GOING THE DISTANCE Rod Farvard, top finisher in the men’s marathon during the Lake Sonoma 50, midway through the course on Saturday, April 13. (Photos from Lets Wander Productions)

The annual Lake Sonoma 50, the local ultrarunning classic that’s bringing international talent to the April competition, faced the unexpected for last Saturday’s races—cold weather and rain that put a damper on the event and created an often muddy course, especially for those who followed the leaders.

MUDRUNNER A competitor shows off his muddy shoes, legs and shirt (and a welcome bottle of wine) at the finish line of the Lake Sonoma 50 on April 13.

Regardless, high-caliber runners turned the challenge into course records—perhaps finding the damp 50-degree weather preferable to the 80-degree-plus temperatures of previous years.

Francesco Puppi, a 32-year-old professional mountain runner from Como, Italy, set a new course record of 6:30:17, 14 minutes and 3 seconds faster than Drew Holman’s 2023 time of 6:44:20. Puppi is a Nike-sponsored trail runner, and world champion at 2017 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships.

Second place was claimed over an hour later by 37-year-old Daniel Button of Idaho (7:48:59), while Healdsburg’s Grant Hotaling, 40, placed third (7:52:19).

Hotaling, who grew up in Healdsburg and now manages Santa Rosa’s Treehorn Books, said it was his fourth time competing in the Lake Sonoma 50. “The course is pretty good, mostly single track—not a lot of rocks or roots,” he said. But it had rained much of the night before, and that eventually made an impact.

Skip Brand, of Healdsburg Running Company, was especially proud of Hotaling appearing on the same podium as a world-class athlete like Puppi. “He runs Lake Sonoma every single Saturday,” Brand said. “For him to be able to compete against 20-year-old pups at this level is the story.”

SHOW RUNNER Grant Hotaling, of Healdsburg, is a Lake Sonoma 50 regular. He came in third in the April 13, 2024 race.

Said Hotaling, “I didn’t have an issue running toward the front, but there were a couple areas where the water just sat in—on the return leg,  it was crazy to see how transformed the surface was thanks to the pounding of a thousand feet.”

There were 627 registered runners for the race, though not all of them finished.

Women’s Times

The women’s division for the 50-miler was a nailbiter, as the top three women ran closely together throughout the entire race. Lindsay Allison, 28, from Telluride, Colorado, took first in 8:44:11, only 33 seconds faster than Anna Fisher, 31, of Midway, Utah, in 8:44:44. In third place was 28-year-old Andrea Stofko, of Salt Lake City, in 8:47:48.

“Watching the runners work through unpleasant conditions for multiple hours always leaves me feeling so inspired and excited for next year’s event,” said Gina Lucrezi of Trail Sisters, which took over operation of the run in 2022. “Lake Sonoma 50 founder John Medinger really did create a relentless and grueling race, and I truly believe that runners who take on the course are some of the toughest in the country and abroad!”

The full distance of the race, from the Warm Springs Recreation area around the narrow Warm Springs Creek arm of Lake Sonoma and back, was 50.8 miles. A shorter marathon-length run returned over the Skaggs Springs bridge.

Marathon Records

Course records were set in the marathon distance as well. Rod Farvard, of Mammoth Lakes, finished first in 3:14:23, cracking Coree Woltering’s 2023 record of 3:43:35. Among the women, Brittnay Charboneau, of Denver, finished first in 3:41:23, taking Jennifer Lichter’s 2023 record of 3:49:26.

Trail Sisters also sponsored a Women’s Half Marathon on Friday, April 12. Ruby Lindquist took home the prize for the 13.1-mile race in 1:48:50, just shy of Klaire Rhode’s 2023 record time of 1:46:27.

CROSSING Paddy O’Leary (right) and Gus Gibbs cross Warm Springs Creek during the Lake Sonoma 50 on April 13.

“Course Director Skip Brand marked the course to perfection, so there was no problem for runners finding their way in the muck and wet conditions,” Lucrezi said.

Brand said more than 100 volunteers helped prepare for the race weeks prior, as well as on race day. They do it for different reasons—not just for the love of running, but for the cause. The Lake Sonoma 50, founded in 2008, is a benefit for the Vineyard Workers Scholarships Fund.

“Though the conditions were unfavorable for some, the cool temps and soft footing certainly benefited others,” Lucrezi said. “I’m incredibly proud of everyone who toed the line this weekend. They showed up and fought hard, and hopefully celebrated properly … we are in Wine Country!”

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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