Wine Country Half Marathon Draws Runners Worldwide

All 50 U.S. states and 14 foreign countries will be represented.

From: Running USA

SONOMA, Calif. — One weekend each year, thousands of runners, wine enthusiasts, sponsors and media descend upon Napa and Sonoma to participate in the spectacle of the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon. This year’s race, to be held on Sunday, July 17, has attracted runners from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries. The popularity of the race has grown each year, making entry into the race as challenging as the race itself. This year’s half-marathon sold out in two weeks in November of 2010 with a cap of 3,400 registrants.

More than sixty percent of the race participants travel from outside of California to the region, many bringing family and friends, creating an economic boon for local businesses and adding an international flavor to the event.

Last year’s winner Tesfaye Sendeku of Ethiopia set the course record (1:03:58), while Kenyans Paul Ngeny and Edward Kiptum finished second and third respectively. Sendeku is poised to defend his title but will have stiff competition from two Americans from Southern California, 2008 race champion Sergio Reyes, and Christian Hesch, winner of the 2011 Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon.

On the women’s side, Julia Mallon, winner of the 2009 Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon returns and will be challenged by newcomer Caroline Kirui, a resident of Auburn, CA, by way of Kenya.

The Wine Country Half Marathon features a scenic 13.1-mile course that starts at Cuvaison Winery in southern Napa and runs along the southern perimeter of the Carneros wine appellation. Spectators line the final stretch down Broadway cheering on runners, and fast walkers, as they eventually cross the finish line in front of City Hall in Sonoma Plaza. The Plaza then hosts participants and family and friends for the celebratory Wine & Music Festival featuring the awards ceremony, live music and wine tasting from some of the region’s finest vintners. Izzy and the Kesstronics, a five-piece rock and swing band from Brooklyn, New York will be performing in Grinstead Amphitheater during the festival. The Kesstronics have played 225 shows throughout the U.S. and Europe this past year and are stopping in Sonoma during their California tour.

Five hundred of the race participants are part of the Crohn’s & Colitis Team Challenge program, which has raised $7 million in three years at the Napa-to-Sonoma race. More than one hundred of the volunteers come from Hanna Boys Center, of Sonoma, a faith, educational and care institution for boys. Many of the Hanna boys work the water stations, offering enthusiasm and liquids to the runners on the backcountry roads. The race also benefits athletic programs at Adele Harrison and Altamira middle schools.

New this year, Destination Races has added a 5K race starting at Gundlach Bundschu winery and finishing in the plaza to coincide with the half-marathon finish. Aptly named the GunBunFunRun, this race was created to give locals, and friends and family of the half-marathon runners, a chance to take a more active role in the festivities. GunBunFunRun participants receive their own specially designed shirt, finisher’s medal, and wine glass good for entry into the Wine & Music Festival.

The 5K starts at 8:15am in three waves and merges into the half-marathon course at mile 10, allowing 5K runners to also finish in Sonoma Plaza. Registration is currently open for the GunBunFunRun 5K, but is limited to 300 participants and is expected to sell out soon. Volunteers from Parkpoint Health Club of Sonoma will manage the 5K race.

A two-day Health and Fitness Expo takes place before the race at Cornerstone Sonoma. A gateway between Napa and Sonoma, Cornerstone Sonoma features a series of walk-through gardens showcasing new and innovative designs from the world’s finest landscape architects and designers. The expo features exhibitor booths, seminars, wine tasting and packet pickup for registered runners. Open to the public, the expo is held on Friday, July 15, from noon to 6:00pm and Saturday, July 16, from 10:00am to 3:00pm.

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