Nov. 12, 2013
For immediate release

CIM’s new race director returns to running roots

Michelle La Sala grew up running on the American River bike trail with her Dad, competed with the Buffalo Chips Running Club and raced her way to a 10th place finish in the state cross country meet for Christian Brothers High School.

So while she’s built an impressive resume working for the New York City Marathon, the Los Angeles Marathon, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, her dream job just happens to be the one she took on earlier this year.

The one that’s brought her home.

La Sala, the California International Marathon’s first-year race director, sounds thrilled to be in charge of the annual 26.2-mile trek from Folsom to the state Capitol. The 31st annual race, put on by the Sacramento Running Association, is set for Dec. 8 at 7 a.m.

“Every weekend running on the bike trail I’ll see people who were Buffalo Chips when I was a kid,” La Sala said. “It’s a large running town. It’s a small running community. It means much more to me to be race director of CIM than if I were race director of the New York City Marathon.

“It’s more special.”

La Sala, 33, ran for the University of Portland, but a series of stress fractures kept her running career in check. She found a way to stay connected to the sport by working events from the inside.

“I fell in by accident,” she said. “I was done with college and kind of hanging around. I have close friends in the running industry. They invited me to live with them in their house in Pennsylvania. I traveled with them in the fall, wound up at the New York City Marathon helping out at the LA Marathon booth at the expo.

“I was trying to get people interested in running the LA Marathon.”

Five weeks later, she found herself working for the LA Marathon. And embarking on a new path through the running world.

La Sala went on to work for the New York City Marathon as the New York Road Runners Foundation Charity Team Coordinator, served as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training National Event Manager and gained more experience as Operations Manager for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York.

She landed a job as the CIM’s finish-line director in 2009, putting her in position to take over as race director when John Mansoor stepped down after a 30-year run earlier this year.

“This is where I want to be,” said La Sala, who also serves as race director for two other SRA events — the Super Sunday 10k Run and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run. “This is the job I want to have.”

Sacramento Running Association Executive Director Ellen Moore said La Sala’s skills and experience made her an ideal candidate for the job.

“Michelle brings a wealth of knowledge about race management, the Sacramento community and the sport of long-distance running to this position,” Moore said. “We are lucky to have someone with her skill set and commitment to this organization and community, in general, as our race director.

“She is so passionate about the Sacramento Running Association, the California International Marathon and, more importantly, all of our runners, spectators, staff and volunteers.”

La Sala learned along the way to deal with the details, become more assertive and hone her communication skills.

“In the early days I was much more shy and reserved,” said La Sala, who lives in Folsom. “I definitely have learned through experience, if something’s wrong, I need to step up and change it.

“One of the things I’ve tried to get on top of is you have to know about every single thing going on along the course. A race director could never do the job without the help of many, many people.”

Things don’t always go as planned. La Sala and her husband, SRA Technical Director Kevin Pool, finished the 2013 Boston Marathon before the bombings that killed three people and injured more than 250.

“Being there as a runner and participant, my first reaction when it happened is I was scared,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Where are my friends?’ knowing some of them could have been there and affected.

“It was a very unfortunate thing that happened. I understood what was happening. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

La Sala, who competes for the SRA Elite Team and ran a personal best 3:03:14 in Boston, noted the 2013 CIM will feature increased security and behind-the-scenes measures to make the event safer.

“We have a good relationship with local law enforcement,” she said. “They know they’re helping us do something for all these people.”

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.