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CIM Gives Back: Youth Fitness and Running Venues

Story #12 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM’s 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.

Youth Fitness Wins!
The California International Marathon has always been a nonprofit organization. From its inception, the Sacramento Long Distance Running Association unanimously agreed that proceeds from the CIM should be contributed to the running community. This is quite unique among running events, since most of them benefit disease-related or cause-related organizations. The CIM Board has always believed it is essential to support running and runners, because as the running community grows, the overall health and well being of our community improves.

By 1987, thanks to wise Executive Board decisions, excellent race management, and generous sponsorship funds, there were sufficient event proceeds to warrant a decision about an appropriate charity. Various options were reviewed to determine ones that would benefit the CIM’s mission to promote and give back to running. Since the future of running depends on drawing our youngsters into the sport, a unanimous decision was made that youth fitness was the “winner.”

The original 5K fun run, called the Celebrity 5K, was initially established in 1986 and was held on the day before the marathon at several locations, including Cal Expo. It attracted local media personalities as well as famous runners such as 1980 Olympic Gold Medal marathoner Frank Shorter and high school mile record holder Jim Ryun. Parents, marathoners’ friends, and many of the marathoners themselves participated often with their kids, causing the CIM board to realize that this event could be the centerpiece for a youth fitness program.

In the spring of 1988, Kenny King, the California International Marathon’s oldest finisher (77) at the time, passed away. Kenny King was an avid fitness buff his entire life, and when he retired at age 66, he took up running, saying, “I don’t want that old rocking chair to get me!” His son Ken King, Jr., found that running was a great way to enjoy his Dad’s company and the two of them became regulars at most of the Northern California running events. They both ran the inaugural CIM and the1984 CIM. Then Kenny backed off a bit and ran the early CIM Celebrity 5K Runs. They belonged to the Capital City Flyers, and made a point of running the Bay to Breakers each year beginning in 1980. It was during his ninth Bay to Breakers in the spring of 1988 that Kenny died, just 100 yards from the finish line. Read more about Kenny King is the article below written by Kenny King Jr. just before the 1988 CIM. Shortly thereafter, the Sacramento Long Distance Running Association, fully aware of Kenny’s dedication to the benefits of running, approached his son Ken about setting up a youth fitness program dedicated to his father. Ken wholeheartedly agreed, and in 1988 the CIM renamed the Celebrity 5K the “Kenny King Fun Run” and developed a youth running program, targeting eighth-grade kids and younger, to train to complete the 5K distance.

Kenny King Article

In the fall of 1988 the Kenny King Youth Fitness Program was launched in the San Juan School district and more than 1,000 kids signed up. It included distance goals, incentive rewards to run those distance, and had the primary mission to teach our children that “running is fun!” to help them establish running as a life-long fitness tool. The current Youth Fitness program has exactly the same format and goal. Speed is not emphasized; enjoying the running and finishing each workout is.

The following year the program expanded countywide, and over the years more than 30,000 youth have participated. To tie the fun run more closely to the marathon, the distance was shortened to a catchy 2.62-miles and was titled “maraFUNrun.” Also connecting it to the marathon: if a youth runs the total distances recommended in the Youth Fitness Program, including the maraFUNrun, that child will have run a total of 26.2 miles and will receive a real marathoner’s finisher medallion.

The program is offered free to youths 13 and under, compliments of the California International Marathon. Training incentive items, marathon finishers medallions, maraFUNrun refreshments and entertainment, colorful maraFUNrun t-shirts and administrative costs (keeping track of all those participants each year is no small task!) are all provided by the CIM.

Kaiser Permanente has always been on the cutting edge of preventative medicine and has developed a multi-faceted effort to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity raging in the United States. In 2004, recognizing the success of the CIM’s Youth Fitness Program and its parallel goals, Kaiser Permanente stepped up to become its title sponsor and also the title sponsor of the maraFUNrun. Kenny King continues to be acknowledged as the inspiration behind both these entities.

