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Mark Winitz
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34th Annual Race Appeals to Wide Range of Runners

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. Olga Stavro (Bellflower, Calif.), Rudy Reyes (Napa, Calif.), Roger Ruegg (Yountville, Calif.), Tony Rossmann (Oakland, Calif.), John Volkman(Fresno, Calif.), Todd Moore (Campbell, Calif.), Patrick Johnson (Minneapolis, Minn.), Bipul Talukdar (San Jose, Calif.), Patrick Ciminera (Seattle, Wash.), Lauren Gardner (Walnut Creek, Calif.)Clayton Foutch (Beaverton, Ore.), Robin Bollen (St. Helena, Calif.), John Kempkey (Napa, Calif.) and family, Gretchen Cain (Portland, Ore.), Torrey Wall (Pleasant Hill, Calif.), Barbara Wilkerson (Spencer, Iowa), Lauren Wilkerson (St. Paul, Minn.), Cara Wilkerson (Colorado Spring, Colo.), Cassandra Perkins (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Ty Huffman (Orlando, Fla.), Chris Mercer (Carolina Beach, N.C.), Clinton Pritchard (Charlottesville, Va.), Angie Smith (Charlottesville, Va.), Kay Martin (Phoenix, Ariz.).

NAPA, Calif. — February 10, 2012 —The 34th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, March 4, 2012, filled its entrant field of 2,500 participants last December 31, a full 64 days before race day. The milestone matched the record-breaking closing date achieved by last year’s race.

Why has the Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) attracted a capacity field every year for more than a decade? We asked this year’s entrants, who hail from 10 countries, 48 states, and Washington. D.C. to state their personal stories about running and their desire to participate in NVM. These stories mirror the annual participant data gathered by Running USA, a non-profit organization created in 1999 to serve the running industry.

According to the organization’s most recent annual report on marathons, in 2010 there were an estimated 507,000 finishers in U.S. marathons, a record, and an 8.6 percent increase from 2009. Across the country, the majority of large marathons reported sold-out or record fields. Running USA’s polls show that this historic growth is a result of training programs (charity and non-charity), the challenge of 26.2 miles, bucket list appeal, increased women’s participation, and fun, well-organized community events.

Last month, Forbes Travel Guide rated NVM among the top ten marathons in the world “worth traveling for.” 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. Historically, a remarkable 30 percent of NVM’s 2,500 entrants are first-time marathoners. NVM’s fast, point-to-point, USA Track & Field certified (for accurate distance) marathon course through the scenic Napa Valley has attracted numerous devotees.

The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon asks each marathon registrant to submit a short “interesting story” about their reasons for running the 26.2-mile race. A selection of these stories appears below.

Olga Stavro, 51, of Bellflower, Calif. will run the 2012 NVM, the tenth marathon of her running career, in honor of her twin brother, Marco Favilli. Stavro says that she has always enjoyed running for various reasons—to lose weight and just to say I ran a marathon. Ten years ago, however, her motivations for participating in the sport changed dramatically. That’s when Marco was diagnosed with a rare disease for which there is no cure: familial (hereditary) amyloidosis. The affliction often affects nerves and body organs and can cause excruciating nerve pain, loss of motor control, eventual quadriplegia, and/or sudden cardiac death. Olga’s and Marco’s mother died at the age of 68 after eight years battling the disease.

“I know my brother wishes he could run if he could, and that always gets me out the door and running,” Stavro said. “When I emailed him to ask if I could [run NVM] for him he wrote back I want you to carry me in your thoughts while you run...and know that, if I could, I would be there alongside and running with you.

“I feel so helpless, and it makes me cry when I think about Marco and all that he’s dealing with. I've been praying for a miracle, a cure, something that will take his daily pain away, and I’m hopeful that my prayer will be answered.”

Rudy Reyes, 20, of Napa, Calif. has a vision of finishing his first marathon within a couple of hundred yards of the track where he excelled as a prep half miler. Reyes graduated from Napa’s Vintage High School in 2009 as an honor roll student after winning the Monticello Empire League 800-meter title and running a 1:57.66 personal best for the distance. The NVM finishes in Vintage High’s parking lot.

