Posted by: Joe English | November 28, 2007

Races: California International Marathon 2007 Race Preview

Update: for post-race coverage, click here.

The California International Marathon (CIM) is quickly approaching and appears set to be another exiting race with great conditions for runners once again this year. Last year’s CIM champion and second-place finisher both return, after finishing together in a dead sprint and having the 2006 race decided on the line.

CIM 2006 Finish
Photo: CIM 2006 Finish. Jay Mather, Sacramento Bee
(click photo to enlarge)

2006 saw exciting finish
In the 2006 running, Kenyan Jonathan Ndambuki (30) and Ethiopian Kassahun Kabiso (23) sprinted for the tape to decide the two-man race. The race had begun with a large men’s lead pack that included Ndambuki and Kabiso. A lead pack of six runners had been together until mile 25, when Ndambuki and Kabiso surged ahead. The two rounded the final corner locked in a dead sprint. Ndambuki managed to win by one step in 2:14:58, with Kabiso finishing just behind in 2:14:59.

In the women’s race, Romanian runner Camelia-Alina Gherasim blew away the women’s field. She finished in 2:34:22. Second and third places came in close together, with Elena Orlova in 2:37:38 and Violetta Kyrza in 2:37:55.

Fast course
Outside of the elite runners at the front, the CIM course is noted as being one of the fastest marathon courses around. Race Director John Mansoor told me that 40% of the field achieve Boston Qualifying times on the course and Runner’s World columnist Bart Yasso has called the course the “fastest in the country.”

The CIM course is fast, because it gently rolls downhill for most of the first 20 miles, flattening out in the last few miles of the race. There are a few steep sections of downhill, but for the most part these are short. Most of the downhill is a gentle rolling downward. Runner’s will be able to see this, because they’ll note that the horizon is almost always below them when they are running towards it.

The combination of the rolling terrain’s downhill nature at CIM, with the lack of steep descents, means that the quads don’t get thrashed as on many downhill courses. Compare this to another race this weekend – the Tucson Marathon – which is another predominantly downhill course. Tucscon has much steeper descents, in the first three miles in particular, which can make it tough on the quads. CIM is much gentler on the legs and a much faster course.

Another nice feature of the course is its point-to-point nature. Runners are shuttled out to the start in Folsom and then run back toward downtown Sacramento to the finish. The course runs along Fair Oaks Blvd for what seems like many, many miles, with much of it was filled with spectators.

Good weather on tap
Once again, it looks like the weather is going to be fantastic for CIM this weekend. The forecast currently calls for a low-temperature at the start of 34 degrees, then for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 58 degrees. Winds are expected to be light.

This forecast sounds almost like a mirror of last year’s weather, which was perfect for marathon running. The cold temperature at the start keeps things chilly for the first one or two hours and then the temperature warms up some. Last year, I don’t recall any cloud cover, so this year may actually be better than last in some respects.

Dress in layers that you can shed at, or just after, the start. There is an outdoor waiting period where the busses drop runners before the start that can be chilly, but once you’re in motion you’ll want to drop some clothing. In the 2006 race, I actually kept my gloves on until about mile 17 and I never took off my arm-warmers. The weather was just fantastic.

Fast competition
Once again, we will expect a strong field of runners. Race Director Mansoor said that he expects as many as 25 women to be running toward US Olympic Trials qualifying times of 2:47:00 or less. We may also see a repeat of last year’s tight finish, although Mansoor predicted that the winning time may need to be a minute or two quicker this year to take the victory.

You can read more about CIM in my Interview with Race Director John Mansoor and my race report from the 2006 CIM event.

Check back here for more coverage on this exciting race as it unfolds!

Interview: CIM Race Director John Mansoor

Race Report: 2006 California International Marathon

Selected photos (of Coach Joe) from 2006 California International Marathon

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA



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