Napa-to-Sonoma is the flagship event in the Wine Country Half Marathon Series. This popular race features a fast and scenic course starting at Cuvaison Carneros Winery and finishing in historic Sonoma Plaza in front of City Hall. The world-renowned Napa and Sonoma Valleys serve as the host of this event, offering the finest in wine country ambience and hospitality.
This race sells out each year on the day registration opens, so take a look at your Registration Options and mark your calendars! Run.Sip.Explore. with us and find out what all the hype is about!
We are celebrating the 15th Anniversary of this bucket list race amongst other accomplishments; the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon was recently named as one of the Top 20 Half Marathons in the BibRave 100!
This scenic and fast 13.1 mile course starts at Cuvaison Carneros Winery where runners congregate in one of the most beautiful start areas anywhere. You’ll warm up next to the winery alongside rows of rolling vineyards and a reservoir. Runners must be dropped at the entrance to the winery by bus or by vehicle in the Domaine Carneros parking lot. There is NO parking there or anywhere near the start area!
Out of the starting gate, you’ll take a left turn on Duhig Rd. and make your ascent up Butt Burner Hill. Once over the crest it’s a beautiful cruise downhill into the Carneros wine appellation. Enjoy vistas of the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Preserve, San Pablo Bay and Mt. Tamalpais in Marin as you wind through hundreds of rolling acres of vineyards and wineries. The course also passes ranches and farms filled with a variety of animals including horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, chickens and donkeys.
Half Marathon Race Start – Sun: 07-15-18 | 7:00 AM
This scenic and fast 13.1 mile course starts at Cuvaison Carneros Winery where runners congregate in one of the most beautiful start areas anywhere. Please note: there is NO parking there or anywhere near the start area!
Post-Race Wine + Music Festival – Sun: 07-15-18 | 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Celebrate your 13.1 accomplishment in style as you taste from over 35 local wineries and enjoy the Lagunitas Beer Garden. One Wine Glass with wine tasting is included with your half marathon registration, however one additional wine glass may be purchased for guests during race registration or race extras. Guest admission is $40 per person and all guests must be 21+.
Location – Sonoma Plaza, 453 1st St E, Sonoma, CA 95476
Race Day Transportation There is a runner drop area but absolutely NO parking at the start of the half marathon! All participants will either need to take a bus to the start or be dropped off in the Runner Drop at Domaine Carneros. There is a viewing area at mile 2 on Las Amigas Rd. and cars can be parked temporarily on the side of that road.
Spectators that wish to view the start of the race at Cuvaison must be dropped off or take a bus to the start from one of the transportation areas. Buses will be provided to Sonoma Plaza for spectators after the start of the race.
Bus Transportation Bus transportation to the start area is provided from Sonoma and Napa. Arrive early for bus transportation to avoid lines or full buses and allow time for warm up. Buses are for runners only. NO spectators please. Buses drop on the shoulder of Duhig Rd near Domaine Carneros.
IMPORTANT: If the last scheduled bus is full, you will need to take a cab or Uber, or have a friend drop you off in the auto drop zone at Domaine Carneros. There is NO PARKING near the start. Free parking is provided at main Sonoma and Napa bus locations. If you are forced to leave a car, the closest spot will be on the shoulder of Old Sonoma Road approximately one mile from the start. NO return transportation will be provided to this location.
Please note that Team Challenge buses are not indicated here, they depart to Start Area from Team Challenge partner hotels.
BUSES TO START AREA (Cuvaison Carneros Winery – 1221 Duhig Rd, Napa)
Downtown Sonoma – 216 1st St. East 1 block north of Sonoma Plaza – Next to Little League Field. Parking available in Veterans Building Parking Lot 5:20am to 6:25am Buses depart every 5 minutes. See Parking below
Sonoma Mission Inn 100 Boyes Blvd, Sonoma HOTEL GUESTS ONLY! 5:40am and 5:55am ONLY
Best Western Inn at the Vines 100 Soscol Ave, Napa 5:30am to 6:20am Buses depart every 10 minutes. Parking available at Napa Valley College (1/3 mile) or South Napa Marketplace Mall or Movie Theater Lots (1/4 mile – obey signs) – Do NOT park at Inn at the Vines or Denny’s parking lots (ticket or tow).
Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa 3425 Solano Ave Napa Marriott and Hilton Garden HOTEL GUESTS ONLY! 5:40am, 6:00am, and 6:15am ONLY
The majority of our volunteers come from partnering non-profit organizations on national, regional and local levels. Nearly 200 volunteers are needed to stage this event, and opportunities are available in a number of positions including registration check-in at the Race Expo, course monitors, wine glass distribution, bag check, recovery tent and medical support.
It is always a sold out event for a reason. First of all it is Napa County. It is an ultimate runcation. I love the camaraderie of this race. Local or tourist they are all friendly and nice. The expo is nice but small unlike the L.A. races but being outdoors is different rather than some races in convention center. Weather was perfect. Hilly is ok. It is wine country. But there's a lot of uneven paves. It doesn't matter to me. If I can run a trail then I can definitely do this. I just love the whole vibe. You have to do the wine tasting if you are doing this race. It is worth it. But just like any other race there is a time limit. So you have to plan accordingly depending on your time so you can take advantage of the activities.
I had been very excited to do this race that has been labeled a "bucket list"... and I was greatly disappointed. They ran out of water at multiple aid stations!!! This was unacceptable! The race takes place on back country roads where runners do not have any access to water other than aid stations. I witnessed 2 ambulances coming to the aid of overheated runners during the first 6 miles of the course. I overheard many runners discussing their anger about not having water stocked at aid stations. My suggestion to the race staff is to oversupply the aid stations with water rather than have them run out.
Not enough buses to accommodate runners to starting line so they started the race late, on the hottest day of the year! Water stations were poorly set up and staffed and they ran out of water at several of the stations. They offered Nuun instead of gatorade...yuck! The course was advertised as fast, but the entire race was uphill, on a poorly maintained road, and there was no shade and limited scenery. The start failed logistically because there were no waves, and a ton of walkers that lined up in front as a result. I love running and wine so I was so disappointed that this race did not live up to my expectations. The only exception was the expo which was fabulous, had great vendors, and was set up well.
Before signing up for this race, I had heard great things. Actually, no, that's not true. I had just witnessed it selling out incredibly fast. (Reg opened at 9am and by noon, it was sold out.) I assumed that meant the race was "awesome."For your reference, the reg fee in 2015 was approx $130. THE COMMUNICATION Email communication leading up to the race was sparse. Organizers only sent a couple of emails about 3 days before the event. (And 1 of them mentioned we would see a lot of animals, but all I saw on the course were 2 Shetland ponies.)THE EXPO I had a hard time finding the expo location and arrived at the expo location about 5 minutes after they were already starting to clean up the vendor booths. Even so, there appeared to be very little to see. I was given the correct shirt size but didn't like it. My friend (who had gone to the expo earlier) was given a men's shirt (no v-neck) in the wrong size, so I offered to exchange my shirt and give it to her (since I didn't like it anyway). When I went back into the registration tables, I was told that I wouldn't be able to exchange it until tomorrow after the race. Except that I didn't understand why not when I had already arrived AFTER the expo was officially closed (it was the extra 1 hour after the expo closed but the reg tables were still open) so I think they shouldn't have expected too many people to still come to pick up AND there were piles and piles of shirts. Thankfully, another registration volunteer allowed the exchange. (And I just gave up my own shirt for my friend.) THE RACE I had a great time running with friends, and the post race festival was decent. (The best part of the post race festival was the Tri-Trip Trolley...OMG, so good!!)The weather was incredibly hot the day of the race, and the start time was delayed by about 10-15 minutes (so that didn't help the heat situation). I wish they had started a group of people right at 7am and then done a delayed start for the remaining people who were still in the port o potties (that would have broken up the crowd). THE SCENERY Views were pretty (rows and rows of vineyards). With that said, the views at Clo Cow (in nearby Petaluma) are also pretty but Clo Cow is much cheaper in comparison (also super hilly, but that's a different issue). THE COURSE It started on a slight uphill and then had rolling hills for most of the race. The hills weren't too big / difficult but still rolling. (N2S definitely has less hills and less difficult hills than Clo Cow in Petaluma, as mentioned above.)There were 2 bands on course (at miles 7 or 8 and 10). Really small race (capped at 3,500) but still pretty crowded because of everyone starting at one time. I'd say it didn't thin out until around mile 4 or 6. For what it's worth, at the start, there were lots of port-o-potties (so not a very long wait); at the finish, not as many of them (but also not as many people using them). THE SWAG The shirt is just OKAY...navy blue and "bamboo" material. Super soft but the design was unimpressive. (It actually matches the theme of their "destination races"). The medal is hideous. I can only attach 1 picture here, so I encourage you to search on instagram. It has a corkscrew and a bottle stopper and an eagle with a map. A friend said the eagle/map design may be recognizing a specific winery. If that's not true, then I have no idea what the design is related to and why they couldn't budget more money toward medal design (especially considering the high registration fee).The wine glass just says "Destination Races" and not "Napa to Sonoma" (so it's like they were trying to save money and whatever is left, they'll use on the other races in their series). A sponsor of the race had a game associated with the race bib - find another participant with your "solemate" and get a free pair of the socks. The problem? You AND that person had to show up at a booth at the finish line together. The game didn't account for people finding their solemate sometime during the race and then losing that person again (because of mismatched speed or injury, etc). It would have been better if you just needed to show a photo of you and your solemate on your phone.
