Nov. 12, 2012
Sixteenth 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.

Sacramento runner earns ’96 Olympic Trials berth
Everything clicked in Kathy Ward’s first marathon.

The weather was good. So was her health. And her coach, Randy Sturgeon, knew what he was doing in preparing her for the 1995 California International Marathon.

Ward, a Sacramento microbiologist, catamaran racer and flute player, delivered an impressive debut, finishing seventh in the women’s race with a 2-hour, 46-minute, 21-second performance that earned her a trip to the 1996 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“Kathy was just a tremendous talent,” said Sturgeon, noting his main focus leading up to the race was to keep Ward healthy.

“We under-trained her. The weather cooperated. It was a good day to run.

“The only thing I can take credit for is keeping her healthy. The talent did the rest.”

Ward’s effort is the 11th-fastest time by a Sacramento-area woman in race history and earned her a trip to the Olympic Trials in Columbia, S.C., beating the 2:50 qualifying standard by more than 3 ½ minutes.

Sturgeon recalled Ward showing up one day for his running group’s workout and quickly showing she belonged.

“She was just someone who had tremendous talent,” he said. “She just blossomed.”

Sturgeon remembers something else about that 1995 CIM, even if it hurts to think about it.

He wanted to break 2:40 but wound up hooked up to an IV in a hospital for 11 hours after finishing in 2:48:49.

“The thing I remember the most is I was crashing and burning in my own marathon,” Sturgeon said. “She (Ward) came blazing by me with about two miles to go.

“Kathy just sprinted by me grinning.”

Ward went on to win a national title in catamaran racing, teaming with Mike Montague to claim the 2003-2004 U.S. Multihull Championship.

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.