Michelle La Sala, the founder of Blistering Pace Race Management, has been hired by the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon board of directors as the event’s race director.
La Sala, a Napa resident, takes over for Rich Benyo and Dave Hill, who retired after 16 years as co-race directors following the 40th annual race in March. Benyo and Hill have each been involved with the race for 30 years.
“We made a conscious decision to retire after 30-some years,” Hill said Friday.
Registration is expected to open soon for next year’s race, scheduled for March 3.
“Under the vision of the board of directors, I look forward to leading the team at Blistering Pace Race Management to enhance what the Napa Valley Marathon has to offer, while keeping our heralded history in the forefront of our minds,” La Sala said in a press release. “I am privileged to have worked with Rich and David in their last three years and looking forward to continuing on with new board president, Jim Cotter, and the returning board members to put our best feet forward.”
Blistering Pace Race Management, founded in 2016, works in a variety of race management capacities, ranging from staffing to full operational oversight, according to a press release. Other clients include the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K, the Big Sur Marathon Foundation, the San Francisco Marathon, and the New York City Marathon.
La Sala has a three-year contract as Napa Valley Marathon race director.
“She lives here in Napa and she has run this race several times,” board president Jim Cotter said in a press release. “We are very lucky to have Michelle coming in as our new race director – she is very experienced in race management.”
The Napa Valley Marathon is sanctioned by USA Track & Field. This year’s race was the Road Runners Club of America National Marathon Championships – part of the RRCA Championship Event Series for the marathon distance.
The 26.2-mile Napa Valley Marathon course is measured and certified by USA Track & Field for accurate distance.
The race has kept to its traditions over all the years. It’s always on the first Sunday of March, starting at 7 a.m. It starts from Rosedale Road and the Silverado Trail in Calistoga, with the point-to-point course taking the runners south, through St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville and to the finish line, located in the front parking lot area of Vintage High, off of Trower Avenue.
The event has been supported by 1,200 volunteers each year. Each finisher at Napa receives a race medal.
Andrew Bauer and Casey Crosson won the men’s and women’s titles, respectively, at this year’s Napa Valley Marathon.
Bauer, a resident of Martinez who ran cross country and track at the University of Michigan, had a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds in his first-ever marathon. He was the overall champion of the race.
Crosson, who is from Los Angeles, was 12th overall and the first female finisher. Crosson’s time was 2:50:49.
Officials from the RRCA were on hand to present national awards.
“This race is great quality,” said George Rehmet, of Daly City, the western region director for Road Runners Club of America. “What makes this race stand out from the others to make it a championship, it’s a beautiful course, how runners are treated, the fast times that have happened on this course.”
The men’s and women’s overall champions of the race receive their weight-in-wine provided by NakedWines.com, one of the event’s sponsors.
There were 2,168 runners registered for this year’s race.
All proceeds from the Napa Valley Marathon, a nonprofit organization, are donated to local charities and schools in the Napa Valley region. The NVM awards scholarships to high school students in the Napa Valley each year.
“It’s been a great honor to work with a team of dedicated board members over more than three decades,” Benyo said in a press release. “We’re proud of what the Napa Valley Marathon has created over the years, from the swag that it provides to the innovation of the marathon college and the special panels we’ve organized. But it is time to step back and let more innovative people take over – it is clear they will keep their focus on the most important part: the runner.”
There is a medical clinic at the finish line of the race. There are also eight aid stations on the course.
“My biggest deal in the 30 years was trying to make this a local event and to treat everyone like they were the only person in the race, to make sure that the people coming into our Valley had a pleasurable experience and that they would remember the Napa Valley Marathon,” Hill said Friday.
In a press release, Hill said, “The goal was to have a small-town, rural, and nonprofit marathon in a world that is increasingly becoming commercial.”
Benyo and Hill will each continue as board members emeritus for at least one more year.
Among the accolades the NVM has received:
* American Express’ Departures magazine declared the marathon as No. 7 in its “ten travel-worthy races that make for truly memorable journeys on the run.”
* Runner’s World Magazine named NVM as one of 10 races that “will ensure your first 26.2 is special —and worth repeating.”
* The marathon was recognized by Forbes Travel Guide as one of the “12 Top Marathons Worth Traveling For.”