The 34th California International Marathon was contested on Sunday, December 4th. The weather could not have been more perfect and the pre-race organization was superb. Seemingly all the school buses in the county were enlisted to transport us from Sacramento to Folsom. We could then stay warm and seated in the bus until the start of the race. One could venture out to get some food or drink and witness one of the longest line of porta-potties ever assembled. A lady on our bus who works for a ‘potty’ company said the usual user to potty ratio is 75 to 1. CIM used 35 to 1. Truly a benefit for us runners! Finish line bags were collected at the back of two big vans. As the start came near, there was a crush of runners wanting to get their bags loaded. Some tried to throw the bag over the heads of the volunteers in the truck. A couple of volunteers got conked. The supervisor, stout and burly, shouted that if another bag was thrown he would shut down the trucks! The crowd became instantly cooperative. Good for him!
The start was smooth and efficient with pacers and over-head signs helping runners get in position. Off we went down a slight hill with no pushing or shoving or need to dance around ill-placed runners. Race conditions, I think, were perfect – cool, not cold, no wind and no forecast of dramatic changes. Aid stations were well placed with the first one about three miles out and then becoming more frequent and with greater offerings as the course continued. To those who went to the Healdsburg Running Club trail running movies, I was quite startled to see Jenn Shelton standing on the side of the road at eight miles, sweaty, smiling and looking like everyone’s best friend.
I had run CIM in 2013 under freezing conditions but ended up with a pretty good time and place. This time I was concerned about how aging and spotty training would affect my effort. I had enough training miles but only one run of 16 miles. My 1/2 marathon and 20 mile splits were both better than 2013. Beyond 20 miles, it all became more difficult. My watch displayed a great deal more time needed to pass each mile. I began to list to the right. Spectators had to move back as I veered toward them! With my name printed on my bib, people were calling out to me to do well, euphemistically meaning ‘don’t die!”
As runners flooded past me in the last couple of miles, I had to concentrate to keep one foot going in front of the other and to not trip myself. But the end came in time for a successful finish and actually a pretty good time. I was met by a lovely runner/nurse who chatted with me as she took firm hold on my arm and led me on a walk. “Let’s go to the med tent.” As we walked, a still-listing few feet to the tent, Bob Shor came up to say hello and to confirm the tent visit. Never having been in one before, it was a nice field trip. Two dozen people sitting or lying about with a busy staff offering water, soup, and encouragement. The young lady sitting next to me had just made her Boston Qualifying time and soon left with a warm cup of soup. I stayed about 15 minutes before thanking a volunteer and walking out much more vertical than coming in. By then, general stiffness had begun to take over and Frankenstein’s monster-like I set off to find Sandi.
After several phone calls, we reconnected at the merchandise booth and headed to the drop bag corral. The fenced-in enclosure had thousands of bags lined out in number order. Volunteers would meet runners at a six foot cyclone fence, get our bib number and speedily return with our bag – no runners wandering inside the enclosure bothering those who knew what they were doing. I could replace my silver shawl with dry clothes.
Then we walked among other celebrants with Sandi striding ahead only to look back and see she had left me several steps behind. Everyone seemed in good spirits as the weather conditions stayed pretty moderate for an early December day.
One of the enjoyable parts of CIM is the community support. In many places along the route, live bands and recorded music encourage us along the way. There are also many places where throngs of spectators gather to wish us well. “Go (Dad!, Mom!, Larry!, Linda and Beth!)” “I came to hold a sign” “You Rock!” “Keep going. You paid for it” The support for individual runners was terrific. The sense of celebration and accomplishment was really noticeable and inspiring.
My shoes displayed a remarkable wear pattern. Scuffing at both ends and a near clean slate across the mid-sole. The toe scuffing, I think, was from my shuffle over the last six miles. Traffic buttons on the road had to be avoided as too tall and some painted lines were thicker than others.
Heading home meant a stop in Davis at DeVera’s Tavern for corned beef, potatoes, eggs over easy and a tall glass of pilsner. Very tasty and a needed stop to unkink my legs. Then on to Santa Rosa. The “welcome home” clouds brought a wonderful 24 hours to a close. A few chores taxed my mobility and reinforced for me why I like marathons – you can’t do the event half trained or without realizing that reminders of the effort will follow you for days. Which one will be next? Any suggestions? By the way, my very expensive GPS watch measured CIM as 26.36 miles. I am sure the course has been accurately measured at 26.2. My watch got me to each new mile further and further ahead of the official mark. I can’t get credit in my running log for the extra tenth of a mile!