“This will be my first and only marathon, and I want to do the best I can,” said Reyes, who now attends Diablo Valley College in Concord, Calif. “It's just one of those things in life I want to do. In my heart I’m an 800-meter runner. After this marathon, I’m hoping to pursue my dream of becoming a world class athlete and run in the Olympics. I’ve always dreamed of running in the Olympics and winning Gold in the 4x400 relay and 800-meter race.”

Roger Ruegg (51, Yountville, Calif.) is a popular and highly respected chemistry teacher and cross country coach at another high school in town: Napa High School. Ruegg has run steadily for 36 years since his collegiate days at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he competed in the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles events. Although Ruegg has completed two previous NVMs (in 1993 and 2002), he has additional impetus to compete well at this year’s race. Ruegg’s goal is to complete NVM under the Boston Marathon qualifying time for his age group (3 hours and 35 minutes) and then run in the storied race in 2013.

Ruegg’s son, Kurt Ruegg, graduated from Napa High in 2010 where he was one of the top distance runners in the nation and a National Merit Scholar and AP Scholar with distinction. Now, he attends Harvard University where he competes in track and cross country.

“Qualifying for Boston would allow me to combine my race there with a visit to see Kurt,” the elder Ruegg said. “Also, I hope to inspire the athletes on the Napa High School cross country team by setting a goal, training for many months, and, hopefully, realizing that goal. For many years, the high school’s runners have volunteered (at NVM) at the 24-mile aid station on Big Ranch Road. I will be looking for a boost from them if I can come through around 10:10 a.m., on Boston qualifying pace.”

Tony Rossmann, a 70-year-old, San Francisco-based attorney who lives in Oakland, Calif., will hang up his marathon shoes after participating in 30 NVMs since 1981. Rossmann estimates that he has 275 to 300 marathons and ultramarathons on his extensive running resume.

“Napa remains my favorite marathon,” said Rossmann, who has qualified for the Boston Marathon numerous times at NVM, and has served as President of the famed Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. “Above all, the Napa Valley Marathon means the great community that the race organization has created for the event over the years. In a bid to finish my marathoning career on my own terms, Napa couldn’t be a better place to do it.”

John Volkman, (61, Fresno, Calif.) was raised in Calistoga, where NVM’s starting line is located. So, it was a natural for him to run his first marathon at NVM, which he did in 1981. Since then, Volkman has recorded a dozen more NVM finishes among the 122 marathons on his running resume. He has completed marathons in all 50 U.S. states and Washington. D.C.

As a coach for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training (TNT) program in California’s Central Valley since 1998, Volkman has guided many runners to marathon finishes, all of whom raise funds to fight blood-related cancer diseases. Over the years, Volkman has finished NVM with a number of his Team in Training “alumni.”

“I love the beauty of the Napa Valley, the speed of the course with its rolling hills, and the fact that I get to sleep in my own bed in Calistoga where I was raised and my mom and brother still live,” said Volkman, who will return to participate in NVM’s 2012 edition. The privilege of training a couple thousand runners for TNT, the support of these runners and my family, and my love of running and traveling in this great country are why I continue running marathons.”

Twelve years ago, NVM entrant Todd Moore (45, Campbell, Calif.) was diagnosed with a rare type of stage four (IV) non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that has a very high recurrence rate. He hooked up with Team in Training about five years ago to improve his health, have a better chance of defeating his cancer, and being healthy enough to handle further treatment if it recurs. Since then, Moore has completed 14 marathons, including three NVMs.

“My favorite marathon is still Napa. Running through the vineyards, the relatively small field of runners, and the very personal way the event is run makes it a cozy experience,” Moore said. “I’m looking forward to my fourth Napa Valley Marathon.”

Patrick Johnson (27, Minneapolis, Minn.) will run his first NVM to raise money for the Catalyst Foundation, an organization that fights human trafficking in Vietnam through education and community development. Johnson has served as a counselor at Catalyst’s Vietnam Culture Camps in the U.S., educating adopted Vietnamese children living in America about their culture. Through his NVM effort, Johnson hopes to raise $2,000 for the Foundation's Vinh Quang School in Kien Giang province, Vietnam. He has already raised $1,473 for the school.

“There are 26 children in the kindergarten class this year, so each [marathon] mile of sponsorship will be devoted to each child,” Johnson said. “26 miles for 26 children. Running for the children in Vinh Quang makes it incredibly easy to train. I no longer have an excuse to say I'm too tired, or that it’s too hard, when I compare my hardships with what these children face every day.”

