Fundraising, Overcoming Diversity, and Herculean Challenges Motivate Race Participants
Short profile stories are included in this release about the following Napa Valley Marathon entrants.
Christine Lajeunesse (Reno, Nev.)
Ariane Lyons (Sacramento, Calif.)
Cynthia and David Hanna (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Zachary Porter, Henda Salmeron, and Steven Novak (Dallas, Tex.)
Trey Bayne (Richardson, Tex.)
William Hopkins (Corralitos. Calif.)
Jenny Chen (Sonoma, Calif.)
Bob Fritzky (Moraga, Calif.)
Heather Parks (Bruceton Mills, W. Va.)
Dotty Maddock (Franklin, Idaho)
Kimberly Tank (Concord, Calif.)
NAPA, Calif.: February 13, 2015 - A sold-out field of 3,000 entrants from 18 countries, 48 U.S. states, and Washington, D.C. will gather in Californiaís Napa Valley for the 37th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon on Sunday, March 1, 2015. The Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) asks each entrant to describe on their entry form their reasons for entering the race. Among the varied responses each year, many illustrate how the challenges of a 26.2-mile race spurs marathoners to undertake charitable deeds that assist others who face adversity, to overcome personal adversities themselves, or to travel the globe in search of the most compelling races. A high percentage of respondents also cited the reputation of NVM as one of the best organized marathons in the U.S., and the allure of the picturesque Napa Valley wine growing region, as primary reasons for entering the race.
Every Napa Valley Marathon participant assists important local causes. All proceeds from the Napa Valley Marathon (a non-profit organization) are donated to local charities and schools in the Napa Valley region. Numerous NVM participants, however, choose to go beyond NVMís annual philanthropy by dedicating their race to others, often raising donations that fund the charities of their choice.
On January 19, 2014, Forbes Travel Guide rated NVM among the top ten marathons in the world "worth traveling for." Runnerís World magazine selected NVM as one of the top ten U.S. marathons for first-time marathon participants in its January, 2011 issue. American Express' Departures magazine declared NVM as #7 in their "ten travel-worthy races that make for truly memorable journeys on the run."
Entry limits for NVM are largely determined by the number of available hotel rooms in the world-renowned Napa Valley wine producing and tasting region.
NVM Entrant Profile Stories
Selected NVM entrants' stories appear below.
Dr. Christine Lajeunesse (52, Reno, Nev.) ran her first marathon in 2004 following the birth of her three children, surgery and radiation treatment for advanced thyroid cancer, and removal of her appendix. Her finishing time of 3 hours, 48 minutes qualified her to run the 2005 Boston Marathon, which she completed on her 43rd birthday. Lajeunesse, a urologist, was yet to face her biggest challenges on a rocky path that has subsequently led her to the 2015 Napa Valley Marathon.
On December 17, 2013, a mentally ill man entered Renoís Renown Regional Medical Center and shot two urologists and a third victim with a shotgun at point-blank range before killing himself. His attack killed one doctor, seriously injured a patient, and critically wounded Lajeunesse in the right arm and abdomen. She was treated in an intensive care unit, underwent 12 surgeries in 10 days, and wasnít released from the hospital until six weeks later. In March 2014 Lajeunesse underwent a subsequent surgeryóa bone graft from her left femur to reconstruct the radius bone in her forearm.
Undeterred, Lajeunesse embarked upon a walking program, at first covering a single mile in 30 minutes. She set a goal to get back into road racing under the guidance of Valentine "Ski" Pisarski, the Head Coach of Northern Sierra Endurance Training, a Reno-based non-profit running group for runners and walkers that supports community programs, projects, and families in need. Last October, Lajeunesse completed the Bizz Johnson Express Half Marathon (Susanville, Calif.)
"Iíve always been very goal oriented and having a race goal is a way of extending myself and getting back to my normal self," Lajeunesse said. "Ski is the driving force that is making this happen. I knew of Ski's own health challenges and his example showed me that with a positive attitude and persistence itís possible to run a marathon after serious health problems."
Pisarski, who has successfully battled four types of cancer, completed his 25th NVM (and 115th marathon in total) at last yearís race. He recommended NVM to Dr. Lajeunesse for her comeback to marathon running.
"I hope to finish under the six hour cut-off time, and would love to break 5 hours," said Lajeunesse. "I know that my time wonít qualify me for Boston, but I hope Iíll be able to qualify again some day."
Historically, NVMís fast, point-to-point, USA Track & Field certified (for accurate distance) marathon course through the scenic Napa Valley has attracted marathon devotees whose goal is to achieve a qualifying time for the venerable Boston Marathon. Each year, numerous everyday runners set their sights on Boston as their personal "Olympic Games." Boston Marathon participants must earn their entry into the race by achieving a fairly demanding marathon qualifying time, based on the entrant's gender and age. This year, over 40 NVM entrants stated on their entry form that their primary motivation for running Napa is to qualify for Boston.
