De Villers, Moreno Win 2019 Half Marathon; 2019 event featured a revamped race route with a new start and finish line in downtown Solvang; Danish destination’s windmills and charm were on full display for thousands of participants

The Danish inspired destination of Solvang, California played host to thousands of runners at the thirteenth edition of the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon and relay on Saturday morning. Runners traveling from 33 states and 4 countries were greeted with near-perfect conditions at the sounding of the starting gun, clear blue skies and temperatures in the high 50s—optimal for both fast times and good times.

Leading the way was Matthew De Villers of Milwaukee, Wisconsin who recently moved to Monterey Bay with his wife. De Villers won the half-marathon with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 5 seconds — nearly five minutes ahead of his nearest competitor, Chris Gilbert, who took second in 1:16:56. His wife Katherine Irgens, who is active duty in the Navy, finished third overall in the women’s race.

“My wife is a great training partner, we met in the Navy six years ago and just moved to Monterey two months ago,” said De Villers on the couple’s podium finish. “It’s my first time running this race and it was a great event. The course was beautiful, running past all of the farms and vineyards. I’d love to come back next year and run it again.”

The women’s half-marathon was a closer affair with West Covina’s Lenore Moreno breaking the tape over Julie Stackhouse with a time of 1:19:55. It was an emotional victory for Moreno, who ran for Laverne in college, competing in her first race after recovering from a meniscus surgery so she was more-than-pleased with her performance on Saturday.

“This was my first time running this course, Solvang is such a beautiful city and my family used to vacation here, when I heard about the half-marathon I just had to do it,” said Moreno. “I loved the beautiful scenery, as an animal lover seeing all the ranches and equestrian facilities out there really helped calm me down and relax. It was so serene and peaceful.”

Besides the near-perfect race conditions, runners were also given another bonus along the course on Saturday: the incredible scenery that makes the Santa Ynez Valley so special, including charming, bakery-lined streets of Solvang; the quaint town of Los Olivos and miles of rolling hills lined with horse ranches, fruit orchards, lavender farms and vineyards. Race day concluded with a wine festival at the finish line featuring live music, fun and tastings from 20 local wineries.

“After a little rain during the expo yesterday, it was a truly a spectacular morning for the race with the green hillsides and vineyards and great to see so many spectators along the route,” said Alex Bennett, VP of Event Operations. “Changing the course, moving the start line and eliminating shuttles proved to be very popular with runners. Starting and ending in one location made it easier not only for the participants, but their family and friends out here supporting them. Combined with our new branding, enhanced production and finish line wine festival, no question that 2019 was one of our best years yet.”

The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon will be back in Solvang next May for its 14th edition. Runners can take advantage of an exclusive pre-registration period for 50% off final race weekend pricing through next Sunday, May 18 on the event website. For complete results, photos and more, follow @sbwinehalf on facebook and instagram.