Last summer, Bipul Talukdar (38, San Jose, Calif.) began training with Team Asha, a fundraising group composed of runners and bicyclists that supports educational initiatives for underprivileged children in India. Talukdar had never run more than a couple of miles. Now, having completed four half marathons while raising more than $1,000 for Team Asha programs in his native country, Talukdar has his sights set on this year’s NVM, his first full marathon.

Patrick Ciminera (45, Seattle, Wash.) will run NVM while completing plans to start a charity group and marathon running team to support people with mental illnesses. He will name the group “Mind Over Marathon - because it matters.” Ciminera is a diagnosed schizophrenic who has struggled with chemical addiction and alcoholism. He served almost nine years in prison on an assault charge that, in his words, was caused by a “psychotic break.” Ciminera now works as a Peer Specialist at Sound Mental Health, an award-winning non-profit organization that provides comprehensive mental health services at its 15 facilities in the Seattle area.

“My focus is on making mentally ill folks more [physically] active by starting a team that busts the stigma about mentally ill people being worthless, lazy, dangerous, or possessed,” Ciminera said.

Lauren Gardner (26, Walnut Creek, Calif.) completed her first 26.2-mile race at the 2010 Chicago Marathon while raising $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Seeing my grandma, ‘Gammy’ I called her, struggle and fight through Alzheimer's was heart breaking, but I know she was looking down on me, cheering me on during that race,” Gardner said.

Now, for her second marathon, Gardner has selected NVM, and will run, again, in memory of her grandmother and hope that a cure for Alzheimer’s will be found soon.

“During the race, every mile I’ll be thinking about all the friends, family, and clients of mine who have donated to the cause,” Gardner added. “It’s heartening to think about all the generous people in my life, some who knew my grandma and those who never even met her.”

Clayton Foutch (40, Beaverton, Ore.) began running about seven years ago to find quiet time that allowed him to reflect on the precious moments he once had with his daughter Samantha, and their family. In 2004, nine-year-old Samantha, her mother, and stepsister were killed by an unstable stepfather who then took his own life.

“I ran to reflect on what we had and what we lost, and, quite honestly, what I could have done differently,” said Foutch. “Over time it became apparent that the process of healing was happening because now when I run I remember Sam and I reflect on how much I still have in my life.”

Foutch re-married and he and his wife, Christina, now devote volunteer time to Stepping Stones of Hope, a non-profit organization that helps grieving children and adults cope with the loss of loved ones. The Foutchs organize the annual Samantha Invitational golf tournament, which raised nearly $17,000 last year for the organization and for Camp Samantha, a grief camp held in Carefree, AZ for children and teens ages 6-17. Foutch devotes his 2012 NVM run to Samantha.

As a 14-year-old teenager who grew up in Southern California, Robin Bollen (49, now living in St. Helena, Calif.) began running to literally run away from taunting classmates after an incident that might have ended her life. When she was 13, a sinus infection, aggravated by swimming, led to a horrifying infection in Bollen’s skull. Her head swelled to twice its normal size. One eye was pushed out of its socket so it hung by its tendons. Her other eye was swollen shut and she was blind. Doctors, who flew in from all over the country to examine Bollen at Children’s Hospital/Los Angeles, told Bollen and her mother that they did not know if they could save her eyesight or her life. The young teenager recovered after major surgery and a six-week hospital stay, but she was left with debilitating headaches and a scar that Bollen said made her look like a monster.

“The kids in my school were very cruel, teasing me and calling me horrible names,” Bollen recounted. “So, between the migraines and the mean kids I started running to get some relief and it really helped. I noticed that the more I ran, the less I would get my migraines and the less I was bothered by the kids. I also noticed that when I stopped running I would get my headaches back and I wasn’t able to deal with stress as well. So, over the years I kept on running.”

At NVM, Bollen hopes to complete her ninth marathon.

“Running brought me back to life again,” Bollen said. “To this day, it’s the one hobby that keeps me well.”

Upon turning 60 last November, John Kempkey (Napa, Calif.) decided to recruit family members to run with him in this year’s NVM as a way of celebrating the milestone. So, he persuaded his four children (Kristina, 37, Natalie, 32, Mark, 29, and Katherine, 24) to enter. One of his nephews (Eddy, 33) also came on board. They spread the word to their friends, and now “The Party Team,” the name selected by John for the group, has grown to almost a dozen participants, including some who are traveling from the East Coast and Europe. John Kempkey has run NVM three times previously, but the majority of Kempkey’s team will be running their first marathon.