2007 marks the Youth Fitness Program’s 19th year, and now its “graduates” have started to return to the CIM as full-fledged marathoners. An inspiring example is the McCleneghan family. Muffet McClenaghan is a middle school teacher and avid runner, who for many years coached a group of children from her school through the Youth Fitness Program. Among these children were her two daughters, who have since both run the CIM several times. In 2005, both Muffet and daughter Elizabeth won their age divisions! Elizabeth ran it in 3:03:00 for 1st in the 20-24 division; Muffet ran a 3:56:11 for 1st in the 60-64 division.

Relay Challenge
The CIM Four Person Relay Challenge also has youth fitness as its primary beneficiary. In its early years proceeds from the Relay team entries were donated to the Sacramento Boys and Girls Club, and later, due to its ever-increasing number of participants, the CIM’s own Youth Fitness Program received these funds.

In 2007 both the marathon and the relay proceeds will be supporting a new youth fitness program that takes the next step up in age groups. It will target high school kids, especially those who are not on a high school sport team. The inaugural “Students Run the Relay” program is being introduced this year to high school students in the San Juan Unified School District. It will train them to run the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon Three-person Relay in late October, with leg distances of 3.7 miles, 4.1 miles and 5.3 miles (the “LN4B” is a CIM-managed and owned event). Then their training will continue and in early December they will ”graduate“ to the CIM 4-Person Relay Challenge, with distances of 5.9 miles, 7.6 miles, 7.0 miles, and 5.7 miles. These distances are quite a step up from the maraFUNrun distance of 2.62 miles, but entirely within the capabilities of high school-age kids. No question that the experience will be a thrilling one: with Red Bull arches at each exchange, all the crowds cheering them on, the camaraderie of being on a team, and their reunion at the finish if front of the spectacular State Capitol. Running IS Fun!

Running Venue Development
Youth fitness was the sole beneficiary of the CIM’s proceeds until the CIM board started to look at some of the controversies and dilemmas facing the Sacramento area’s adult runners and potential runners. Where can they run safely? Many tracks are closed to the public, development has robbed us of open space, and increased population also has meant increased crime and traffic. It was the death of a high school cross-country runner in 2003 that sparked action. She was killed while trying to cross Greenback Lane near its juncture at Madison Avenue during busy early evening commute hours. This tragedy struck close to the heart of the CIM Race Director, John Mansoor, both of whose kids run cross-country and track.

At just about this time the superb, nationally recognized cross-country venue at Sierra College was ruined by removing its starting area and track all together, replacing both with a parking garage and a football stadium. Concerned about the decreasing availability and quality of places to run, in 2003 the CIM Board unanimously voted to include allocating a portion of the events’ proceeds to “improving and developing regional running.

RD John Mansoor went right to work – literally. In the spring and summer of 2004 he not only rallied the support of the media and civic leaders and wrangled with developers, but also donned a hardhat and manned some heavy-duty earth moving equipment himself. The first venue, the Willow Hill Cross-Country course, located on property next to Folsom High School, opened in the fall of 2004. Since then this venue has become the site of CIF section high school cross country meets, but also is open to the general public and attracts runners and walkers of all ages to its oak studded, challenging, but traffic-free hills. Another project closer to Sacramento is the Granite Park Cross Country course/ running trail near Power Inn Road off of Highway 50. A potential course also near Folsom is on Aerojet property that cannot be developed due to environmental restrictions. Interesting how endangered species can become runners’ best friends!

Running venues in the Sacramento area cannot be discussed without mentioning the American River Parkway, the incredibly spectacular fitness venue for our community. The casual observer would think, “It’s there, ready and waiting, relatively safe, beautiful, convenient – so what’s to improve?” Those of us who have been to American River Parkway Foundation meetings in recent years, who receive updates from these meetings, and who follow Parkway issues, know all too well there is a lot to be done to protect and improve this precious resource. Funding is a huge part of this, as are the conflicts that occur between cyclists, mountain bikers, in-line skaters, equestrians, runners, and walkers. The CIM has unanimously voted to donate a portion of its proceeds to the Parkway, but rather than simply writing a check to the Parkway’s general fund not knowing whether or not these funds will be used for runners, the Board is waiting for the Parkway’s General Plan to be in place. Once that occurs, the CIM will provide the funds to specifically target American River Parkway running-related improvements.

American River Parkway Foundation Link