Jan. 23, 2014
For immediate release
USATF leader, CIM co-founder runs into SRA Hall of Fame
(Seventh in a series highlighting the eight members of the Sacramento Running Association’s 2014 Hall of Fame class. Today: John Mansoor)
John Mansoor’s contributions to the running world cover more ground than a marathon.
As a runner, he won a section cross country championship at Mira Loma High School, went on to compete for Ohio State, ran a 2:18 marathon and resurfaced years later as a top Masters competitor.
As a race founder and director, he took a vision and turned it into the California International Marathon, which in its 31 years has evolved into a beloved treasure in the local sports community.
As an executive director, he guided the Sacramento Running Association and USA Track & Field’s Pacific Association to success and helped bring major meets like the U.S. Olympic Trials and the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships to town.
For his efforts, Mansoor is scheduled to be inducted into the SRA’s Hall of Fame at a dinner on Saturday night at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento with his wife, Heike Skaden Mansoor, and the other members of the class of 2014: Al Baeta, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Patti Gray Bellan, Harold Kuphaldt, Michael Stember and Tim Twietmeyer.
The 2014 honorees join the inaugural SRA Hall of Fame class inducted last year: Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Billy Mills, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith.
The SRA will also present its Annual Achievement Awards, including Athlete of the Year to Shadrack Biwott.
“The most important thing is it’s great to be recognized by your peers,” Mansoor said. “It makes you part of that group. That’s a big honor to be amongst these athletes and coaches.”
Mansoor, 58, ran for legendary coach Bob King at Mira Loma, winning the Sac-Joaquin Section individual cross country title in 1972, running a 4:19 mile and showing enough talent to continue his running career at Ohio State.
“It taught me hard work, discipline,” Mansoor said of his 125-mile weeks in high school. “It also didn’t make me afraid of hard work. It served me well as a marathoner.
“I ran well when I didn’t think about the race. I tended to run best when I wasn’t thinking about it.”
Mansoor battled illness and the cold at Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes finish second one year in the Big Ten Cross Country Championships. He ran a personal best of 2:18:34 in the marathon before a back injury forced him to stop running.
Before Mansoor stopped competing, a bad experience in the Sacramento Marathon in 1979 prompted him to help start the CIM.
He was chasing leader Dennis Rinde on the return leg of the out-and-back course when he found himself dodging slower, oncoming runners.
“I felt like a salmon going upstream,” he said. “Nobody would move. I started running on people’s lawns.
“I got to mile 18 and said, ‘This is stupid.’ I dropped out. I was very disappointed.”
Mansoor remembers going into his job the next day at McIntosh Sports Cottage and telling race organizer John McIntosh changes needed to be made.
“He said, ‘I’m doing well. I’m not going to change anything. If you think you can do better why don’t you start your own marathon?’” Mansoor said.
With the help of CIM co-founder Sally Edwards and numerous others in the Sacramento community, Mansoor did. He had long enjoyed the view from the top of Folsom Dam and envisioned a course finishing at the state Capitol.
The first CIM was held in 1983.
“I never doubted it for a minute,” he said. “I was never looking more than a year ahead. I wasn’t looking 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road.
“All I wanted was to have a quality marathon in this town and be able for people to run Olympic Trials qualifying times and fast PRs and Boston Marathon qualifying times.”
All that happened. And when Mansoor took over from Brooks Johnson as executive director of USATF’s Pacific Association, he was in a position to make a major impact on the region.
He helped bring a number of major track events to Sacramento, including the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2000 and 2004 and the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
“They’re so huge,” he said of the Trials. “There were a lot of people involved to get them. It took a team.”
Mansoor takes great pride in bringing an IAAF Grand Prix meet to Reno in 1994 and 1995 that featured plenty of innovation: a sports book, Elvis on stilts at the pole vault, showgirls at the finish line and a fantasy track competition for fans. Michael Johnson set a world indoor record (44.97, 400 meters) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee established a U.S. indoor mark (6.67, 50-meter hurdles) in the 1995 meet.
“What mattered was we were getting publicity,” Mansoor said. “We finally became something besides the Olympics every four years.”
He also directed the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 1992 and 1996, put on the San Francisco Marathon from 1992-1997, closing the Golden Gate Bridge for the start, directed the Disneyland Marathon in 1995 and served as meet director for the Golden West Invitational from 1994-1997 and 2004-2012.
As Mansoor’s children – Alex, 25, and Jackie, 21 — grew up, Mansoor dabbled in coaching and eventually found himself getting serious about running again to keep up with the kids at Oak Ridge High School.
When they didn’t listen to his advice, Mansoor realized he needed to show them, not tell them.
“I was getting dropped and dropped basically by freshmen girls,” he said. “It kept me going more and more and more. I simply was going to show these kids, get respect from them.
It took four years to get in any kind of shape … eventually it became a great coaching tool. Nobody wanted to get beat by the old coach.”
Mansoor wound up training for the 2010 USA Masters Track & Field Championships at Sacramento State. He finished second in the 10,000 meters in the 55-59 age group with a 36:54.80 performance.
He delivered again in the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento, helping the U.S. win the gold medal in 55-59 division of the 8k cross country race. His 29:55.1 effort placed him sixth individually.
“I go into these races and I’m surprised I’m as good as I am,” Mansoor said. “I’m still running simply to keep up with the kids.”
The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.