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Posted: February 22, 2009  : Add to Mixx!

Athletics: Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon Announces Elite Entrants

NAPA, Calif. - February 21, 2009 - The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon announced today that elite U.S. marathoner Peter Gilmore (San Mateo, Calif.) and 2007 NVM women's champion Devon Crosby-Helms (Seattle, Wash.) will join a sold-out crowd of 2,300 participants for the 31st annual race on Sunday, March 1, 2009. Although the race does not offer prize money, its fast and scenic course that spans the length of the world renowned Napa Valley wine country draws runners of all abilities from near and far.

Gilmore, 31, owns an impressive personal record at the marathon distance of 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 45 seconds, earned at the 2006 Boston Marathon where he placed seventh. He is a veteran of two U.S. Men's Olympic Marathon Trials (2004 and 2008). At the 2008 Trials in New York City, Gilmore was a top contender for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team headed to Beijing. He fought an untimely chest cold, however, forcing him to drop out of the race and deal with the biggest disappointment of his life. A foot injury dampened much of Gilmore's 2008 racing year, but now the athlete who is sponsored by says he is rounding into top form.

A racing-sharp Gilmore could threaten the longtime Napa Valley Marathon men's course record of 2:16:20 set by Dick Beardsley in 1987. Gilmore, however, has other plans.

"I'll run Napa as a training run," said Gilmore, who is preparing for a spring marathon but hasn't finalized which one yet. "I've never done a marathon as a training run leading up to another marathon. But Napa is a beautiful race. It's easy for me to travel to, and the expected winning time is right in the wheelhouse of what I want to do for a training run. Mid 2:20s would be nice."

The average men's winning time at Napa over the past five years is 2:27.

"Obviously, winning (at Napa) is a top priority, but I have to put a limit on what I'm willing to do to conserve a little bit for another marathon," commented Gilmore, who has logged 100 to 150 training miles a week over the winter.

Additional top contenders among men include:

-- Andy Martin (Bend, Ore.), 34, a prolific marathoner and former triathlete who won 26.2-milers at the Big Sur International Marathon (Carmel, Calif.) and Cincinnati (Ohio) Flying Pig Marathon on back-to-back weekends last year. His personal best is 2:20:04.

-- James Nielsen (Palo Alto, Calif.), a two-time NCAA Division III 5,000-meter champion while at the University of California-San Diego, and a two-time USA world cross country team member. Nielsen, 29, recorded a personal best of 2:21:01 while winning the 2007 Eugene (Ore.) Marathon.

Male Age Group Watch: Ed Spinney, 55, of Eugene, Ore., who in the late 1970's and early 1980's sported an impressive range of 3:57 for the mile to 2:18 in the marathon. Spinney ran a 2:47 marathon last year, and he hopes to break the NVM course record of 2:43:29 for age 55 to 59 men at this year's race.

Devon Crosby-Helms, 26, returns to the Napa Valley Marathon with a 2:49:51 marathon personal best on her resume, a nice improvement on her 2:52:49 runaway victory at the '07 NVM. Since then, she has also bolstered her credentials as one of the top U.S. women at ultramarathon distances. The numerous ultras she has won include the '07 Tahoe Rim 50 Mile in a course record time (8:39:30) and the '08 Vermont 100 Mile.

Crosby-Helms competed on officially sanctioned (by USA Track & Field) U.S. national teams at the last two IAU World Cup 100K races, an international event which is often referred to as the "world championship" of ultra-distance running. Last November, in Italy, she placed tenth overall in the race. Along with U.S. teammate Kami Semick, who placed second overall, Crosby-Helms helped pace the U.S. team to a silver-medal-winning performance.

In fact, Semick, 42, of Bend, Ore. is also a top prospect for the women's victory at this year's Napa Valley Marathon. She was the U.S. 50K trail champion in 2006, and has won marathons at Portland ('08), Silicon Valley ('07), and Seattle ('05). Semick's personal best at the marathon distance is 2:45:24.

"If Kami is in top form, there's no hope for me," admitted Crosby-Helms, who recently had her training interrupted by a foot injury. "I really don't know what my speed is going to be like. While winning is always fun, I just love the Napa race so much. It's more about just running the race and enjoying it."

Mary Coordt (Elk Grove, Calif.) will compete in the race once again after a memorable performance last year. Coordt, 39, finished the 2008 race in fourth place behind women's winner Maureen Ackerly. Her time of 2:46:30, a personal record, qualified Coordt for her third U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trials. In fact, the top four women all qualified for the Trials with times under the Trials "B" qualifying standard of 2:47:00. Coordt is a two-time champion ('97, '05) at the NVM.

Female Age Group Watch: Christine Iwahashi, 53, of Sacramento, Calif. is a three-time winner ('86, '87, '90) of the Napa Valley Marathon -- tying her with David Chairez ('84, '86, '89) for the most NVM victories. Iwahashi will run the 112th marathon of her long career at this year's NVM.

The 2009 Napa Valley Marathon starts on Sunday, March 1 at 7:00 a.m. sharp in Calistoga on the Silverado Trail near the intersection of Rosedale Road. The marathon's fast, USA Track & Field certified (for accurate distance) road course runs the length of the beautiful Silverado Trail and finishes at Vintage High School in Napa. Top runners are expected to reach the finish between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Runners will receive official times up until 1:00 p.m. when the course closes.

Entry slots are still available for the companion Kiwanis 5K Fun Run, which starts (8 a.m.) and finishes at Vintage High School on marathon morning.

For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, please visit the marathon's web site at" target="_news">

The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Calistoga Mineral Water Company, Gatorade, ASICS America Corporation, Silverado Trail Wineries Association, Marathon & Beyond, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, MarathonFoto, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, GU, CBS 5, Comcast, Napa Valley Register, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, KVON 1440 AM, the Napa Running Company, KCBS 740 AM, Silverado Brewing Company, DJ's Growing Place, and Wine Country Inn/Napa Valley.

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