Fastest course in the west.

The Inaugural CIM: A Prayer And A Pitstop

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

December 4, 1983: A Prayer and a Pitstop
The hard working CIM staff and hundreds of volunteers had done their homework. The course was marked, aid stations set up (water only – electrolyte fluid replacements and gels were not on the marathon radar screen) and the t-shirts and bib numbers had been handed out at the bustling Expo held at the Mansion Hotel in midtown Sacramento. What about traffic control on this well-populated point-to-point route? The CIM had a unique solution: the no-nonsense California National Guardsmen came on board to handle this task (more about this in a future article). An international field of elite runners had signed on, the media was behind the event, and large pots of Cambell’s Tomato Soup were scheduled to be at the finish. All was well… except… the weather!

Heavy rain hit the Sacramento area on Friday and Saturday. All involved scrambled for contingencies, but the event had a key contact to help with Mother Nature’s wrath, the incomparable “flying nun,” Sister Marion Irvine. She had selected the CIM to be her Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier; if she achieved the required sub-2:52 time she would set a national age group record and, at age 54, would be the oldest person to achieve a trials qualifying time. Race management suggested she use her divine connections to improve the weather for race day, and she said she would do her best. On Sunday morning, as the busses brought the runners to the start at the base of the Folsom Dam just as they do today, the pavement was wet but the rain was gone. When the gun sounded at the 7 a.m. start, a rising sun and perfect running conditions greeted the runners as they began the inaugural CIM.

U.S. men’s marathoning was in its heyday, due in large part to the success stories of Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar. At the inaugural CIM, the men’s elite field had 15 entrants with times of 2:14 or better, and 11 of these were Americans: Ed Mendoza (2:10:02), Gary Bjorkland (2:10:15), local favorite Dennis Rinde (2:12:05 – Dennis had already clocked six marathons under 2:13). Hal Schulz (2:13), Rick Sayre (2:13), Chuck Smead (2:13), Mike Pinocci (2:14), Steve Benson (2:14), John Moreno (2:14), Frank Plasso (2:14), John Hunsaker (2:14). Among the international elite runners were Richard Marczak (Poland – 2:11:10), Jon Halberstadt (South Africa – 2:11:15), Domingo (2:11:16) and Miguel Tibaduiza (Columbia). Local top runners included sub-2:20 marathoners Andy Ferguson, Matt Yeo, Rich Langford, John Mansoor, Dave Chairez, Rob Anex, Jerry Drew, and Dave Renneissen.

A strong field of younger women accompanied master’s division competitor Sister Marion Irvine (San Rafael – 2:56). They included Laurie Binder (Oakland, Calif. – 2:33:34), Gabrielle Andersen (dual citizen U.S. and Switzerland – 2:36:13), Rainey-Kay Stolpe (Concord, Calif. – 2:37:44), Heiki Ingstrom (Norway – 2:38), Gail Volk (Seattle, Wash. – 2:39), Marty Cooksey (Eugene, Ore. – 2:41:49), and Maureen Custy (Denver, Col.). Local elites included Heike Skaden (2:43:00, and a still-standing high school marathon record), Laura Rinde (2:47) and Bev Marx (2:48).

Not only was the CIM a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, it was also a TAC (now USATF) Championship event, and running club teams and individuals showed up to capture bragging rights and a portion of the $2750 prize money set aside for this purpose. Aggies, Capital City Flyers, Buffalo Chips, Fleet Feet, Ryans, Impalas, West Valley TC, Tamalpa and many others were represented, sporting their identifying singlets. Over the years the CIM more likely than not has been a USATF Championship, providing up-and-coming U.S. marathoners a key developmental opportunity.

The Men’s Race
Soon after the starting gun sounded, a tight pack of four runners pulled away: Bjorkland, Marczak and Schulz led by debut marathoner Andy Ferguson of Fair Oaks. The five mile mark was reached in 24:56 and shortly thereafter Ferguson fell back, conceding the lead to Bjorkland and learning that “don’t-go-out-too-fast” lesson many newby marathoners still need today. At the half (1:02:25) Bjorkland led Marczak by 20 yards and increased this lead to 70 yards by mile 15, where Schulz moved into second place. By mile 18, Marczak dropped back, and Schulz took the lead from the fading Bjorkland. More than 100 yards back was Finland’s Martii Killholma, running the CIM because his coach had suggested he use it for a training run. Schulz was running strong as he approached midtown Sacramento. Killholma was gaining, but still 50 yards behind at the 25-mile mark, and this race belonged to Schulz… until… he had to go. He stepped off the course to relieve his bladder and started running again with Killholma now only 10 yards back. Then disaster struck—Schulz suddenly felt nauseous, cramped, and staggered at the 15th Street intersection where Killholma surged passed him for a 2:13:35 victory. Schulz was also passed by Marczak and then Halberstadt, finishing fourth in 2:14:43.

