Fastest course in the west.

Sister Marion Irvine Shines

Oct. 22, 2012
First in a series of the top 30 moments from the California International Marathon’s colorful history. The 30th anniversary race is on Dec. 2. By John Schumacher

Nun prays for good weather, qualifies for Olympic Trials
Thank God for Sister Marion Irvine.

As a heavy storm pounded the Sacramento area the day before the first California International Marathon in 1983, race officials asked her for a small favor.

Could she use her connections to clear the skies?

Done. As runners arrived for the 7 a.m. start in Folsom, the rain had stopped, giving way to sunshine and near-perfect running conditions.

“We were thinking the race wasn’t going to happen,” said CIM race director John Mansoor, who co-founded the event with Sally Edwards. “Sister Marion is a friend of ours. She said, ‘I’ll talk to the guy upstairs and see what we can do.’”

Sister Marion did more than deliver good weather. She also became the oldest person to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, at 54 delivering a 2-hour, 51-minute, 1-second effort that beat the qualifying standard of 2:52:00 and improved her personal best by five minutes.

She remains the oldest woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Sister Marion was among a group of 25 women and 12 men who qualified for the Trials in the race, which attracted 1,600 runners.

Not everyone enjoyed good fortune in the inaugural CIM.

Hal Schulz enjoyed a 100-yard lead at mile 25 before stepping off the course on L Street to relieve himself. Finland’s Martti Killholma passed Schulz and went on to win in 2:13:35, with Schulz fourth in 2:14:43.

“I remember it very distinctly,” Mansoor said. “He stepped into what’s like a doorway, so Martii Killholma of Finland passed him and ended up winning the race.”

Mansoor, a standout runner at Mira Loma High School and Ohio State University, and Edwards, the Fleet Feet founder, distance runner and world-class triathlete, came together to launch the race.

They had help from several others in the Sacramento community, including developers and philanthropists William Cummings and Angelo Tsakopoulos, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ted Sheedy and long-time American River College coach Al Baeta.

The CIM is put on by the Sacramento Running Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

Other SRA events include the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon on Oct. 28, The Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3 and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.