Note: Thanks to Brian Goldman from Running Without Injuries for this guest post. After reading his review, I’m going to have to add this race to my bucket list for sure!
The California International Marathon (CIM for short) was founded in 1983 by the Sacramento Running Association. The course has not changed much since that time. It is full of gently rolling hills and is a net downhill course, known as the Fastest Course in the West. It is a point-to-point race with few turns and the race finishes in front of the beautiful California Capitol Building. The streets are all well maintained and the aid stations are well stocked. More on that later though.
The first CIM had 1,600 runners and today it has over 9,000 marathoners. There is also a relay option where you can race with a four-person team and split up the mileage (there are relay exchange points along the course). Sacramento is known as the “City of Trees” and you get to enjoy the fall colors as you run under canopies of beautiful trees.
The average temperature in the first week of December (typically when the CIM takes place) is in the mid-50’s and the weather has been great on most years. There have been a few years of monsoon type rains and wind or sub-freezing temperatures, although it is not common.
There are 5 locations (3 near the finish line) where you can park your car and take busses to the start line. The CIM is a point-to-point race so unless you have someone to drop you off at the start line, the busses are a necessity. This last year, there were plenty of busses and getting on was a breeze. I would suggest getting there early so you can get in line for the busses. If you are anything like me, I like to get to the start line early to take care of any stretching or bathroom issues I need to take care of before the race.
The course is well-stocked with 17 aid stations, serving both Gatorade and Water. There are several stations that are handing out GU energy gels as well. Many of the groups that volunteer to run aid stations bring goodies, like oranges, bananas, licorice, and more.
I was surprised by the amount of port-a-potties at the start line. The lines were very reasonable and I only had to wait for about 5 minutes, which is great when you have to go at the last second. There were port-a-potties at several locations along the course as well.
Let’s look at a breakdown of the course. The course starts out at an elevation of 366 feet above sea level. The first mile is generally downhill and is very fast. You will have to dodge people and flying clothes as people discard their warmer clothes, but you can bank a little time in the first mile.
The next 5 miles have gentle rolling hills as you run through some rural residential neighborhoods. At about the 6 mile mark, you make a sharp left turn onto Fair Oaks Boulevard, where the first relay station is (if you are doing the relay). This is considered section 2 of the race. You will stay on Fair Oaks Boulevard for the next 15.5 miles.
Section 2 is known as the hilly section. Most of the larger hills (which aren’t too big) are in this section. Once you hit mile 10, you enter Fair Oaks Village. There is a longer hill, but it is manageable, especially because this is a favorite spot for the spectators to gather and cheer on the runners.
Between mile 10 and 10.5 you will encounter the largest hill of the race. It is less than a quarter mile in length but is followed by a nice downhill section that lasts nearly a mile so you can catch your breath. There are a few rolling hills before you reach the end of the second section of the course and the half-way point. If you have made it this far, the hills are done for the most part.
The course now goes through a mixture of residential and commercial areas for quite a while. The course meanders under the beautiful trees and you end up at the end of the third section as you are greeted by tons of spectators at another favorite spot for spectators, Loehmann’s Plaza. You have made it past mile 20 now.
You continue to run past the entrance of the California State University Sacramento Campus at mile 22 as you head toward downtown. This is where you enter the numbered streets as you descend from 60th Street to 8th Street. In this stretch you pass by the neighborhood known as the Fabulous Forties, beautiful older houses and mature trees that help you keep your mind off of your tired legs as you enjoy the scenery.
With one mile to go, you pass by Capitol Park, which contains at least one example of every tree species found in California. You make a left turn onto 8th Street for one block and then turn onto Capitol Mall. This is where the road splits and the women head to the left, the men head to the right on separated lanes. Enjoy the crowds cheering you on as you run toward the California State Capitol Building, where you are quickly met with an awesome finisher’s medal and a Mylar blanket.
This last year, they had beer, hot soup, Kind bars, fruit, and water at the finish. There were also free massages and an area for anyone who qualified for Boston. They could ring a bell and get their picture taken with a backdrop of the Boston Marathon Logo.
Bart Yasso described the California International Marathon as being “One of the fastest, if not THE FASTEST, courses in the country!” in an interview with Runner’s World Online in 2007. It has also been named as the Best Marathon, World’s Best Small Marathon, Fastest Course in the West, and is constantly in the top 9 marathons with the most number of Boston Marathon Qualifiers.
If you are looking for an awesome race with great support and beautiful scenery, the California International Marathon is a great choice. It was my first full marathon last year and I have signed up to run it again in 2016. I enjoyed everything about the event and would definitely recommend it.
California International Marathon http://runcim.org/
CIM’s Social Media Links
Brian Goldman has been running for about 3 years. After being injured for much of the first year, he decided to start a blog, Running Without Injuries. His blog provides advice, tips, and product reviews for the newer runner. Specializing in how to improve your running and reduce your risk of injury. Brian has completed 9 half-marathons and finished the California International Marathon last year. His goal is to run the Boston Marathon someday. You can follow Brian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.