“We picked a marathon because that’s how my dad wanted to celebrate,” said Kristina Kempkey (Napa, Calif.). “We tried to get him to do something else, but he really loves the NVM and convinced us all to do it. He hasn't done one in at least ten years so he feels he has something to prove.”

John added: “For me, running is all about celebrating life and the rewards that go along with sharing the experience with family and friends. So, I’m making every excuse to keep ‘the Party’ going.”

Gretchen Cain (24, Portland, Ore.), a 2005 graduate of Napa High School, will come back to the Napa Valley to run NVM with her mother, Torrey Wall (50, Pleasant Hill, Calif.). It will be the mother-daughter team’s second marathon together. Gretchen has completed two previous marathons. Torrey has completed one. Mom was inspired to run a marathon after watching her daughter participate in the 2010 Portland Marathon, and they both subsequently completed the 2011 Oakland Marathon.

Barbara Wilkerson (52, Spencer, Iowa) and her husband raised their nine children in a marathoner’s environment, often bringing their kids along to the numerous 26.2-mile races they traveled to, and completed, in the Midwest and beyond. The children, however, showed little interest in the marathoning lifestyle. There were mandatory 4-mile family runs that, according to Lauren Wilkerson (26, St. Paul, Minn.), were “absolute torture at the time.” Two summers ago, however, Lauren and her sister, Cara Wilkerson (24, Colorado Spring, Colo.) participated in a family run that, for the first time in their lives, was relatively easy. The parents subsequently signed them up for the Twin Cities 10 Mile race, which they completed together despite little training.

The sisters decided to run a marathon and chose this year’s NVM based on the race’s reputation as an excellent marathon for first-timers. Their goal is to cross the finish line hand-in-hand with their veteran marathon mom.

“It’s my quiet dream to finish a marathon with all of my nine children,” said Barbara Wilkerson.

U.S. Army pilots Cassandra Perkins (26, Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Ty Huffman (30, Orlando, Fla.), and Army Physician Assistant Chris Mercer (39, Carolina Beach, N.C.) have trained together for the NVM in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan during a one-year deployment. Now, they will return to the States and head to Napa for their first marathon.

“We chose the Napa Valley Marathon because the area looks gorgeous and none of us have ever been there before,” Perkins said. “The wine tasting won’t be bad either.”

Clinton Pritchard (31, Charlottesville, Va.) made a bet with his girlfriend, Angie Smith (35, Charlottesville, Va.) that the first one to log 1,000 miles in a training year would get to chose a “destination” marathon. Pritchard had no intention of losing the wager. He was a better runner than Smith at the time. Smith, however, approached her training with vigor, while Pritchard’s job responsibilities impacted his running. Smith reached 1,000 miles first and chose the 2012 NVM as the couple’s destination marathon.

2012 NVM entrant Kay Martin (75, Phoenix, Ariz.) began running at age 60 and completed the first of her eight marathons to date when she was 63. She has qualified for and competed in the Boston Marathon. Martin’s other athletic accomplishments include several triathlons including a 70.3-mile half Ironman, and the Pikes Peak Ascent which climbs 7,800 feet over 13.3 miles, where she has finished five times during her mid 60s to mid 70s.

Now, the physically precocious senior hopes to qualify for the 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa by running under 5 hours flat at NVM.

What motivates Martin to keep setting her running goals higher and higher?

“I run to keep healthy and be an inspiration to younger women,” Martin said. “So many women tell me ‘you inspire me,’ or ‘I hope I’m running when I’m your age.’ I’m inspired by my 81-year-old husband, Lyle Langlois, who has run a marathon in every state and still continues to run.”

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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, Gatorade, ASICS, Silverado Trail Wineries Association, Marathon & Beyond, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, GU, CBS 5 and The CW, Comcast, Napa Valley Register, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, the Napa Running Company, KCBS 740 AM, Silverado Brewing Company, Wine Country Inn/Napa Valley, Arrrowhead Water, Calistoga Beverage Company, DJ’s Growing Place, Wallaby Organic, Napa Valley Bike Tours, and ZICO.

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