Nov. 6, 2012
Twelfth 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

Four-person event energizes runners to tackle marathon
The idea was to give runners a taste of the marathon atmosphere, hoping they’d get fired up enough to want to run the whole 26.2 miles.

By that standard alone, the California International Marathon’s Relay Challenge has evolved into a huge success.

The four-person relay, introduced in 1991, has helped grow the marathon field and developed into a competitive event of its own.

“Our plan all along was to get non-marathoners out there to see the event, get excited about it, then think ‘maybe I can run a marathon,’” said race director John Mansoor, who is expecting more than 9,300 marathoners, 4,400 relay runners and 2,000 Kaiser maraFUNrun entrants for the 30th anniversary CIM on Dec. 2.

“We thought that would get the 10k people out there, get them excited. Sure enough, just exactly like we’d hoped, we’ve had so many people start with the relay and then run the marathon.

“It just becomes a stepping stone. They get excited just because of the whole atmosphere.”

Southwest Airlines sponsored the original relay, which drew about 15 teams. Sutter Health won the Large Company Men’s division in 2:40:56, with California Chamber claiming the Co-ed title in 3:24:50 and Original Pete’s Pizza winning the Small Company Men’s Division in 3:08:19.

A high school division was added in 1994 — Oakmont won in 2:58:11 – setting the stage for future growth. A Political Animals Divison was added in 2005 and a Police-Fire Division in 2007.

The relay kept growing, attracting about 200 teams in 1999, 350 in 2005 and close to 500 in 2006. This year’s field is expected to include 1,100 teams.

Relay legs are 5.9 miles, 7.6 miles, 7.0 miles and 5.7 miles, with exchange points coming at Oak Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard, Manzanita Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard and Munroe and Fair Oaks Boulevard. Teams can also compete in the relay with two runners each covering a half marathon.

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.