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Posted: July 14, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

(RWire) Athletics: Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon Attracts Celebrities, Top Runners and Dollars

6th edition sold-out in January; past race champions expected

SONOMA, Calif. - (July 14, 2009) - Now in its 6th year, the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, set to take place on Sunday, July 19, will bring thousands of runners with friends and family from all over the world to Napa and Sonoma counties. The 13.1 mile course meanders through the Carneros wine region and is considered one of the most scenic in the country. The race starts at Cuvaison Carneros Estate Winery in Napa and finishes in front of City Hall in downtown Sonoma, culminating with the Wine & Music Festival in historic Sonoma Plaza. This wine-themed event sold out in January and is currently featured in Runner's World and Women's Running magazines.

Amongst the 3,000 runners is actress and Jenny Craig spokesperson Valerie Bertinelli, as well as HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen who is serving as honorary chairman for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America's half-marathon training and fundraising program, Team Challenge. Rolf Benirschke, former place kicker for the San Diego Chargers, will also be supporting the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America by running the race with his wife Mary. Last year, $2.1 million was raised and CCFA expects that number to be above $2.5 million for this year's event. CCFA is the national charity training partner for the race.

The elite field includes Celedonio (Cele) Rodriquez and Elizabeth (Lisa) Daane, both winners of the 2006 Napa-to-Sonoma race. Cele, a former star at Elise Allen High School in Santa Rosa, also won the race in 2005 and finished second in 2007. The current top ranked female runner in the U.S. in the 50-54 age group, Christine Kennedy of Los Altos, will be competing in her first Wine Country Half Marathon, as will the top ranked male in the 60-64 category, Terry McCluskey of Dublin, Ohio. Julia Mallon (nee Stamps), who set multiple records at Santa Rosa High School and competed for Stanford University, will also be running her first Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon. Nationally ranked runner, Christian Hesch of Morro Bay, winner of the 2008 Healdsburg Wine Country Half, is also expected to compete for the men's title, as is Mario Macias, winner of the 2008 Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon.

Event beneficiaries include Hanna Boys Center, La Luz / Vineyard Workers Services and Sonoma Valley Public School athletic programs. Hanna Boys Center volunteers will be pitching in for the sixth year - employees, boys and donors will staff the water stations, serve as course monitors and assist runners at the finish line, among other duties.

"Hanna Boys Center has proven to be valuable asset to the event from its inception," according to Event Director and founder Matt Dockstader. "The Center and the enthusiasm the boys bring have become synonymous with the event."

The event is also becoming a windfall for local businesses. A 2008 economic impact estimated the event generates $3 million into the Bay Area economy, with most of the dollars being spent for lodging, dining, shopping, tours and other services in Napa and Sonoma Counties. The event kicks off on Friday, July 17th in San Francisco at Sports Basement for packet pickup, followed by a reception at Cuvaison Carneros Winery in Napa on Friday evening. The race expo will be held at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn on Saturday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and the race dinner will be held Saturday night at Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma. The reception and dinner are sold out, but the free expo is open to the public.

Spectators should expect to see the top finishers arrive in Sonoma Plaza shortly after 8:00am on Sunday. The awards ceremony will be held at Grinstead Amphitheater at 10:30am, followed by a performance by the Whiskey Thieves band. Over 20 wineries (and brewers) from the Sonoma and Napa Valleys will be featured at the Wine & Music Festival. The wine tasting is limited to registered race participants and their guests.

Destination Races, producer of the race and ensuing Wine and Music Festival, has taken an active role in reducing the environmental impact of the event. By partnering with numerous "green" organizations, sponsors and Green Mary, the goal is to reduce the amount of landfill waste to less than 5% and to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 50%. Vineyard Worker Services will be assisting Green Mary this year in the recycling and clean-up efforts in Sonoma plaza.

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