Nov. 16, 2012
Twentieth 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

Move in 2001 helps runners
If your goal is the Boston Marathon, the California International Marathon offers a great way to help you get there.

The CIM’s Celebrity Pace Team provides runners of varying abilities the chance to run with an experienced team leader whose main mission is to get runners to the finish at their goal time.

After debuting during the soggy 2001 CIM, the concept has helped many runners earn Boston Marathon qualifying times. Pace team leaders – there are 17 scheduled to run this year, with times ranging from 3 hours to 5:25 – carry signs with their group’s time goalon it.

All runners have to do is follow along. Pace wrist bands are also provided listing split times for each mile to stay on your desired pace.

Pacers take their job seriously.

“There’s a huge sense of responsibility,” said Bill Hambrick, a veteran marathoner and ultramarathoner who has served as a pace team leader several times.
“These people are counting on you. That just makes me really nervous.”

“It’s really giving back, helping someone reach a goal.”

Pacers hear plenty of praise at the finish.

“When husbands or families come up and say, what a great job, he or she couldn’t have done it without me, those types of kind words are really great to get to hear,” said Mike Hernandez, a veteran marathoner and ultramarathoner and a fixture on the CIM pace team.

“To know I played a role in these people’s dreams is just great.” Said Hambrick: “People tracking you down in the finish area afterward to thank you, that’s just really cool.”

CIM race director John Mansoor said helping runners get to Boston was the main reason the pace team was created 11 years ago.

“It was Boston qualifiers,” he said. “We felt CIM was the Boston of the West.

“Our number of people qualifying for Boston continues to go up. I think it’s worked pretty well.”

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 recently 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.