Race Report: Running Through Wine Country

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half-Marathon has gorgeous views and, of course, mid-race wine.

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Fog curling through rolling valleys. Breathtaking vistas over the green vineyards. Sun shining on hills blanketed in golden mustard. It all seemed surreal, like a Hollywood production, but it wasn’t. It was the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half-Marathon, presented by Newton Running. The race winds through the region made famous in the 2004 movie “Sideways” and finishes with a fabulous wine tasting in the picturesque town of Solvang.

It seems fitting that forty-six years after Kathrine Switzer’s historic run in the Boston Marathon, a race like the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon should highlight how far women’s running has come. Competing on Mother’s Day weekend, over seventy percent of the 3,200 runners were women: mothers, daughters, and wives joined by fathers, sons, and husbands.

“Women are the heart and soul of running in America,” reflected Craig Heisner, President of Newton Running. “They bring camaraderie and friendship along with their competitive spirit.”

This year, Erica Kinser and Keith Kempka chose to wed during the half marathon, immediately after the mid-race wine stop. Ducking into a church in Los Olivos, with pink and yellow Newton running shoes complementing their running wedding garb, they completed a quick ceremony on their way to a 2:30 finish.

The race was the first in the Destination Races Wine Country Series, seven races held in unique regions across the continent, from Virginia to Napa Valley to British Columbia. The races continue to grow in popularity with the flagship Napa to Sonoma race selling out in thirty-minutes. Small entry fields, beautiful wine country destinations, and a chance of a luxurious escape are reasons for their popularity. Not to mention that women’s participation in half marathons is growing year after year.

To sign up for the remaining 2014 races, visit