Oct. 30, 2012
Seventh in a series of the top 30 moments from the California International Marathon’s colorful history. The 30th anniversary race is on Dec. 2. By John Schumacher

Inspired by Kenny King, event grows since 1988
Muffet McCleneghan got hooked on the California International Marathon’s 2.62-mile Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun when she was a teacher at Twin Lakes Elementary School in Orangevale.

She would run with her-second grade students around the grass field, encouraging them to put in enough miles to be ready for the race and to accumulate the full 26.2-mile marathon distance by the end of the fall training program.

Today, she’s retired but still well-connected to the Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun, which since its start in 1988 has given local kids a chance to improve their health and fitness and develop a love of running.

“I have kids in college and beyond who are still runners who got their start in that,” said McCleneghan, who oversees the event as the Sacramento Running Association’s Youth Fitness Director.

“It’s a big deal for the kids.”

And for McCleneghan, who marvels at how the race has grown into an event with more than 2,000 participants.

“It’s just grown by leaps and bounds,” she said. “It’s my pet.”

The event replaced the CIM Celebrity 5k Challenge in 1988 after the death of Kenny King, an avid fitness buff who at 77 had been the CIM’s oldest finisher. With the help of King’s son, Ken. Jr., race officials helped develop a youth fitness program dedicated to King.

The first maraFUNrun was called the Kenny King Fun Run.

McCleneghan’s two daughters were among the many runners who went through the Youth Fitness Program and wound up running in the CIM.

The idea was to keep mileage logs and accumulate 26.2 miles by the end of the Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun. The program has since expanded to include spring and summer training and the opportunity to earn ribbons for completing up to 100 miles.

“I’ve seen whole families turn around their eating habits and body image,” said McCleneghan, who trained her students for the event from 1993-2010.

“I always ran with my kids. I think it makes a big difference. It’s a program we’re proud of.

“It’s a whole game changer when you’re bitten with the bug.”

The Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun is open to all ages. The race starts at 8 a.m. at 9th Street and Capitol Mall and ends at the CIM finish line.

The CIM is put on by the Sacramento Running Association, 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.

Other SRA events include the just concluded Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon, the Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3 and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7.

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