12/02/2011, 4:33pm PST

Ethiopians, Kenyans expected to challenge in close men’s, women’s races

Dec. 2, 2011
For immediate release

Canada’s Dylan Wykes made a bold early move in last year’s California International Marathon, leading from the start and holding on to win by 75 yards.

Kenya’s Jonathan Ndambuki took a different path five years ago, outsprinting Ethiopia’s Kassahun Kabiso to win by a single step in a dramatic finish on Capitol Mall.

The 29th annual CIM could play out either way on Sunday, with a top international field of runners looking for the best way to get to the finish line first.

Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Alemayehu and Kenya’s John Njoroge, Erick Monyenye and Benson Cheruiyot head the men’s field. On the women’s side, Ethiopian Serkalem Biset-abrha, Kenya’s Salome Kosgei, Poland’s Wioletta Kryza and Russia’s Elena Orlova look like the top contenders in the 26.2-mile test from Folsom to the state Capitol.

The race, founded and organized by the Sacramento Running Association and presented by Kaiser Permanente, begins at 7 a.m.

Alemayehu, 27, delivered a 2-hour, 12-minute, 23-second performance at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in San Diego in June. Njoroge ran 2:12:53 in Grandma’s Marathon, also in June. Monyenye is coming off a 2:12:10 effort in the Torreon Marathon in March and Cheruiyot posted a 1:03:07 effort at Grandma’s Half Marathon.

Kenya’s Joseph Mutinda, who finished fourth in the CIM last year in 2:14:01, is also expected to contend.

“It’s going to be a close race,” CIM race director John Mansoor said. “I don’t see a clear-cut favorite.”

Biset-abrha, 24, ran a personal best 2:32:22 at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6. Kosgei, 32, is no stranger to Sacramento; she ran with 2010 CIM women’s winner Buzunesh Deba for 21 miles before dropping out.

If they falter, look for veterans Kryza and Orlova to challenge. Kryza, 43, won the 2007   CIM in 2:39:20. Orlova, 41,  ran a personal best 2:34:16 at the Detroit Free-Press Marathon in 2004.

“If Serkalem (Biset-abrha) can’t run ahead of the field, this becomes a close race,” Mansoor said. “The 40-year-olds, they’re going to run well.”

Cool, sunny conditions are forecast. Wind could be the factor that alters race plans.

“If there’s any kind of head wind at all, even in the 10 mph range, that will affect the men’s race more than the women,” Mansoor said. “It will become a real strategic race.”

The men’s and women’s winners will earn $10,000, with the runners-up taking home $5,000 each and the third-place finishers $2,500 each.

American Jerry Lawson set the men’s course record of 2:10:27 in 1993. Australia’s Nickey Carroll owns the fastest women’s time, a 2:29:21 effort in 1999.

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.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.