Running Salinas

If it takes a village to raise a child, how much more is necessary to get an entire city up and running? A wide-ranging community effort is underway right now to accomplish exactly that goal, beginning with the first annual Salinas Valley Half Marathon which is scheduled for August 7th.

For the last several years, the only road race in the community has been Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital’s popular Heart and Sole 5K/10K, which just finished its 13th edition last weekend. However, for a town that’s supposedly committed to fighting the obesity epidemic, one lonely running event seems like it’s not nearly enough.

That’s why Karen Nardozza stepped up and started planning the Salinas Valley Half Marathon. Her vision is to develop a destination race that will also showcase the Valley’s world-class agriculture, wine, and tourism industries. The Salinas Valley Half Marathon is part of a larger non-profit agency she created to promote health, fitness, and community spirit in Salinas.

Karen gathered a who’s who of Salinas professionals with a track record of success to help plan and organize the race. The list includes retired Salinas City Manager Dave Mora, retired CEO of the Central Coast YMCA Sharron Gish, recent CEO of the Salinas Chamber of Commerce Tiffany D’Tullio, Kristina Morales from Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (who happens to be the race director of the Heart and Sole race), Francine Sullivan of Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, John Lewis, owner of National Property Inspections, and Brad Griffin of Alvarez Technology.

She is also getting advice and guidance from the Big Sur International Marathon organization and even had the foresight to have KION meteorologist Tamara Berg on the planning committee. Tamara, who recently ran her first marathon at Big Sur, has promised to try to predict perfect weather for August 7th.

The 13.1-mile half-marathon starts, somewhat fittingly, at Soledad Mission, the 13th Mission founded in California. The majority of the course runs north on Foothill and River Roads, traversing beautiful fields and vineyards with slightly rolling elevation changes before finishing among the vines at Pessagno Winery. Every finisher receives a medal as well as a Salinas Valley Half Marathon logo wine glass to use at the post race celebration.

As for that larger community effort: the Salinas YMCA is hosting training programs for the half marathon, and saw more than 200 people at the first training session on May 6th. Training sessions continue every Thursday at 6PM, alternating between advice and discussions at the YMCA, or group track sessions at Hartnell track. For more information, call Lulu Vargas at 758-3811.

Financially, Karen has generated overwhelming support from the Salinas business community, with generous support from Taylor Farms, Monterey Pacific, Rotary Club, D’Arrigo Brothers, Foodsource, Ocean Mist Farms, Mann Packing, Rabobank, Balance Physical Therapy, Advance Tech Aircraft, and UCP East Garrison, LLC. However, more support is still needed, so if you want to contribute or volunteer please contact Karen via e-mail at

This year’s inaugural event is already selling out quickly, with entrants from 17 different states and 2 foreign countries. The race will be capped at 1,000 runners, and the $55 race fee increases to $65 on June 1st, so we suggest that you sign up quickly on You can find any additional information about the race at

Whether you’re looking to run a beautiful half-marathon course, to support health promotion in your local community, or just be part of a wonderful day, get involved with the Salinas Valley Half Marathon to help get Salinas running again.


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