Fastest course in the west.

Standing Guard: Law Enforcement Keeps CIM Runners Safe

Story #3 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM’s 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.

It was a dark and stormy day…
The Saturday before the inaugural running of the CIM… when Chris Hadley, the start coordinator at the early CIMs (later the finish line coordinator for many years), met a rookie crew of California National Guardsmen at the start line area. Chris, a Sacramento City policeman and a training partner of the marathon’s co-founder John Mansoor, reports, “It was a miserable day – wind gusts at 30+ mph and rain downpours of monsoonal proportions. National Guardsmen were attempting to put up their tents that would serve as shelter for the runners. These poor guys had never set these tents up before. They got about half way through setting up the first tent, decided it was inside out and proceeded to correct the error, only to find that they were doing it right the first time and had to re-do it again…all the while getting drenched and fighting the wind. Luckily this was a training exercise for them and not a major incident.” This description gives us some insight into why the California National Guard was a major player in the first three years of the California International Marathon.

The National Guard
The National Guard was born out of the all-volunteer Minutemen of Lexington during the American Revolution, and the California National Guard dates back to the 1850s. Their duties have ranged from escorting Pony Express riders to assisting citizens during natural disasters to riot control to service in wars around the globe. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, National Guard units had budgets that allowed them to travel to various “real-life” training sites, and the California International Marathon organizers realized that their event provided an ideal venue. Where else do you find the need to block off 26.2-miles of well-traveled roads, divert traffic, assuage irate motorists, and protect the safety and health of 2,000 people undergoing a physically demanding activity?

National Guardsman Executive Officer and a 2:50 masters marathoner, Lt. Colonel Fred Mattos, was a member of Sacramento’s Pacific Flyers Running Club, along with John Mansoor and Denny Joyce (at the time an FBI agent, now a CIM Board member since 1983 and the current CIM Board President). During a post workout “cool down” at The Graduate pub, John, Denny and Fred lit upon the idea of the marathon becoming a National Guard training venue. Fred subsequently outreached to his “boss,” California National Guard Major General Willard A. Shank (also a runner and former California Assistant Attorney General), who agreed to the plan and helped to facilitate it. For the CIM’s first three years, several hundred Guardsmen and their vehicles from units all over California were brought to Sacramento and stationed at the Sharp Army Depot. They were “deployed” to the marathon route on Saturday with various assignments that included setting up tents, verifying communication capabilities, and “reconnaissance missions” for Sunday’s tasks. As the sun rose on race day morning, they were at the start, the finish and at nearly every course intersection. You old-timers will recall the Marine-Corps-Marathon-look this gave the CIM, with these guys (yes… all guys) decked out in their baggy fatigues, military caps, combat boots and no-nonsense attitudes. They did a fine job and were listed as one of the events “silver” sponsors. The savings this traffic control solution provided the event was a huge help in keeping down expenses in those early years.

So what happened? Where are they now? Why would such a perfect solution disappear?
Much to the chagrin of the Sacramento Long Distance Running Association, in the mid-1980s the National Guard nation-wide suffered major budget cuts that required discontinuing these types of training sessions. Ironically, in the “El Nino” flood year of 1993-1994, the need for Guardsmen familiar with the Sacramento area became a matter of inches, when the Sacramento and American Rivers came that close to cresting their levies. Now, with the Guardsmen so involved in the Iraqi War, the chances of their return to their disaster training exercises at the CIM are next to nil.

In 1986 CIM event management turned to more traditional law enforcement options. The Folsom City Police, the Sacramento City Police, the Sacramento County Sheriffs and the California Highway Patrol had been assisting the event since its inception and were now asked to increase their involvement. They have been the primary “standing guards” to this day. Folsom police are present at the start, where they assist with the increasing traffic congestion at the runner drop off areas (last year their presence was required earlier than usual due to a crime scene that nearly canceled the event! – but more about that in a later story). The Sacramento City Police monitor the final six miles of the course from the city boundary near Loehmann’s Plaza to the finish at the Capitol, and the Sheriffs and CHPs assist with the areas in-between. California Highway Patrol has always provided the course lead vehicles sent ahead of the front runners to be sure the course is clear, and the “sweep vehicle” that signals the course opening, now at a 13:44 minute per mile pace. Additional CHPs (once in a separate department referred to as State Police) are also involved in the State Capitol security, which has been stepped up since 9/11. All of the above require an ever-increasing financial commitment from the event.

Sacramento PD’s Deputy Police Chief Rick Braziel, a marathoner himself as well as an ironman triathlete, gave us some insights into the Sac PD’s dedication to their marathon duties: “We provide a safe venue and when necessary a quick response to unforeseen events… primarily through traffic and crowd control. Last year one of our relay teams noticed a young child without a parent. The officer was able to quickly locate the frantic parent… We are also responsible for making sure the city is seen in a good light by all who participate in or spectate at the race. This includes the days before and after the race. We see ourselves as an integral component of economic development and tourism in our great city. If people do not enjoy their visit, they may not return. Uniformed personnel stand out and have an influence on people’s perceptions. Lastly, we serve as role models. Police employees staying fit and participating in an event such as CIM is huge. We all wear SPD running shirts that also serve as recruiting billboards. Our shirts have an “SPD” logo in the front and ‘Ask Me About Sac PD’ on the back. It is fun to run past CHP officers doing traffic control and thank them for their work and as they turn to look, they see the back of the shirt that reads, ‘Ask me about Sac PD.’ ”

In 2005, recognizing that these law enforcement agencies had become such an essential part of the CIM’s logistics, Law Enforcement/Fire and Military divisions were added to the CIM Relay. The CIM thanks Deputy Chief Rick Braziel for his assistance in promoting these divisions to law enforcement agencies throughout the region and beyond. A future story devoted to the CIM Relay will have some additional information about the increasing popularity of this division.

So what’s it like out there on the course “standing guard”? Sheriff Paul Haupton, who had this duty at the corner of Arden and Fair Oaks Blvd. for about 10 years and a runner himself, said it was good duty. He liked watching the runners and knowing that he was helping them achieve a difficult goal. He never had an incident with a runner being discourteous – quite the opposite – they were always appreciative and acknowledged him with thank yous, smiles and waves. This was something he admired and appreciated, since he knew they had traveled about 18 miles at that point. He established a camaraderie with the volunteers at the aid station there, and they enjoyed getting reacquainted each year. Motorists could be another issue, although he was able to appease most of them by providing advice on alternative routes. Still, it puzzled him that people on their way to church could become so irate…

Remember to acknowledge these officers with a wave or a thank you as you run the traffic-free city streets from Folsom to Sacramento this December. They are the primary factors in the CIM’s safety record: there has never been a major accident or traffic related injury in its history.