26.2 Miles


On the first weekend in December, runners from around the world will descend on Sacramento for the California International Marathon. Now 25 years old, it’s been dubbed one of the world’s best small marathons by Runner’s World magazine. For runners, it’s 26.2 miles of slog from Folsom Dam to the state Capitol. For spectators, it’s one big, happy party. Here’s how to enjoy the race.

The CIM is the brainchild of John Mansoor and Sally Edwards, both avid runners. Mansoor is a 2:18 marathoner who attended Mira Loma High School and later Ohio State on a distance-running scholarship. Edwards is a world-class triathlete and founder of Fleet Feet Incorporated, a nationwide chain of sports stores catering to runners and walkers that got its start in 1976 in Sacramento.

By the Numbers

$50,000: Prize money
3,820: Number of people who finished the CIM last year
2,600: Estimated number of calories burned running a marathon
237: Number of portable toilets along the course this year
53: Warmest start time on record in degrees Fahrenheit (2003)
32: Coldest start time on record in degrees Fahrenheit (1983)
16: Number of people who have run in all 24 CIMs
6: Maximum number of hours allotted to finish the race
2:10:26 Course Record Men’s (1993)
2:29:21 Course Record Women’s (1999)

Tips for Spectators

• DON’T dart out in front of runners.

• DON’T yell, You’re almost there to any runner who hasn’t yet reached Mile 24. If they haven’t reached Mile 24, they’re not almost there. And they know it.

• DO be discreet when taking a bite out of that warm, gooey cinnamon roll you just picked up at a nearby bakery. Seeing you eat will elicit one of two responses in runners: 1. nausea, 2. envy.

• DO clap, cheer, even yell a runner’s name if it’s printed on his or her shirt. Phrases such as You’re doing great! and Looking strong! lift runners’ spirits and are greatly appreciated.

• DO dress in layers. The runners may be parading around in tank tops and shorts, but for those standing around outside for hours, it can get chilly.

• DO be aware of road closures. Check The Sacramento Bee‘s spectator guide (published Friday, Nov. 30) for information on road closures and how to navigate around the course to avoid aggravation on race day.

Signs of Support

You can make posters for family and friends running the marathon at the CIM Sports & Fitness Expo, held the Friday and Saturday before race day at the Sacramento Convention Center. (The expo is where marathoners must pick up their numbers, timing chips, T-shirts and goodie bags; perusing the 90 or so health and fitness vendors on hand is optional.) Poster boards, colored markers, glitter and other fun fodder is available to make your favorite runner feel like a superstar.


Myth Buster

Dropping in elevation from 366 feet to 26 feet, the CIM is a net downhill course described as having gentle, rolling hills. That said, just before Mile 22, as you reach the H Street Bridge, you might be thinking of other adjectives besides gentle. While we’re not talking San Francisco Marathon-type hills, first-time CIMers expecting a completely hill-less run may be in for a shock.

It’s a Party!

More than 30 entertainment acts, including live bands, DJs, cheerleaders and Silly Santa, will be on hand to entertain runners and spectators.

How To Participate Without Running 26.2 Miles

• Run a relay. You can organize a four-person team and tackle the beast in roughly 6- to 7½-mile chunks. (OK, 5.7 to 7.6, to be exact.) It’s a great way to experience the race and still be able to walk the next day. Cost: $140 per four-person team; $50 for high school teams. (Subject to availability; number of teams is capped at 750.)

• Participate in the 2.62-mile MaraFUNrun and Fitness Walk. Open to all ages; participants cross the same finish line as marathoners and relayers. Cost: $20–$25; free for children 13 and younger.

• Volunteer. Upward of 2,000 volunteers are needed marathon weekend, doing everything from assisting at the weekend expo to handing out medals at the finish line. Contact Julie Fingar at (916) 765-6021, julie@fittorun.com; or Brett Freeman at (916) 808-8983, bfreeman@cityofsacramento.org.

Running Green

This year marks the first green CIM. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District will calculate the amount of energy it took to put on the event, and the marathon will offset its carbon emissions by donating money to a SMUD project, such as its tree-planting program. There also will be a green zone near the finish line, with entertainment and information on green living.

Enjoy the marathon from the comfort of your own couch: KCRA 3 will provide live coverage during its 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. newscast.

Sac Mag Asks Local Marathoners: What Do You Like About the CIM?

The course. It’s just nice, rolling hills, smooth, scenic&emdash;you get to see a lot of homes. And the support is great.
&emdash;Mike Morgan, Sacramento

The support along the route and all the people cheering.
&emdash;Jennifer Music, Sacramento

That it is in our hometown, and there are a ton of people cheering&emdash;lots of good people cheering along the course.
&emdash;Julie Perez, Sacramento

 I like the fact that it’s a little bit smaller than other marathons. There’s room to get out there and move, but there’s still people to run with, to pace yourself with.
&emdash;Jeff Oberlatz, Sacramento

 It’s a pretty forgiving course that’s not too hilly. It’s got one of the best weather climates for a marathon this time of year.
&emdash;Justin Weisenberger, Sacramento