11/28/2011, 1:34pm PST

Sacramento’s Hitchings among those seeking a spot in U.S. field in Houston on Jan. 14

Nov. 28, 2011
For immediate release

Shortly after the winner crosses the finish line Sunday in the California International Marathon, the race within the race will head for a dramatic conclusion.

The field of 8,000 marathoners includes a few dozen runners hoping to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Jan. 14 in Houston.

With the qualifying window closing on Dec. 15, the CIM presents one final opportunity to earn a ticket to the Trials. The men’s standard is 2 hours, 19 minutes; women must run 2:46:00 or faster to qualify.

“We’re like the last chance,” CIM race director John Mansoor said.

The only thing standing between Sacramento’s Jen Hitchings and an Olympic Trials berth is 10 seconds. She ran 2:46:10 at the Eugene Marathon on May 1, a personal best by four minutes.

But 10 seconds short of a dream.

“That race was sort of bittersweet,” Hitchings said. “I was ecstatic. But then I burst into tears.

“It made me realize I’m going to have to do this again.”

At 48, she’s hoping Sunday’s her day. And she knows she’ll have company in pushing to attain the Trials standard.

“It’s going to be a nice pack of women to run with,” Hitchings said. ?

Hitchings said her training has gone well, but admits calf and Achilles’ injuries have left her short of 100 percent.

“I hope I’m OK for 26 miles,” she said. “I think that’s my biggest worry.”

Hitchings is hoping to join several other runners from the Sacramento area at the Trials. Elk Grove’s Mary Coordt, a coach with the Sacramento Running Association, Sacramento’s Jaymee Marty, Gold River’s Midori Sperandeo, Roseville’s Lindsay Nelson and Folsom product Natasha LaBeaud have all qualified.

Two Sacramento-area women qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials at the CIM five years ago, when the qualifying standard was 2:47. Sperandeo finished in 2:45:56 and Folsom’s Jen Pfeifer crossed the line in 2:46:20. Brad Poore of Davis attained the men’s standard of 2:22:00 that same year with a 2:21:51 effort.

Hitchings, who is married with two teen-age daughters, once doubted she had the stuff to be a Trials qualifier.

Now, she believes.

“I never ever would have thought I could have done it,” she said. “I thought I was way out of my league.

“Once my times started to come down, it became more of a reality.”

Founded by the Sacramento Running Association, the CIM is presented by Kaiser Permanente. The race begins at 7 a.m.

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.