Mark Winitz
Win-It!z Sports Public Relations
Tel: (650) 948-0618



Runners Bring Diverse Backgrounds to 39th 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. Sam Mason (Lakeport, Calif.), Olga Fernández (Windsor, Calif.), Tricia Launder (San Jose, Calif.), Stacey Campeau (Anmore, British Columbia, Canada), Michael Barrett (Calistoga, Calif.), Carly Forte (Novato, Calif.), Jeannie Rice (Concord, Ohio), Rachel Girimonti (New York, N.Y.), Giulia Fantacci (Miami Beach, Fla.), Brian Lynch (Atlanta, Ga.) and his friends from the East Atlanta Optimist Club, Stephanie Manson (London, England), and Guy Chalkley (Secret Harbour, Australia).

NAPA, Calif.—February 17, 2017—A field of determined entrants from 19 countries, 44 U.S. states, and Washington, D.C. will gather in California’s Napa Valley for the 39th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon on Sunday, March 5, 2017. 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 spurs 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 February 11, 2016 Forbes Travel Guide rated NVM among the top 12 marathons in the world “worth traveling for,” an honor it has bestowed on NVM three times in the past five 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 World magazine selected NVM as one of the top ten U.S. marathons for first-time marathon participants in its January, 2011 issue. This year, 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.”

The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon serves as the 2017 Roads Runners Club of America Western Regional Marathon Championship.

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 entrants’ stories appear below.

This year Sam Mason (61, Lakeport, Calif.) is running his 20th consecutive NVM, adding to his list of 103 total marathons completed since his first marathon at Honolulu in 1976. Just three years later, he set his existing marathon personal record of 2:58:57 at the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park. In 2014, Mason qualified for one of his longtime goals—the Boston Marathon—finishing the 2016 edition of the coveted race in 3:51:10. At last year’s NVM, Mason qualified for Boston 2017.

“The Napa Valley Marathon is a highlight of every new year,” said Mason, who lives just an hour north of NVM’s starting line.  “I just love the terrain of the Silverado Trail and the vibrant, yellow wild mustard that carpets the miles of vineyards that we run through. This event, and all the folks who manage it, have provided me with the greatest memories over the past two decades and I hope to be around for a few more. I’ve been fortunate enough to complete marathons in five straight decades beginning with the ‘70’s, and hope for number six at the 2020 Napa Valley Marathon. It’s really been a wonderful running life, and to have the Napa Valley Marathon be a big part of it is truly rewarding.”

Olga Fernández (50, Windsor, Calif.) is returning for her fourth NVM on a journey that has taken her to marathons all over the world. Last year, to celebrate her 50th birthday, Fernandez ran seven marathons including all of the Abbott World Marathon Majors events consisting of six of the most renowned marathons in the world: the Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, BMW Berlin Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and TCS New York City Marathon. Fernandez has completed 32 marathons since she began running 10 years ago, and boasts a marathon personal record of 3:33:47 on a schedule of only two to three training runs a week.

Amidst her travels to some of the world’s largest and most celebrated 26.2 milers Fernandez—who lives only an hour’s drive from Napa—says she loves the fact that NVM is a relatively small race and well organized.

“I absolutely love the scenery, the course with its rolling hills, the fresh air, the vineyards, and different wineries that I get to know along the way,” Fernandez said. “I remember one year it was so cold and the vines had icicles that looked like ornaments. I’m very thankful to all the race organizers and volunteers that make my favorite race possible. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to experience so much at the Napa Valley Marathon.”

Tricia Launder (46, San Jose, Calif.) began running in 2002 after she had her first child and by 2006 was running marathons. Launder, however, has overcome a major challenge on her way to 11 marathon completions to date including three NVMs: In 2012 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was a shock since I’m a runner, eat healthy, have no family history of cancer, and tested negative for the BRCA gene,” Launder said.

Thanks to modern medicine, today Launder is cancer free and continues to pursue the sport she loves so much.

