Oct. 31, 2012
Eighth 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

Plasencia nudges past Brantly in stirring battle of Olympians
There are many ways to win a marathon.

Sprinting to the finish probably isn’t anyone’s first choice.

But Steve Plasencia and Keith Brantly found themselves coming off the final turn of the 1992 California International Marathon together, each trying to summon the energy, courage and speed needed to beat the other across the finish line.

In the final yards on Capitol Mall, Plasencia nudged in front, crossing the line about three or four feet ahead of Brantly in what was then easily the closest finish since the CIM began in 1983.

“You run 26.2 miles and you lose by one second,” Brantly told The Sacramento Bee after the race. “It’s hard to say who was much faster today.”

Plasencia and Brantly didn’t catch Namibia’s Luketz Swartbooi until mile 25.5, setting up the sprint down Capitol Mall. Plasencia crossed in 2:15:14 and Brantly in 2:15:15, with Swartbooi third in 2:15:22.

CIM race director John Mansoor said he’s resisted increasing bonus money for fast times because close finishes like the Plasencia-Brantly duel are much more interesting than having someone run fast and win easily.

“There’s nothing more exciting than to see two people come down and sprint in the finish of a marathon,” he said. “We’d rather it be a contest. I want it to be a race.

“I think it’s very exciting.”

After making the U.S. Olympic team in the 10,000 meters in 1988 and 1992, Plasencia finished fourth in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Ironically, Brantly beat Plasencia to finish third in that race and make the U.S. Olympic team after placing fourth in the 1992 marathon trials.

And he didn’t need to sprint to the finish with Plasencia again, this time coming in a comfortable 58 seconds ahead.

Plasencia is the director of track & field/cross country at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota. Brantly works as a personal coach and motivational speaker.

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.