Calistoga endurance challenge sends runners ‘into the wild’ – Napa Valley Register

Calistoga endurance challenge sends runners ‘into the wild’  Napa Valley Register

Cynthia Sweeney

Before runners took off on Saturday for a 50K marathon to the top of Mount St. Helena — an 8,500-foot climb — the race’s organizer, Adam Ray, megaphoned, “It’s technical and challenging, have patience and watch out for underbrush.”  

“Technical” is runner parlance for rugged and rocky.

This is the fourth year that race promoter Scena Performance has brought the Napa Valley Endurance Run to Calistoga. Scena organizes athletic events across the state, but “This is by far the most difficult 50K we do. These are challenging miles. It always amazes me what people will do,” said Ray, also Scena’s founder.

The race was sold out with 150 eager athletes from across the country eager to participate in running events once again. The race is usually held in April, and was cancelled last year, due to the pandemic.

“I think everyone is really looking forward to the connection,” Ray said. “This race is epic so a lot of people pay attention to it. Calistoga has always opened its arms to this race and people love coming here for it.”

Runners started at Logvy Park, headed down N. Oak Street to Oat Hill Mine Trail, and “Out into the wild.”

The run to the top of the mountain can be all day for some, starting at 7:30 a.m. and finishing about 5:30 p.m. Sena partners with Palisades Vineyards for an aid station on the way up the mountain, otherwise, “There’s no way you’d be able to run a race like this without an aid station there,” Ray said.

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Those not quite up to the 50K could also participate in a half-marathon, or a 10K run.

Robert Covey of St. Helena ran the 10K as his wife, Hailey, who coached cheerleading in Calistoga from 2011 to 2015, cheered with pompoms from the sidelines.

“It’s nice to see people stepping back into activities they enjoy,” she said.

Challenging as the run is, the most difficult thing, participants agreed, was on the mental side.

Dianna Clock and David Williamson of Berkeley finished first in the 10K. Williamson grew up in Napa, and the couple met in a running group. This race was a first for both of them.

Williamson said he didn’t look at the course beforehand because “I didn’t want to get psyched out on the elevation, or the distance to the mountain from the start point,” he said. “I haven’t run races in two years and I didn’t want to think about it too much. (Still) It’s not what we expected.”

Steve Peterson, a sergeant in the St. Helena Police Department, and his son, Parker Boden, from Lake County, also ran the 10K. The two also participate in the Special Olympics Torch run each year, which runs from Calistoga to Napa.

Boden, 17, is a cross-country runner and said this was his fourth year participating in the run.

“I love the trail runs. Uphill sucks, sure, but it’s a great view at the top,” he said. “It’s one thing running up to an 800-foot level, and another to come down a rocky hillside dodging road bikers and casual hikers.”

Peterson admitted he doesn’t like running, but he’s done small marathons and turkey trots. “But I knew Parker would push me, and he was very encouraging. It was awesome. Very challenging, but my son motivated me,” he said.

Peterson also chided his son, “You’re not even sweating.” When it was pointed out that he was sweating a bit, “That’s just sympathy sweat,” Peterson laughed. But as for the course? “I’ll definitely do it again,” he said.

Sena also provides food and drinks for the entrants. Rob Ullman, from Pacifica, cut up fresh watermelon, bananas and tomatoes. Burgers were also served up. “All the stuff that runners will be happy to eat,” he said.

You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or

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