Friday, March 6, 2015

Napa Valley Marathon - Race Info & Logistics

(This is the part where I give you all the logistical/nuts & bolts information you might want to know about this race if you're thinking about maybe running it. You can check out this post to read all about my race experience & how it went! :) )

Location: Calistoga, CA to Napa, CA

Date: First Sunday in March (March 1, 2015 this year)

Prices: I don't think they have last year's fee schedule up anymore, but this is the one for 2016, and I think it actually does match what I paid when I signed up for 2014:

Field Size: Registration cap of 3,000 (2,900 normal spots & 100 charity spots benefiting Napa schools)

Deadlines/sellout factor: As you can probably imagine, this is absolutely a sell-out race every year. Both years I've paid attention it's taken a few months so you don't necessarily have to decide ten months out, but by December or January, I think, the field is usually full.


Friday & Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm at Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa. Bibs available for pickup until 8:00pm Saturday.

Meh. Like I said above, it was an expo. I am not that big on expos. Basically I want my crap & to get out of there. Everything was reasonably well-organized and I had no trouble finding anything and didn't wait more than a few minutes to pick up my bib or schwag. There was a bit of wine tasting out in the courtyard of which I did not partake.

(I normally at least snap a few pics, but we were starving & I just wanted to get out of there. Sorry. :-/)


The start was staged pretty much at the intersection of Silverado Trail, 29 (Lincoln), and Brannan. It is just kind of a rural road, so I can see why they don't want too many people trying to drive right up to it.

Basically there was the starting line, the obligatory giant row of port-a-potties, a row of buses labeled with bib numbers for sweat check, and a row of labeled crates for dropping any special bottles.

The afore-mentioned bottles

Oh, and guys, there were showers at the finish. SHOWERS!! I had no idea. Since the finish was at a high school, I had hoped, and so I had brought shower things & a towel, but NVM!! You gotta promote that shit!! (Okay, there was no hot water by the time I got in there, but still. It meant we could go wine tasting after, which we ABSOLUTELY did.

The Course:

I've heard a lot of bitching and moaning about this course in the past & even contributed to some of it myself from the one time I raced on part of it. But I have to say, having run it in good weather & in temps that are almost as good as it gets in Napa, it's actually pretty decent and reminded me of CIM in some ways.

Yes, it's a little windy, so you have to pay attention to your tangents & to when you're allowed to run in both lanes and when you're only allowed in the south bound one. There is a bit of canting here & there, but I didn't find it hard to negotiate at all. I tend to be pretty sensitive uneven/slanted surfaces and I barely noticed it. As far as I remember, the pavement was in pretty good shape - very few issues with potholes or chewed up bits.

The course is net down hill, but not ridiculously so. (Less than CIM, and WAAAAY less than, for example, Mountains 2 Beach.) There are a few uphill sections here & there, but none were all that steep or went on for very long. (If memory serves, the worst ones were near the beginning.) I remember the end being pretty darn level. I also think I remember there being more shade in the early miles & less towards the end, which was too bad, but thankfully it wasn't all THAT hot.

The aid stations were more or less every two to two and a half miles, which worked out perfectly for me, particularly since I could grab my little bottles & carry them for a while.


The website strongly encouraged people to park at the finish (Vintage High School in Napa) since the start is crowded & parking is limited. (Like I said, tiny rural road without much access.) Buses run from Napa to Calistoga starting at 5:15am, & apparently they let you sit on the bus until ~6:40ish. Since I am lazy & didn't want to catch a 5:15 bus, I made Don come with me & got a hotel room super close to the start. I got up at 5:45, left the hotel at 6:30, & was at the start by 6:40. Then he got to sleep in & meet me in Napa at the finish (which is way closer to home than Calistoga anyway). No buses back to Calistoga after, apparently, but the site included instructions on how to get there via public transit if you need to.


This was a great race, and I had a great experience. But I have one grievance, and that is that every year I've seen pictures of schwag for this race, everything has all been very tasteful, muted, wine-country-ish colors (see the NVM logo above). But this year, the race was honoring the 1976 US marathon team (no, they're not being sexist; women weren't allowed in the marathon until the 80s), and so everything was red, white, & blue. (Mostly red and blue.)

I mean, look. I support honoring our country's elite athletes. But this just seemed a bit random, and was it not possible to honor them in a way that doesn't make everything look like little league baseball gear?

Anybody want this bag?

I feel so certain I will never wear this shirt.


I get what you're going for, here, NVM (I think?), but let's be real. If the goal is for people to wear your schwag & advertise for your race, I'm not sure this was the way to go.

Overall Assessment:

I have had conversations with people who feel strongly that NVM is not a PR race, but having run it now, I have to say I disagree, with one caveat. I think the course is a good one, not too wind-ey, net downhill but not stupidly so, with only a few short rolling up-hills, and the ability to drop your own bottles is in my book a HUUUUUUGE plus. And, it's not really that expensive as long as you don't wait too long to sign up. We had nice weather & temps Sunday, BUT, like I said, there have been plenty of years in the past where it's been rainy or stupid hot or just kind of muggy & unpleasant. (This is in contrast to, say, a CIM, where, yes, there's a CHANCE something miserable might occur, but the weather & temps are *reasonably* reliable from year to year.) So I think that if you sign up for it as a goal race, just know that you'll need to watch the forecast & potentially change your expectations if the weather is not great.

Seriously, though--I was pleasantly surprised by nearly everything about this race, start to finish, and I will definitely keep it in mind for the future.


  1. The swag! Oh my gosh! I think if I had that shirt I'd wear it ALL THE TIME. I would love to make it my nightshirt and see my husband's face. He'd be tickled. That's just about the oddest design choice I've ever seen.
    Re: road quality: When I race down here, it's totally flat, and really ideal conditions for a PR unless there is some freak weather (like 80's in winter, which HAS happened...). But when the elites run races, they never mention the perfect flatness or below-sea-level altitude. Nope, they just complain about the potholes! Sometimes I forget just how terrible our roads here are.

  2. Your reviews (and Miss Zippy's) have made me want to run this race. Thanks so much! Agreed on that swag... I would never wear it and it would just end up sitting in my pile of race clothes.