scenery along the Silverado Trail.

“My goal for Napa is to enjoy the route, make my family proud of their Mummy, appreciate the race ethos and, hopefully, complete the marathon in around four hours. Three hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds would be ideal! Oh, and a glass of wine or two on Sunday evening would be an added bonus!”

Since he was a child James Buckley (29, Providence, R.I.) envisioned that he would run a marathon before he turned 30 years old. Now, he’s set a target to do it: this year’s NVM.

“I was always an athletic kid growing up. So running a marathon has been a goal since I can remember,” Buckley said. “Originally the idea was before I turned 18.  Then I pushed it to before 26.  And, now here we are. I’m 29 and the goal is before I turn 30.

“I’ve always enjoyed running, and I ran track in high school. Outside of that, I’m more of a periodic jogger. So, this level of disciplined running training is a newer, but welcomed endeavor for me.”

Buckley’s run at Napa will occur one year and four months after he donated one of his kidneys to a woman in need.

“I decided to donate a kidney after seeing a video interviewing someone that had donated their kidney to a stranger,” Buckley said.  “After seeing the video I thought, Hmmm… I can do that! Before I was aware of kidney disease, I’d heard the term dialysis, and I knew transplants existed. What I didn’t know was that I was in a position to do something about it.”

John Volkman (69, Fresno, Calif.) has a longtime close association with the Napa Valley Marathon. Volkman was raised in Calistoga where NVM’s full marathon starting line is located. He attended Calistoga Junior/Senior High School and graduated Valedictorian in 1968. So, it was only natural for Volkman to run his first marathon at NVM in 1981. Since then he has run a staggering 166 marathons, including one in every U.S. state, and 20 Boston Marathons. His marathon personal record is 2:57:25 which he ran in 1985.

Volkman’s wife, Jodi Volkman, age 51, is also entered in this year’s NVM. She ran her first Boston Marathon qualifier there in 2015. She has run 10 of her 15 marathons in the same race as her husband John. In fact, John proposed to Jodi at the 2014 Boston Marathon.

A decade ago Tara Carter (42, Fort Collins, Colo.) was a sub-3 hour marathoner, turning in a 2:57:56 full marathon and 1:24:00 half marathon personal records. Then, as the registered nurse describes it, “health issues and life got in the way and stopped me from engaging in structured training. I had several different endocrine/autoimmune issues impacting the thyroid and adrenal glands.”

Carter switched to training and racing on trails—first in the Marin Headlands, then in the foothills and mountains near Fort Collins, Colo. where she currently lives.

“I switched to trails because no matter how awful I feel, and how depressing my slower paces are, at least I enjoy the scenery and can actually enjoy running again,” Carter admitted. “I said my goal for Napa was 3:20, but life has really gotten in the way, particularly with three foster kids and graduate school.  A Boston Marathon qualifier would be amazing, at this point. It’s mentally challenging to go out and run a marathon knowing it will be 30 to 40 minutes slower than my personal record, but I’m happy to be healthy enough to train and make any attempt at all!”

To qualify for the 2021 Boston Marathon, Carter needs a time of 3:40:00 or better.

For Esmail Rahimian (60, Los Gatos, Calif.) the 2020 NVM will signify his 250th marathon/ultramarathon. Rahimian ran his very first marathon in 2002 at NVM and recorded a time of 5:01:42. Since then he’s run NVM six more times, all in the mid four to five hour range. His personal record in the marathon is 4:02:37.

Rahimian has completed marathons in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and on all seven continents.

“Napa Valley Marathon is a special race for me,” Rahimian said. “Through the years I’ve done talks for different running groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I bragged about the beauty of the course. And more and more runners joined me and became regulars of this race.”

Jill Benson (44, Fremont, Calif.) is running NVM for the fourth time and has completed 28 total marathons with a personal record of 3:37:46. She is a wife, mother of two teenagers, kindergarten teacher, and last-but-not-least a dedicated runner.

“I’m super excited to run the Napa Valley Marathon again this year,” Benson said. “I’m returning to the event because I absolutely love the Napa Valley.  I wish I could do it every year.  My husband and I are avid wine connoisseurs. We visit the Napa Valley as often as possible.  I love the beauty of the rolling hills and lush green vines, and the tree-covered mountainside.  I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I love this event because I get to run along the Silverado Trail. Running the NVM gives me some of the things I love most: running, gorgeous scenery, and wine tasting after I finish the course. The phenomenal restaurants in the area are amazing too!”

For Melvin Sandvig (73, Agoura Hills, Calif.) this year’s NVM will give the prolific, longtime runner a phenomenal 200 total marathons. He ran his first marathon in 1987 and has participated in NVM once before—in 2009. His personal best marathon time is 3 hours and 10 minutes which he ran in Las Vegas in 1998.

“My favorite marathons include Boston, which I’ve done eight times. It’s one of my favorites because runners must qualify in order to participate,” Sandvig said. “Portland is another favorite because it was the marathon where I first qualified for Boston. Victoria, Canada is a favorite because it’s a beautiful location. San Francisco is another favorite. It’s very cool to run across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. And. finally, Honolulu is a favorite marathon because it’s simply Hawaii!

“I’m coming back to the Napa Valley Marathon 25 years later to do it again, and hopeful for a solid performance,” said Sandvig.

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The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon has kept to its traditions over all the years. It’s always on the first Sunday in March. The 26.2-mile full marathon race starts at 7:30 a.m. near Rosedale Road and the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. The USA Track & Field certified point-to-point course takes runners south, through St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville and to the finish line, located in the front parking lot area of Vintage High School in Napa. The 13.1 mile half marathon race starts at 7:00 a.m. on the Silverado Trail at Conn Creek Winery and also finishes at Vintage High School. The companion Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K (3.1 miles) race starts at 7:15 a.m. at Vintage High School where it also finishes. NVM has been supported by 1,200 volunteers each year. 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, 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,, 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

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