This is one of the very best races I've run, hands down. It is a tiny run compared to many (maxes out at 3,500) and unlike many races allows LEGAL bib transfers for a mere $25.This race is seamless from start to finish. The bib transfer took all of 5 minutes. After I picked up my shirt and bib I tasted some Amy's gluten free pizza, looked at running duds, talking to the Krave jerky people, had a bottle of water and listened to the race director and then Meb! Race day was also flawless. Initially I was worried because I couldn't score a hotel room at the last minute, so I drove up that morning. No need to be worried, as transportation from Sonoma to Napa was well-organized and easy to access. I hopped on a bus and was at the starting line winery, which had coffee, porta potties, water, stretching area, and the usual.The course started with a hill near the front, which I kinda hated, but it was the only big-ish hill. Everything was beautiful! Most of the course was on smaller roads, shaded by trees. We ran through vineyards and past gardens and pretty homes. Even though the race was small, there were plenty of people out to cheer on the runners at various points on the course. All aid stations were well-stocked, including the wine "aid" station (which had itty bitty sample cups of red and white wine from one of the sponsors) and the "unofficial Guiness aid station" (which included a number of old pub signs, for selfie purposes).As the wound its way in towards downtown Sonoma, there were more spectators. Eventually the run hits the park in downtown Sonoma, where the finish line awaits. Finish line food and hydration were plentiful, and the chutes had lots of volunteers. After a banana and some other snacks, and a bottle of water and electrolytes, it was time for the after party!The after party had live music and wine tastings from a dozen or more wineries. Each finisher received a tasting glass, and we went from line to line, tasting everything. Winners and age group awards are announced from the stage, and many runners were joined by families and kids (who didn't drink wine, though their parents could buy a tasting wristband and glass). The busses back to Napa--where some host hotels were--ran regularly from the square back to Napa through the party and for a short time afterwards.The "worst" part of this race is that the medal is, in my opinion, a little boring. I loved the shirts, which were a purple-heathered tech material but did not scream "I AM A RUNNING SHIRT." I've worn mine quite a bit, which is unusual for me for race shirts. No, wait...the "worst" part of this race is that I entered the lottery and didn't get in for 2015. Whomp, whomp (sad trombone noise).Photos of the shirt, medal. starting line on my blog: http://www.trainwithbain.com/two-runs-through-wine-country/
I've done a lot of different races over the years, which means that I've also been to a lot of post race parties. Depending on the type of race, the location, the sponsors, and a number of other factors, post race parties can range from a couple tents with some snacks and beer all the way to full blown rock concerts. There's one post race party that really stands out in my mind though - so much so that even though I PR'd in the actual race itself, I still remember the post race party more than I remember the race.... and that's the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon.Now don't get me wrong though - the race itself is awesome too and even if it wasn't for the party, I would still recommend running it. In fact, it's probably one of the best half marathons I've ever done, for a number of reasons....The weather is super mild. I did the race in 2008 but from what I've heard it's pretty close to the same every year - slightly overcast and high 50's in the morning, warming up to high 60's / low 70's and sunny by midday (perfect conditions for growing wine grapes). This is already nice by itself, but what makes it even nicer is that the race is in the middle of July when it's not always easy to find places to run that aren't unbearably hot and humid. I've done races in April and May that weren't as mild as this one weather wise so it made for a really enjoyable experience.The course is amazingly scenic. The name of the race pretty much describes the course: the start line is in Napa, the finish line is in Sonoma and you spend the entire time running through rolling hills and vineyards to get from one to the other. Surprisingly, the course isn't as hilly as one would think based on the location (at least not compared to some of the nearby races like the San Francisco Marathon anyway) and elevation isn't an issue either. There are a few uphills and downhills but they're mostly gradual