In 1997, Ariane Lyons (56, Sacramento, Calif.) ran her first marathon. It was the Napa Valley Marathon. Since then, she has finished marathons in all 50 U.S. states, a quest she completed in 2008. For her accomplishment, Lyons earned a coveted 50 states finisher award as a member of the 50 States Marathon Club. Lyons first started running marathons in various locales around the U.S. based on suggestions by her friends.
"I think many Americans have a desire to see all 50 States and this was a way to accomplish that goal," Lyons said. "Many of my running buddies went with me on various marathons. Without even trying, I got up to 10 states, which was the minimum needed to join the 50 States Club. At some point, momentum keeps you going. Iíve also enjoyed meeting other members of the 50 States Club at various races. Theyíre an impressive group of people and theyíre always positive and welcoming."
Lyons has completed more than 70 marathons, including the historic Athens (Greece) Marathon. Eighteen years after running her debut marathon at NVM, she is returning to the race because she wants to re-visit some of her favorites.
"Of course Napa is one of my most memorable marathons," she said. "Plus, it's a world-class destination marathon that is well organized."
David Hanna, 50, and Cynthia Hanna, 53, of Murfreesboro, Tenn. are first-time NVM entrants, however they are no strangers to marathons. In fact, they have already achieved what they believe is a unique accomplishment: We are the first couple in the world to complete a marathon crossing the finish line together on every continent, they explain on their Two-gether Runners! website. The Hannas have submitted their story to the Guinness Book of World Records for "official" verification of their feat.
"Our first marathon together after being married was in 2005 at the Marathon du Mťdoc in Bordeaux, France," Cynthia Hanna said. "After we ran that we realized how much we enjoyed traveling to other parts of the world and experiencing different cultures as well as different and unique race courses. We mapped our journey of marathons on all seven continents, and after three years, in 2008, we completed it, crossing the finish line of each marathon together, hand-in-hand."
The Hannasí most challenging marathon? Antarctica with temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, a course over snow, ice, mud, rock, and few spectators. Their most memorable? The Safaricom Marathon that ran through Africaís Lewa Wildlife Conservancy where giraffes crossed their running path and elephants roamed the "sidelines."
Their favorite marathon to date? Marathon du Mťdoc.
"We started our journey together in Bordeaux, France running a marathon on the wine trail there and we thought that the Napa Valley Marathon would be just perfect," Cynthia Hanna explained. "Weíre now both 50. What a great way to kick-off the next chapter of our lives by getting back in shape together with another marathon traveling through wine country."
Dallas, Tex. residents Zachary Porter, 40, Henda Salmeron, 48, Steven Novak, 41, and Trey Bayne (44, Richardson, Tex.) are running this yearís NVM with a goal of raising $25,000 and public awareness for the HeartGift Foundation. HeartGift is a nonprofit organization that brings children living in developing countries around the world to the U.S. for free medical diagnosis, care, and surgery to correct life-threatening congenital heart defects. Established in 2000, HeartGift began its work in Austin, Tex. and now has chapters in multiple cities. The organization creates partnerships with local medical service providers which donate their medical services. Since its founding, HeartGift has treated more than 200 children from over 30 countries.
These four NVM entrants embraced HeartGift after the foundation made a presentation to Dallas Roundtable, a business development and networking organization in which they are members. In total, they have accumulated about 40 marathon finishes between themselves, however all four are competing in NVM for the first time.
"We were particularly moved by the HeartGift cause and the fact that itís such a personal experience," Porter said. "You get to save a specific childís life through your efforts; you know their name, their life story, see their picture, and then meet and spend time with them during their visit to the States," Porter said.
"We are raising money to save 1-1/2 year-old Urangoo Erdenebaatar from Mongolia. "She was born with a congenital heart defect, but doesnít have access to the care she needs. Weíre raising money for Urangoo and her mother to come to Dallas for six weeks where theyíll stay with a host family during her prescreening, heart surgery, recovery, and follow-up."
William Hopkins (Corralitos. Calif.) is lining up for his sixth NVM after decades of running and competing. But this yearís race will pose a unique challenge for the 59-year-old podiatrist. In 2006, Hopkins had a tumor removed from his spinal cord, leaving him with residual paralysis in his lower legs.
"I didn't think that I would ever run again, but it felt good just to be alive and walking," said Hopkins who subsequently took up rock climbing because he was unable to run. "Over the next few years, I gained enough core strength to give running a try again. Nothing has been easy, but being able to get back on the road again has been worth the effort.
"For the first time in a decade, I ran up to Sand Point in The Forrest of Nicene Marks, overlooking the Monterey Bay. As I gazed out in my endorphin-enhanced runnerís buzz, I counted my blessings and silently thanked all those who helped me back."
Now, Hopkins aspires to repeat a goal he reached at the Napa Valley Marathon 20 years ago. His time at that race qualified him for the 1996 Boston Marathon, the eventís ceremonious 100th running. Boston has a mobility impaired program with an extended qualifying time of 6:00 hours for individuals with permanent physical disabilities that affect their ability to ambulate.