“My doctors were convinced that my strength from training helped me recover from surgeries,” said Launder. “I was determined to heal and run as soon as possible. I was able to run the Long Beach Marathon on my one-year anniversary from my diagnosis.”

Launder boasts two Boston Marathons on her running resume—an April destination race for runners that has strict qualifying standards. Both times she ran the coveted event she scored her qualifying marks at NVM. At her third NVM she missed qualifying by 60 seconds flat.

“I know now that the first two times I did Napa I had cancer so I’d love to run it cancer free and qualify for Boston a third time,” added Launder who must run 3:55:00 or better to meet her age group’s qualifying standard for the 2018 Boston race. “Every time I run (NVM) I look around and think how lucky I am to live in Northern California. I love the race’s relatively small size, beautiful scenery, and low-key vibes. I also know I can get a really good meal the night before the race. There are so many good choices.”

Stacey Campeau (47, Anmore, British Columbia, Canada) is also aiming to qualify for her third Boston Marathon at this year’s NVM. Campeau’s mantra is: It’s not just the race but the journey to get you there that is so amazing! Run on! And, for Campeau, a truly amazing journey it is. The kindergarten teacher and mother of four ran her first marathon at age 19. She then chose to run at least one marathon a year, sometimes two, despite a very busy personal and professional schedule. Today, Campeau has completed 30 marathons (including one NVM) and two Ironman Triathlons. She runs to stay healthy and be a good role model for her three boys and one girl, ages 22, 20, 16, and 15 respectively.

“Being a mom, wife, and teacher can be a very busy life,” Campeau said. “I learned early on that taking a little time for myself everyday made me better equipped to handle the challenges that life sends us. Running is my spiritual, ‘sole’ time. Also, I wanted my children to see the importance of physical fitness and healthy eating… so what better way than to practice what I preach?”

Campeau’s strategy has worked. All of her children are very athletic. Her oldest son is a water polo player who plays for his university. Her 20-year-old is a high level hockey player who is focused on being a chiropractor. He is also a very good runner. Her 16-year-old plays hockey. Her 15-year-old daughter is a cross country runner who often places top in her age group and a soccer player.

“Running has shown me so many beautiful places around the world,” Campeau said.  “I’m truly thankful for this sport. My favorite marathons are Boston, Big Sur and, of course, Napa.”

Michael Barrett’s (age 47) hometown is Calistoga, Calif. where the starting line of NVM’s Calistoga-to-Napa point-to-point course is located. Barrett has finished nine marathons, five of them at NVM. In fact, Barrett ran the inaugural NVM in 1979 as a youngster with his father, the late Gary Barrett, and made it 16 miles. He then came back and ran NVM five more consecutive times from 1980-1984.

“During the running boom of the 70’s my father took to the sport as a new hobby and good form of exercise,” Michael Barrett said. “He started taking me out on his morning runs when I was about eight years old to keep me active and burn off some of my youthful energy. Running provided quality time together and established a father-son bond.

“In 1980 we crossed the (NVM) finish line together which is easily my proudest running moment,” Barrett continued. “I cherish the memory of not only finishing my first marathon at Napa but accomplishing it with my father. Running became a family affair and between 1981and 1984 I finished four more NVM’s, my dad two more, my mom one, and my older sister one. Unfortunately, the four of us didn’t all finish one in the same year and my father and I never crossed the finish line again together. That’s what makes 1980’s race even more special”

Michael Barrett’s goal for his return to NVM this year is to finish in 3:43:10, the same exact time that he registered as a 10-year-old with his dad in 1980.

In the 1980s, minimum age restrictions for participating in many marathons were relatively fewer than they are now. Today NVM allows individuals 18 years and older to participate without a parent’s consent.

