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Kaiser Premanente Napa Valley Marathon Appeals to Wide Range of Runners

NAPA, Calif. — February 10, 2012 —The 34th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, RRCA Western Region Championship, 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.”

For more inspiring stories and to read more 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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