Jenny Chen (18, Sonoma, Calif.), a Senior at Sonoma Valley High School, is among 17 percent of NVM entrants who stated on their entries that NVM will be their first marathon. Chen is running NVM as her high school Senior Project.
"My family members aren't active runners, but I've always enjoyed running since I was in elementary school," Chen explained. "In elementary and middle school, I always set the record time for females in our class for running one mile. As the oldest of five children, Iím full of joy to see my younger brother also enjoying sports and running."
Initially, Chen was overwhelmed by the mere thought of her Senior Project.
"I had no clue of what I was going to do or anything I had interest in."
Then she sought advice from Lisa Connor, the high schoolís College & Career Center Coordinator.
"She asked if I enjoyed sports or running and suggested that a marathon would be a good topic. I enjoy hobbies such as cooking, sewing, and drawing, but none of them can compete with the thrill and satisfaction of running."
Bob Fritzky has an ambition of averaging two marathon finishes a year over the span of his lifetime. So far, the 58-year-old Moraga, Calif. resident is ahead of plan. Heís completed 119 marathons, including seven NVMs, since running his first one in 1974.
Itís far from a stretch to say that Fritzky has a positive running addiction. Until 2011, he had a streak of running 17 years in a row without missing a day. He has run more than 314,819 miles in training and racing. He recalls the days when marathons were timed with hand-held stopwatches, bib numbers were often hand-drawn on paper, and water was the only refreshment served along the course. Fritzky expects to complete this yearís NVM in about 3:40:00. His personal best time for the 26.2-mile distance is 2:46:24.
Heather Parks (39, Bruceton Mills, W. Va.) travels to Napa with elite credentials on her running resume. Parks, (better known as Heather Bury before she married) has a personal best marathon of 2:45:04 which qualified her for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, an event that selected the U.S. womenís Olympic marathon team that competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Parks subsequently married Donald Parks, and the couple has three children, Travis, 7, Eileen, 3, and Tyler, 2. Besides parenting her youngsters, Parks is the Recreation Director at Big Bear Lake Camplands in West Virginiaís Appalachian Mountains.
Parks has entered the 2015 NVM with a stated mission (on her entry form) of "trying to do it all over again!" When asked to elaborate, Parks said "My goal is to get back to continually improving again. I want to be my best when I turn 40. I take each race as it comes. If I were to run a 2:50 at Napa I would entertain the thought of then trying to get a (2016) Olympic Trials qualifying time. But I've been there before, and I know how hard it is to get there. To do it with three kids and a job would be tremendous. The great thing is there are other moms out there doing it, too, so it keeps hope alive."
Dotty Maddock (60, Franklin, Idaho) has also overcome physical and mental challenges on the way to the 2015 Napa Valley Marathon. Despite a hearing loss that has gradually worsened since she was a teenager, Maddock has accumulated 111 marathons and numerous road races at other distances since 1994.
"I used to run with no hearing in races, and had my running shirt printed with deaf runner on the back so others knew why I was ignoring them," Maddock said. "On one occasion, another racer grabbed my shirt to stop me from running into an intersection where an emergency vehicle was racing through. I'm usually very observant, but Iím very grateful for that runner watching out for me."
Now, when she races, Maddock benefits from a cochlear implantóprovided that racing conditions are dry. The implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing.
"It was amazing the first time I actually heard the national anthem before a marathon," exclaimed Maddock who is running her first Napa Valley Marathon.
In 2013, Kimberly Tank (56, Concord, Calif.) was diagnosed with Amyloidosis, an incurable disease that can lead to life-threatening organ failure. Since then, Tank, a three-time Boston Marathon qualifier who started running when she was 47, has received chemotherapy treatments. Last August, she had a stem cell transplant which she describes as similar to a bone marrow transplant.
Tank was able to continue running during her treatments and entered last yearís NVM, before being derailed by a pulled hamstring which prevented her from competing. "But Iím determined not to let anything stop me," she declared. Tank was able to defer her 2014 NVM entry to this yearís race and is now focused on completing her first NVM.
"Iíve worked very hard to come back and Iím almost where I was last year at this time," Tank said. "My training is going well and I fully intend to be on the Napa starting line. Iíve been trying to run another marathon for two years now. Iím very excited. My goal is to qualify for Boston again, but I know to simply finish is going to be very sweet."
For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, please visit the marathonís web site at NapaValleyMarathon.com
The Napa Valley Marathon appreciates generous sponsor support from Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, Visit Legendary Napa Valley, Clif Family Winery, ASICS, Arrowhead Water, Clif Bar, Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, Gatorade G Endurance, MarathonFoto, Marathon & Beyond, Napa Running Company, Running USA, KCBS AM and FM Radio, KPIX5 and KBCW, XFINITY, KVON 1440 AM, KVYN/99.3 The Vine, Wallaby Organic, Napa Smith Brewery, and Napa Valley Bike Tours.