Carly Forte (27, Novato, Calif.) has served as a finish line volunteer at NVM for the past eight years through an NVM program that recruits volunteers from schools in the local Napa-Sonoma region. In turn, NVM annually supports these schools and its students through cash awards and donations. In 2015, alone, NVM contributed $36,400, primarily to local schools, and students. Cash awards are made directly to school clubs and groups who volunteer to help at the race, and through the marathon’s ongoing senior class sponsorship where scholarships are awarded each year to senior scholar/athletes from the high schools within the Valley.

Forte (née McCready) is a former Sonoma State University student-athlete who ran cross country for the Seawolves for four years between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, Forte completed her fifth season as an assistant women’s cross country team coach for Sonoma State and is in her third season as assistant coach for the women’s track and field program. She also coaches at Sonoma Academy.

Now, after years of volunteering at NVM’s finish line and coordinating athletes from Sonoma State who volunteer—greeting race finishers and providing support as needed—Forte will actually compete in the race. She wants to experience NVM as a racer before she and her husband move to Hawaii in May. To date, Forte has completed four marathons, including Boston. Her personal record at the 26.2-mile distance is 3:10:45 (gun time) scored at last year’s Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon where she placed ninth female. She hopes to better that mark at NVM.

“My teammates, athletes, and former athletes have all done the Napa Valley Marathon and most have gotten their personal records on the course,” said Forte. “I’m hoping for one. My bucket list goal is to break 3 hours in a marathon someday. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that, but a PR would definitely be exciting. And, I do know that marathons are one of a kind and you never know what to expect.”

Jeannie Rice (68, Concord, Ohio) travels to Napa for her first NVM with an ambitious goal: to finish in 3 hours and 35 minutes. NVM’s course record for 65 to 69 year-old women is 3:44:24 set by legendary Myra Rhodes almost 20 years ago. Rice ran her first marathon in 1984 and has completed a whopping 109 marathons since then, sporting a personal best of 3:12:00. She has completed marathons on four continents and in Iceland. Her marathon resume includes five Boston Marathons where in 2013, at the explosion-devastated Boston, she topped the women’s 65 to 69 year old age group in 3:38:36. In 2015. she reached her milestone 100th marathon at Boston while recording a 3:41:17 age division win. At Rice’s most recent marathon—in Huntington, W. Va. on November 6, 2016—she ran 3:40:36, topping her time in her very first marathon 32 years ago by five minutes.

“The reason I’ve chosen to run the Napa Valley Marathon this year is that I heard it’s very well organized and a gorgeous course,” Rice said. “Running is a big part of my life. I was always an early riser and when I wake up I get ready to go out to run five to six days a week. It keeps me healthy, helps my own discipline, and I enjoy the social life when we run with other runners, especially 20-mile training runs.”

An interesting age group contest may develop between Rice and 8-time NVM finisher Janet Cain (65, Sonoma, Calif.). Cain holds NVM’s age group course record of 3:43:49 for 60 to 64 year old women which she set in 2014 as a 62 year old. Now 65, Cain is aiming to break Rhodes’ women’s 65-69 age group course record by recording a 3:40:00 finishing time.

Training and racing partners Rachel Girimonti (40, New York, N.Y.) and Giulia Fantacci (30, Miami Beach, Fla.) travel to this year’s NVM in pursuit of ambitious personal goals and to bolster worthwhile charitable causes. Their ultimate running ambition and dream is to finish the arduous, extremely hilly Comrades Marathon—actually a 56-mile ultramarathon—this coming June 4 in South Africa. Numerous runners over the years have chosen to run NVM as a training run on their way to Comrades—which is dubbed “The Ultimate Human Race.” Comrades is one of the most coveted ultras in the world with a cap of 20,000 entrants who typically hail from more than 60 countries.

To date, Girimonti has completed seven marathons with a personal best of 3:10:26. Fantacci has completed two with a PR of 3:49:54. The pair will run the upcoming NVM together as part of their preparations for Comrades before tackling a 34-mile training run in April.