The Women’s Race
Gabrielle Andersen achieved a wire-to-wire win at the inaugural CIM, and breezed across the finish in a personal best time of 2:33:25, setting the precedent for many future CIM winners who have achieved personal bests here. This finish was in stark contrast to her heroic performance at the 1984 Inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon, where, overcome by heat exhaustion, she staggered around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum track and dragged herself unaided to finish 37th in the starting field of 44. Although the pre-race favorite, CIM third place finisher Oakland’s Laurie Binder (2:37:13), complained of blisters, she believed that Gabrielle was not to be beaten that day. Marty Cooksey was the solid second place finisher in 2:35:43. Sister Marion Irvine hit the record books and achieved her Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time with a 2:51:01 finish – a personal best time by five minutes, and to this day she is the oldest woman to achieve an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier.

Among the Inaugural CIM Finishers:

  • 12 men and 25 women achieved Olympic Marathon Trials times.
  • Gene Howard of Sacramento was the winning wheelchair athlete (2:16:58), in spite of a spill close to the start that launched him head first out of his chair amid the oncoming runners.
  • Oldest CIM women’s finisher: Mavis Lindgren, 76
  • Oldest CIM men’s finisher: Kenny King, 73, in whose honor the CIM Youth Fitness Program was established.
  • Bette Poppers (Littleton, Col.) was the first women’s masters finisher (2:49:23).
  • Jeffrey Wall of Daly City, Calif. was the first men’s masters finisher (2:29:19).
  • Physician, women’s running pioneer, and women’s running writer Joan Ullyot finished in 2:52:54.
  • Now a nationally ranked ultra runner, 23-year-old Luanne Park ran a 2:46:00. Other finishers who became well-known ultra runners include Tim Twietmeyer (2:47:16), Kathy D’Onofrio (3:01:32), and Bjorg Austreim-Smith (3:13:54). Tim Twietmeyer has since run all 28 CIMs and is a CIM Pace Team leader.

Did You Know?
Local elite woman entrant Heike Skaden belonged to the same running club, the Capital City Flyers, as the CIM’s event co-founder, John Mansoor, and both ran the inaugural CIM. Subsequently a romance blossomed; they married and now have two teenage children – Alex and Jackie, both of whom – no surprise here – are top youth distance runners. Both have won the CIM’s companion youth event, the Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun.
Hal Schulz, a Cal Berkeley grad, was coached by Brian Maxwell, Power Bar founder and a 2:14 marathoner.
What were they THINKING?
Twelve entrants of the inaugural CIM have since run all 28 CIMs: Michael Buzbee, Steve Haun, Bruce Mauldin, Michael Nolan, John O’Neill, Steve Polansky, Michael Ryan, Michael Sullivan, Ernest Takahashi, Tim Twietmeyer, Barry Turner, and Denis Zilaff. Below Ernie, Barry, Tim and Denis share a few of their thoughts about that fateful morning:

Ernie Takahashi: I decided to run the first CIM because I knew it was going to be a first class “international” marathon and I had just run the Boston Marathon earlier in the year and was on a runner’s high. I never thought I would have run all the CIMs but it has been a well run (pun) event with great volunteers. My wife and family know that the first Sunday in December is the CIM so no other events can be planned for that morning!

Barry Turner: I was a regular at the Tuesday night Buffalo Chips workouts, my mentor George Parrott felt that I had the credentials to break the 3:00 hour mark so with his encouragement I entered and had a wonderful experience, however just short of 3:00, I came in with a time of 3:01. This was my first big race and it had a true flavor of a International race with runners from Finland, So. Africa, etc. I must add the support all along the course is a big plus. I had no idea from the get-go that this would turn into a streak, so now I take it a year at a time. The C.I.M. has been a first class race from the start and it has only improved from year to year, it is amazing with my travels abroad how often someone will recognize my CIM shirts. So this definitely tells me this is a true international race.

Tim Twietmeyer: I ran 2:47 at my first CIM and thought, “wow, this is a fast course!” From then on, CIM was always the course I used to try for a new PR. I like the early rolling hills as it let’s me get some time in the bank and the course flattens as it gets closer to the finish. I’ve always thought this was the fastest marathon course around – except those two monsoon years.

Denis Zilaff: CIM was my first marathon – in the days before Galloway, Team In Training or other training groups. All you could find about marathon training was in Runner’s World and the article was entitled “How to run a 2:17 Marathon.” Hell, I was just trying to finish. So I ran without gels or sports drinks or any food or water for that matter. In those days the theory was food and water would give you cramps. I ran with cotton shirts and socks and my shoe treads were made in a waffle iron (Nike waffle trainers); and when they wore out I built them up with Shoe Goo. But, you know, I finished, loved it, and just kept coming back.