and with the scenery and mild temperatures, it's easy to forget that you're even running on them. Like I mentioned earlier, I PR'd in this race and I trained for it in Chicago where there are hardly any hills at all so they really weren't much of a factor on race day.Another thing I like about this course is that it's only a half marathon - there is no option to choose between a full or a half. This is an interesting distinction that a lot of people don't always think about but something that I've noticed at times is that when there's a race that has both a full and a half marathon, anyone who signs up for the half ends up walking around at the expo and start line saying "eh I'm just doing the half" when someone asks them which race they're doing, as if running 13.1 miles is somehow not as big of a deal. In a race like this, there's no need to ask because everyone is doing the same race. For anyone who really enjoys doing half marathons, if you haven't done a race like this before, you should really try to find one - knowing that every other runner at the start line has the exact same goal as you creates a completely different dynamic.There are also plenty of water tables, aid stations, restrooms, and other services available along the course.The best thing about the race though, like I said, is the post race party, which is basically a several hours long wine tasting fest. The way it works is that in addition to a finisher's medal, every runner also gets a wine glass when they cross the finish line. Then right on the other side of the finish line is a series of tents with dozens of local wineries offering free samples... along with crackers, cheese, and other snacks. You just bring your finisher's wine glass around to the various tents and sample whatever you're interested in. The party lasts throughout the afternoon (so if you want to head back to your hotel and shower and change first, there's plenty of time) and by then it's a little warmer out so you can relax in the sun and drink wine or go for a walk around downtown Sonoma (which is a beautiful town) and check out some of the arts and crafts.... or if you're interested, you can pick your favorite wine and go on a tour of the winery since they're all local to the area and easy to get to.A couple quick tips for anyone that's interested in doing this race:Sign up early. This is not a huge race as far as the number of runners that are allowed to participate, but it is a really popular race (mostly for the reasons I mentioned above). Even though the race is in July, registration usually opens in the fall of the year before the race and tends to fill up pretty quickly. If you're planning on flying, there is an airport in Sonoma.... but it's a small regional airport and it's probably cheaper and easier from a scheduling standpoint to fly into either San Francisco or San Jose and drive (about 2 hours from either place and it's a nice scenic drive). That also gives you the opportunity to extend your trip by a couple days and head back down to San Francisco after the race.There are a lot of hotels in Napa and Sonoma. In most cases, when I travel for a race, I try to find the closest hotel to either the start or finish line (ideally within walking distance or one that has a shuttle) that also costs the least amount of money. This is one of the few cases where I would say that it actually is worth spending a little extra to stay at one of the boutique hotels that are listed on the race website. Most of the hotels in Napa and Sonoma are just as expensive as the ones on the site and there really aren't very many hotels that are super close to the start or finish lines anyway, so staying at a spa hotel with ponds and waterfalls and nice artwork and beautiful scenery will just enhance the whole Napa/Sonoma experience.The course is point-to-point so picking up your car after the race can be an issue. Unless you're planning on turning around and running the course in reverse after you finish, you won't want to park near the start line (and there isn't any official race parking there anyway). There are a few places to park at various spots along the course but if you're planning on driving, your best bet is to park near the finish line in Sonoma and take a shuttle bus to the start line so your car will be waiting for you when you finish the race.Enjoy - like I said, this was one of my favorite races and I really wouldn't even consider myself to be a big wine connoisseur (I'm more of a beer guy). The weather, the course and just the atmosphere during and after the race make it an awesome time and you'd be hard pressed to find a better Half Marathon in the middle of July.
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