“I’ve been doing almost all my training with Giulia,” Girimonti said. “She’s the reason I’m doing all this. I wouldn’t do it alone. The Napa Valley Marathon has been on my bucket list for a while because I’ve heard it’s well organized, beautiful, and challenging. Plus, the race’s no-headset policy will be an additional challenge for me. I’ve never run a marathon without a headset and I’m looking forward to challenging this fear.”

NVM has a strict “no headphones” policy and personal music devices are prohibited. The race regards any use of headphones as a safety hazard since such use may compromise a participant’s ability to hear critical safety and/or directional instructions, especially instructions that may arise in an emergency situation.

Both Girimonti and Fantacci are dedicating their training and racing for both NVM and Comrades, and their other races along the way, to raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association. Both runners have experienced the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and/or dementia in their families. In addition, Girimonti is raising funds for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation which supports vulnerable and orphaned children in South Africa who are affected by HIV and poverty.

Brian Lynch (age 43), David Leedle (47), Troy Hendrick (41) and Bill Barnes (41)—all residents of Atlanta, Ga.—have played frisbee together for over 10 years for their neighborhood Ultimate Frisbee team at the East Atlanta Optimist Club.  Ultimate is a non-contact team sport played with a flying disk. Now, the foursome will take a few steps beyond the 120-yard frisbee field and the 5K, 10K, and half marathon road races in which they occasionally participate. Last Spring the four men decided to attempt their first full marathon together.

“We started doing some research online to find the perfect race,” Lynch said. “Our criteria for the race was: a fun place, a good race, and not too many hills. The Napa Valley Marathon was on every website’s list, for all these reasons.  It seemed like the perfect fit for us.”

Since NVM will be the first marathon for all four gentlemen, they’re not entirely sure what to expect.

“I’m sure we’ll all run together for the first part of the race, but after that who knows?” said Lynch. “We’re all very excited about the race and enjoying everything the area has to offer. We plan on touring some wineries, then hitting Lake Tahoe later in the week for some skiing. Hopefully, our legs hold up. David, Troy and myself are traveling with our wives, who are excited to come out and cheer us on and sample what Napa has to offer.

Stephanie Manson is a California native who has lived in London, England since 2008. She has completed four marathons to date including the London Marathon. This year’s NVM falls on Manson’s 40th birthday.

“When considering how to celebrate my birthday, I thought running a marathon might be a good challenge,” Manson said. “I was already considering a trip home to California. Knowing this year’s birthday falls on a Sunday, a typical marathon day, I started looking for races that take place on my big day.  When I saw that there was a marathon on March 5th in Napa I knew I was meant to run it.”

After moving away from California to Washington, D.C. Manson trained with two good running buddies who ran in the evenings after work and met on weekends for long runs.

“We helped each other through troubles—both running-related and otherwise,” said Manson, “Through running we became great friends, but we all live very far apart now.”

Manson will run NVM with one of these friends, Ruth Kochenderfer, who still lives in D.C. and with whom she previously ran marathons in London and Richmond, Va. Her other D.C. friend, who now lives in the state of Washington, is coming to Napa to watch her buddies.

“The three of us haven’t all been together for at least six years, so it will be a great birthday and a running reunion,” Manson said.

Guy Chalkley (51, Secret Harbour, Australia) is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 216 pounds. He has completed 10K and half marathon races but maintains that “I only have one marathon in me. I’ve played team sports and as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate that running is beneficial to this large frame. It even allows me to continue to eat like a teenager. So, if you only ever want to do one then make a month of it and visit the other things you have always wanted to do—like visiting California.”

Chalkley’s memorable month will begin with NVM and culminate at the end with marriage to his girlfriend of 20 years at San Francisco City Hall. In between, he’ll visit California’s splendid parks and everything the Golden State has to offer.

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For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, please visit the marathon’s web site at

The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Whole Foods Market, ASICS, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, Running USA, Legendary Napa Valley, Andretti Winery Napa Valley, KPIX CBS5 and KBCW, XFINITY, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, KCBS AM and FM Radio, Gatorade, Honey Stinger, Essentia, and Southgate Mini Storage.

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