Dec. 3, 2014
For immediate release

Fast course, cool weather, big crowds lend a hand

The California International Marathon starts in Folsom and winds through Orangevale, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, Carmichael and Sacramento before heading to a glorious finish at the state Capitol.

Where the CIM really leads to, though, is Boston.

The connection spans nearly 3,000 miles, stays strong every year and keeps bringing runners back to the CIM for another chance to earn a Boston Marathon qualifying time.

And many do. Of the 2013 CIM’s 6,206 starters, 1,280 earned a Boston Marathon entry, a 20.63 percent rate that ranks first among the top 20 marathons with the most Boston qualifiers (not counting Boston itself).

Look for another wave of runners to

punch their tickets to Boston on Sunday in the 32nd annual CIM. The race, put on by the Sacramento Running Association, begins at 7 a.m.

The CIM has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the best places to earn a Boston qualifying time, its slightly downhill course, generally cool weather and supportive crowds helping produce fast times.

Runners World took notice in 1994, publishing a story that ranked the CIM fifth on its list of best marathons to achieve a Boston qualifying time. The CIM route developed a reputation as “The fastest course in the West.”

The CIM also helps runners with their Boston goals by supplying more than 30 pace team leaders for 18 different Boston qualifying times (based on age and gender).

“Every successful event has an identity, and the CIM’s identity is deeply connected to its calling card as ‘the fastest course in the West,’” SRA Executive Director Scott Abbott said. “This is more than just a tagline. The CIM has earned that title after 32 years of runners from all over the world coming to Sacramento every December floating over forgiving terrain and under forgiving weather to earn Boston qualifiers, Olympic Trials qualifiers, personal records and achieving life-long goals.

“The CIM has embraced this identity by turning over every possible stone to help runners trying to achieve fast times … the CIM truly is a runner’s race.”

Those who’ve realized their Boston dreams in Sacramento savor the CIM, a 26.2 mile test that starts with a rural feel and gently rolling hills before taking on a flatter, more urban feel later in the race.

Sacramento’s Rich Berson found the promised land in his 20th marathon, earning his first trip to Boston with a minute or two to spare in the 2013 CIM.

At 45, he’s going to Boston in April thanks to a 3:22:56 effort that bettered the 3:25 age-group mark he needed to head East.

“I’ve run courses that are supposed to be fast,” he said, noting his three or four fastest marathons have come at CIM.

“The combination of a fast course and having it be my hometown marathon helps. I get to sleep in my own bed and see people I know on the course.”

Julie Hughes, 50, of Citrus Heights has qualified for Boston “three or four times” at the CIM. Her most recent success came last December when she delivered a 3:56:49 effort, more than three minutes faster than her 4-hour age-group standard.

One of the keys to success, she said, was holding back during the gently rolling hills and waiting for the flat second half of the course to gain time.

“It’s so hard not to get excited those first 12 miles,” she said.

Especially with the crowd, which typically reaches 50,000, cheering you on.

“Certain areas, the spectators are awesome,” Hughes said. “Oak and Fair Oaks (mile 6), Old Fair Oaks (mile 10) … Once you hit L Street (mile 24), they’re going to carry you to the finish line.

“The spectators are just amazing … no matter what the weather.”

And the weather is typically good, with temperatures in the 40s at the start and the 50s or 60s at the finish.

Hughes also likes the mid-sized field.

“That’s another reason CIM is so attractive,” she said. “It seems to me they’re keeping it just right.”

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new 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.