Get to know Matt Dockstader, the Race Director for The Hallowine Run (formerly known as The Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon)

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The Hallowine Run (http://hallowinerun.com) includes a 10K, a 7 miler, and a half marathon. While the 10K is sold out, the 7 miler and the half marathon are still open! You can get $10 off this awesome, local, wine infused running party with the SWEAT19 promo code through EOD 10/15! Sign up at the Hallowine Run (http://hallowinerun.com) website.

The Marathon Du Medoc served as a catalyst for you to create your own iconic, wine themed race. What did you experience at this event that inspired you to create your own event?

I was fortunate to connect with the race director of Marathon du Medoc (a heart doctor). He was very generous with his time and gave me a peek behind the scenes. I saw all the awesome elements of this unique event including 8,000 bottles of wine they distribute at the event (one for each finisher).

I was struck by how the region of Medoc supports the event. The “water stops” in the towns all have locally produced food items set up alongside not only water, but also small cups of wine. Many of the famous wine chateaus open their gates to the public and let runners on the grounds as part of the course.

Each year, there is a different theme for Marathon Du Medoc and nearly everyone runs in costume. The event is quite a spectacle whether you’re running or spectating. My experience at Marathon Du Medoc inspired me to create something similar in Sonoma County. The seeds for the Hallowine Run were planted.

Your event has been around since 2008. It was formerly known as The Healdsburg Wine Country Half. But, it’s back this year as The Hallowine Run. Aside from a new name, what else is new for the event this year?

I elected to change the name of the event to better represent what this event is all about, a celebration of wine, harvest, and Halloween. Additionally, the race is held in the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, a few miles from the towns of Healdsburg and Geyserville. We’re also returning to the original half marathon course starting at Francis Ford Coppola Winery and finishes at the Warm Springs Recreation Area and the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center.

The course is surrounded by multi-colored vineyards and runners will pass over 20 wineries along the way up Dry Creek Valley. We’ve added a 10K and runners will now have the option of running the first half or second half of the course.

Once you cross the finish line, the Wine & Music Festival begins! All runners receive a commemorative Hallowine Run wine glass for wine sampling from many of the wineries in the area. The festival includes local bands, food trucks, awards ceremony and exhibitors, yoga stretching, and a costume contest where the best team and individual costumes can also win wine.

We also have a special wine stopper finisher medal this year that all half and 10K runners will get when they cross the finish line!

The Hallowine Run always falls on the last Saturday in October. Not surprisingly, you attract a ton of costumed runners. What’s the craziest costume you’ve seen at your race? BTW, what’s the prize for winning the costume contest this year?

The idea of running in costume was inspired by my experience at Marathon du Medoc. In an effort to encourage this at the Hallowine Run, we added a costume contest to the post-race Wine & Music festival. This provides a fun way to showcase the creative costumes we see every year. There are so many clever (and crazy) costumes, that it’s hard to pick just ONE.

So, I’ll give you a few. Several years ago, a group of four women ran as the ‘four seasons’ (summer was fastest and winter was the slowest). Another large team would run as their favorite SF Giants players when they were in the midst of winning their 3 World Series in October. And some guy actually ran the entire race in a gorilla costume as Curious George. He was drenched in sweat when he finished, but he kept his monkey suit on during the entire awards ceremony!

One of the things we love about your race is the finish line festival complete with WINE, live music, and food trucks. Can you shed some light on what wineries will be pouring, the musicians who will be performing, and what kind of post race food will be available?

T-Luke and Tight Suits are a fun, dance-inspiring Zydeco band playing the festival. Yea, Paella!, Farmer’s Wife and Bruschetta Bar will be the food vendors and our wineries are listed on the website as they come in. We expect close to 20 local wineries and we’ll also have the Lagunitas beer garden.

I once heard someone describe producing races as akin to being a ‘kamikaze pilot’. You’ve got everything flying at you simultaneously and you just have to stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize. Does this description resonate for you? If so, do you have any crazy race production stories to tell us from your decade plus of doing this kind of work?

Oh, for sure! You can do all the advance planning you want, but on race weekend unexpected stuff always comes up. I call it Murphy’s ‘Event’ Law. You need to be able to react on the fly using common sense and your experience.

I have many crazy stories from various races I’ve worked on. At this race we’ve had a house fire on course just prior to the start of the race. Another year we had a major rain that turned the winery parking lot into mud. We had no choice but to move the wine tasting indoors. But, it was ultimately still a great post-race party, just a lot more intimate!

In 2017, I had to cancel the race due to the massive wine country wildfires. But, we still held an informal run on race day and handed out shirts and other goodies. Many of the wineries hosted anyone that was registered for the race and was in town, which turned out to be a lot of people.

I never go into an event expecting a disaster, but you do need to be prepared to handle adversity. There are a lot of moving parts coming at you simultaneously. It’s exciting, but not something to fear. It’s a great feeling once the race is wrapped and you’ve successfully managed the inevitable adversity. I think that’s where the Kamikaze Pilot reference ends.

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