Runner Matt K breaks down his experience at the California International Marathon in this race report. It includes what you should know about the start line and why he recommends a different strategy at mile 19.
California International Marathon Race Report
Race: California International Marathon (CIM) 2017
Runner: Matt K
Location: Sacramento, CA
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1301836407
3 Bests – What aspects of the California International Marathon did you like the most?
- The starting line was a runners dream; space to do warm ups, drop bags were easy to drop off, and tons of bathrooms! I haven’t done many marathons, but this was by far the best setup at a starting line I’d ever seen. We had a friend drop us off at the start, so I can’t vouch for the shuttles the race also provides.
- The racers! This is a fast course, and despite not being anywhere close, getting to share the course with so many fast people (and the Olympic trials!) was cool.
- Great volunteers. The volunteers in this race were plentiful and knew their stuff. Aid stations generally went smoothly (sometimes confusion about whether water or nuun was first) and fast.
Not so much – What aspects of the California International Marathon didn’t do it for you?
There aren’t any corrals at the start, and getting into the correct position can be tough. I tried to find my place with 4 – 5 minutes before the start with the goal of lining up just behind the 3:02 pace group. Instead I was initially stuck behind the 3:07 group and up against the fence; not a great place to start. Luckily, after the wheeled race began, runners moved forward and I was able to move off the fence (but was still around the 3:07 group). I’m a fan of corrals / wave starts.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about the California International Marathon?
- It isn’t particularly weird, but for such a fast race, the course isn’t flat! The course is billed as net downhill (which it is), but there are around a dozen hills you’ll need to downshift on to keep your effort in check.
- The race is built around the BQ. Pacers are set up for each BQ standard minus 3 minutes, the finish boasts a huge bell for runners to ring if they BQ, and they were also handing out Boston Cream Pie cupcakes. It was all in good fun, but it felt a bit strange to focus on one race so intently.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I was pleased with pacing in this race. Despite a rolling first half, HR and pace were consistent, with only a +10 second slowdown between the first and second halves. It felt like a lot of runners started making their moves around miles 10 – 13, and I saw them again around miles 20 – 22.
Lessons Learned – Share your pro-tips on the California International Marathon to help the next runner or yourself on the next time around
I made my move around mile 19, which was a bit early. Since I was feeling good,, I started getting ideas of catching the 3:02 group. However, after just 3 or 4 miles I was squarely in the I’m-never-doing-this-again camp. I was able to hang on to the finish, but waiting a few more miles would have the same result with a bit less anguish.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the California International Marathon?
Have a plan for the hills; early in the race it’s easy to get going too fast. While I consider myself more of an uphill runner, in this race I found myself passing others on the downhills (and sometimes 15 seconds / mile ahead of pace), and considered the uphills my chance to rest and get my pace back in the target. It seems counterintuitive, but it felt natural at the time.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
This was one of the best managed races I’ve seen; the start was fantastic (see previous), and race logistics were easy. It is a bit of scramble to get back to your hotel after the race, but that’s every race.
Logistics – Anything special regarding getting to/from the race, hotels around the course, registration…?
We stayed at an Airbnb in Folsom to be close to the start, and had a crew member drive us to the start, which worked perfectly. Registration and the race expo were pretty standard, though they did have panels with knowledgeable runners like Lee McKinley and Tim Twietmeyer that may be worth catching.
Weather and typical race conditions
I’ve heard of every possible weather condition for this race, but in my case it was clear and dry, with it being around 40 at race start and hitting the low 50s throughout the day. Perfect racing weather!
Spectators – Is the California International Marathon a friendly course for your friends?
Yes. There are several quiet residential sections as a runner, so don’t expect crazy crowds like a big city marathon, but there are several places for friends and family to cheer and spectate. And watching the Olympic trials was a nice bonus!
How’s the swag?
Swag was above average for sure. The finish line had disposable jackets that are a lot easier to use than space blankets, and the expo gave a zip up jacket, socks, and a fanny pack that might actually become part of my standard gear.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give the California International Marathon and do you recommend that others run it?
I’d give the California International Marathon a 5 out of 5 stars. It’s got almost the same star power as a big city marathon, but considerably cheaper and easier logistically. Getting to share the course with potential Olympians was a great experience, and the course makes it possible to have a really great day.