Wine country conjures images of a relaxing afternoon visiting tasting rooms, but there’s another way to take in the vineyards and surrounding vistas. This Saturday, about 3,000 runners will endure the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which winds from Santa Ynez to Los Olivos to Solvang, where it culminates in a wine and music festival featuring the country band Calico and an award ceremony under the gazebo.
What’s it take to make the podium? “It’s about redefining limits,” said last year’s winner, Goleta native Ramiro “Curly” Guillen. “I train myself to dig deep and run harder the more tired I get. Small chunks of race paced with rest periods between, and as the race gets closer, longer segments with shorter recovery. There’s always another level to get to, and that’s what motivates me: releasing the beast within.”
A high school, college, and university track standout coached by Terry Howell, the recent participant in the Boston Marathon has been racing seriously for the last four years. “When I line up at the start line, I like to shoot to the front right away, see who the competition is going to be,” said Guillen. “Then I make them work for it. Last year, me and second-place finisher Richard Chelimo battled back and forth for 12 miles, and it wasn’t until the last downhill that I made my move. I didn’t back off sprinting at all.”
Kicking off May 6 with a welcome reception at Coquelicot Estate Vineyard, the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon is no run-of-the-mill footrace, though you will pass a windmill near the finish line. Whether you come to “leave it all there on the road,” run a two-person relay, or form a team to get the job done, the event has legs.