NAPA (CBS SF) — Chris Mocko, 25, of Palo Alto and Camille Herron, 31, of West Lafayette, Indiana, registered victories Sunday at the 33rd Annual Napa Valley Marathon. For Mocko, the day was particularly memorable. His victory, in 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 2 seconds, came on his 25th birthday as his father, Paul, watched from the finish line. Herron led the women’s race from wire to wire and recorded a finish time of 2:42:20. Periodic rain showers and moderate headwinds dampened an otherwise mild day for the sellout crowd of 2,400 marathon participants, but it did not damper their enthusiasm as they raced through the scenic Napa Valley wine growing region.
Mocko used a strategy of hanging behind the early leaders and then jumping at opportunity to score a victory and a personal record in only his third marathon. The recent steeplechase and cross country specialist for Stanford University did not attempt to accompany leaders Kevin Pool of Folsom and Austin Weaver of Sacramento, who took the race out at sub-2:19:00 finishing pace. Pool, in particular, was pursuing the sub-2:19 standard set by USA Track & Field for entry into next January’s 2012 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon.
“Going in, we knew about Kevin (Pool) and his hopes to go for the Olympic Trials (standard),” Mocko said. “I wasn’t capable of running that fast. In my first two marathons I kind of blew up. Going out a little bit slower made sense to me.”
At five miles, Weaver pulled out of the race as Mocko ran comfortably in a small pack that included 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy Boulet who was on a 20-mile training run and did not finish. By 14 miles, Pool had built a four-minute lead, but was slowing as he fell off the pace he needed for an Olympic Trials qualifier. Then, at 15 miles, Pool called it a day and exited, yielding the men’s lead to Mocko and his Asics Aggie teammate, Kota Reichert of Menlo Park.
“I got really excited when I heard that Kota and I were in the lead,”
Mocko said, “and at that I point I really picked up the pace. The adrenaline got me through 20 miles, but then I really started feeling it. But, I was able to hang on. Overall, I ran a negative split for the race, so I was pleased.”
Reichert finished second in 2:30:29. Nathan Yanko of San Francisco was third in 2:33:07. Casey Strange of Campbell, age 47, won the men’s masters (age 40 and over) title in 2:47:30.
Women’s winner Camille Herron led from the gun and never looked back.
The Napa Valley Marathon was her fourth marathon within the last three months. Before that, she ran 2:38:23 at the 2009 USA Marathon Championships in Minneapolis, earning an “A standard” qualifier for the
2012 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials race. Herron wore bib number 235 at Napa in pursuit of a finishing time around 2:35, but the tall and thin athlete said a persistent headwind (of about 8 m.p.h.) hampered her efforts.
“I’ve been really consistent in the low 2:40s for the last few marathons,” said Herron, who is sponsored by MarathonGuide. “I haven’t been doing a lot of speed work yet, but have been running very high (training) mileage, about 120 miles per week. I just need to get in some speed work now, and maybe hit another marathon in a few months.”
YiOu Wang of Mill Valley emerged from a small trailing pack of women at about 18 miles and garnered second place in 2:46:45, improving upon her third place finish last year. Although Wang scored a new personal record, her time was 45 seconds short of the 2:46:00 women’s “B” qualifying standard she sought for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
“It was so windy the last couple of miles on the flats, and I was all alone at that point,” Wang said. I tried to put my head down and work against the wind, but it took too much out of me. I knew I was going to get a big PR, so I’m pretty happy.”
Kami Semick, 44, of Bend, Oregon placed third in 2:49:23 and earned the women’s masters win. Semick was USA Track & Field’s Female Ultra Runner of the Year in 2009 and 2010, and the women’s 100K World Champion in 2009.
A new, more spacious finish line greeted 1,755 marathon finishers. The finish was moved around the corner to the parking lot at Napa’s Vintage High School this year, and the marathon course was re-certified for accurate distance. The change was the first one to the fast, rolling marathon course from Calistoga to Napa in the 33-year history of the race.
The 2011 Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon once again served as the Road Runners Club of America’s Western Regional Marathon Championship race. Known as “the Biggest Little Marathon in the West,” the race rewards male and female open and masters winners with oversized bottles of wine etched with their championship accomplishments. The male and female winners of the race also receive their “weight-in-wine” from the sponsoring Silverado Trail Wineries Association.
In the accompanying Kiwanis 5K Fun Run, Jeff Wilson, 30, of San Francisco was the men’s winner in 16:22 and Maggie Conley (27, of Portola Valley was first among women in 18:14.
Full race results for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon are available on the event’s web site at www.napavalleymarathon.org.