Ryan Smith rules men's field, Anne Theisen pulls out women's win at Napa Valley Marathon

The 42nd Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon and Half Marathon, boasting its largest field ever, did not disappoint on Sunday.

Far from it, in fact.

The field of 5,000 registered runners for the marathon, half marathon and 5K were treated to stellar views, mild weather and the type of hospitality and community feel that have attracted runners from all over the world.

“We kind of need to wait for it to flush out until the very end, but so far so good,” said second-year Race Director Michelle La Sala as the latter half of the marathon field began to come across the finish line at Vintage High School. “We have had lots of happy people finish today, lots of PRs (personal records). It was a really fast day and the weather was great. We’re definitely excited and want to see what we can do from here.”

While a community event in the truest sense, none of the top finishers were Napa Valley natives. Both the men and women’s winners of the full marathon were out-of-staters, but the top finishers in the second annual half marathon hailed from the Bay Area.

With a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 47 seconds, Ryan Smith, 40, of Boulder, Colorado won the full 26.2-mile race on the men’s side, while 47-year old Anne Theisen of Mazama, Washington, was the fastest woman to cross the line, doing so in 2:52:58.

Smith ran alone for the majority of his time on the course on Silverado Trail, which began in Calistoga and ended at Vintage High School in north Napa. He finished almost three minutes ahead of second-place finisher Nicholas Budzyn of Citrus Heights.

Smith said after the race that he actually prefers running alone, and that by looking at previous times he figured that might be a possibility again on Sunday.

“It’s a great marathon,” Smith said. “It’s kind of my jam. I like the low-key ones. It’s just something a bit more mellow and fun about it.”

Sporting a mullet, Budyzn, a collegiate hockey player-turned-endurance runner, had no complaints about his performance.

“I feel like it went great,” he said. “I ran smart but pushed when I wanted to. I was conservatively aggressive and was able to hold it together and finish strong.”

Theisen, meanwhile, had competition nipping at her heels. She came in with arms raised in victory just 20 seconds ahead of Catherine Medvene, 30, of New York. Unlike Smith, Theisen didn’t come in expecting a top finish but that reality showed itself relatively early on.

posted Monday March 2nd
by Gus Morris