Fastest course in the west.

Those Championship Years: CIM As Championship Event

Story #7 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM’s 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.

The CIM as a National and Regional Championship Event
Due to its mission to be a world-class event, from its inception the California International Marathon instituted championship event qualifications as determined by the governing body of the sport. In 1983 this organization was called The Athletics Congress, later changed in 1992 to USA Track and Field. To be sanctioned by USATF, the event must follow the stringent USATF competition rules, which apply to every detail about how the event is conducted, from certifying the course distance to submission of course records.

Road Racing Championships Background
The first CIMs were championship events on the Association of Road Racing Athletes schedule, a circuit that was the forerunner of the current USATF road racing championship circuits. The ARRA was the moving force behind legitimizing prize money for road races, which occurred in 1981 when The Athletics Congress rescinded the “contamination rule” that disallowed amateurs to compete with professionals in track and field and road racing. The 1983 CIM, with its $45,000 purse was one of the earlier marathons to offer five-digit prize money.

National Marathon Championships
National Marathon Championships date back to 1925 for men and 1974 for women. These championships showcase American marathoners, something that became a more significant endeavor in the 1990s, as foreign athletes began to dominate the American marathoning scene. Once prize money was legitimized, prize money bonuses were added to the already hefty purses as an incentive to attract the very best U.S. runners, who competed not only for the status of “National Champion,” but also for a lucrative payday. The pot was sweetened further when, in 1995, the USA Running Circuit was established, an annual series of road races from 5 km to marathon. The event winners receive additional monies at each race and there is a final grand prix purse awarded at its conclusion. For 2007, the total awards from this series will equal $632,600. Finally, National Marathon Championships are usually selection races for international marathon championships like the Pan American Games and the IAAF World Championships. Occasionally they are incorporated into the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials as well, as is this year’s Men’s Championship at the New York City Marathon.

An equally important mission of the California International Marathon is to support American elite marathoner development, and what better way than to provide these athletes (who balance training regimens with regular jobs) with prize money along with a quality event. The CIM was willing to add the extra prize money required by TAC (later USATF) to host the U.S. Championships. To that end the CIM applied for and was accepted for the following national Marathon Championships:

1984 Men’s and the Women’s
1985 Women’s
1988: Masters Men’s and Women’s
1989: Women’s
1993: Women’s
During much of this time, larger marathons (like Boston, Chicago and New York) preferred to budget appearance money to attract top athletes rather than dedicate their funds to prize money. This trend continued over the years until quite recently. These larger events are now finding that the publicity generated by featuring U.S. runners (versus foreign athletes who have dominated their events) has been worth offering the additional prize monies required for national championships.

In the 1984 Men’s Championship, Debut marathoner Ken Martin wowed the country with his 2:11:24, an American record time that remains the second fastest time at a U.S. National Marathon Championship (Bill Donakowski ran a 2:10:42 at the Twin Cities Marathon in 1986). The 1984 Women’s U.S. National Marathon title was captured by Katy Schilly (Atlanta, GA) when she held off Gail Kingma for her 2:32:40 win, besting Gabrielle Andersen’s 2:33:25 time in 1983 for a women’s course record. Both Ken and Katy received an additional $1,000 for their efforts.

1984 CIM leaders (l to r): Derrick May, Fraser Clyne, Ken Martin
At the 1985 Women’s National Championship, Nancy Ditz, from the Bay Area, and Minnesotan Janis Klecker battled throughout the race with Ditz pulling ahead to win, 2:31:36 to Klecker’s 2:31:53, both under the course record. Of note is that this CIM was the first marathon on record to offer more prize money to women than to men, due to the $1,000 bonus received by the Women’s National Champion. Ditz (’88) and Klecker (’92) went on to become Olympians. That same year, Ken Martin captured is second Men’s Championship held at the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Onward to the 1988 National Masters Championship for both men and women. In the United States, “masters” refers to runners who are 40 years and older (more on trends of competitive Masters running and the CIM will be addressed in CIM Story #23). Supporting and encouraging the participation of older age division athletes was also on the CIM’s list of priorities although this now came at a price. Prize money inflation was taking its toll and the CIM was required to add $12,000 for the masters prize purse, split between the top three masters men and women – $3,000, $2,000, $1,000. Robert Schlau of South Carolina won the men’s title in 2:19:48, seventh overall; second was Gary Madison of Tulsa, OK in 2:31:30, and third was Michael Hefferman of Portland, Oregon in 2:32:16. Laurie Binder of Oakland won the women’s national title, placing third overall in 2:43:23, with Gail Scott of Durango, CO second (2:46:40), and Juana Stavalone of San Jose, CA third (2:54:39).

In the 1989 Women’s National Marathon Championships, the prize purse required was fattened to a whopping $16,500. This included a $3K, 2K, 1K to first, second and third American women, a first woman TAC bonus of $4.5K, and a Goodwill Games bonus of $3K for both first and second. All this in addition to the $50,000 purse for the overall CIM finishers. As in 1984, a debut marathoner, Nan Doak-Davis of Iowa, was the Champion in 2:33:11, with local favorite Linda Somers running a big PR 2:33:37 (she ran a 2:44:43 in 1988) for second and Lisa Kindelan of Kirkland, WA third in 2:35:31.

Linda Sommers finished second at the 1989 Women’s National Championships
The 1993 Women’s Marathon Championship saw Linda Somers return to the CIM to “breeze to victory” as described by a Sacramento Bee headline. She had a goal of going sub-2:30 but admitted to the cardinal CIM error of going out too fast in the first half, and she settled for her 3:34:11 victory, over three minutes ahead of Bay Area resident Diana Fitzpatrick, and four minutes between her and third place Gordon Bakoulis from New York. From her fist CIM in 1988 onward, Linda is a good example of the athlete development resulting from the National Championships. She went on to defend her 1993 title at the 1994 Championships in Duluth, MN with a 2:33:42, placed 11th at the 1995 Boston Marathon (2:34:30) and 7th in the World Championships (2:32:12) and then in 1996 achieved her personal best time of 2:30:06 in her second place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

What happened between 1993 and the present?
Why no National Championships at the CIM? There’s good news and then more good news to answer this question. The increased prize money now required for the winning National Championship marathoners has put the CIM out of the running to host these events, and this is good news for the athletes. For example, at the 2007 Women’s Championships at the Boston Marathon, the prize purse was $70,000 to be divided among the top 10 American women, in addition to Boston’s overall prize money awards. More good news: beginning in 1987, the Pacific Association of The Athletics Congress (now USATF) shifted its focus to regional runner development by becoming a championship event in the Pacific Association’s Road Racing Grand Prix. CIM co-founder John Mansoor, at the time the Pacific Association’s Long Distance Running Chair, spearheaded the creation of this Grand Prix and encouraged the CIM to be its finale in this series of road races that begin in January and lead up to the marathon distance in December.

More recently, the California International Marathon athlete development targets the “quadrennial” cycle of the Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying years. A good example is this year, when the Olympic Marathon Trials for the men are being held at the NYC Marathon on November 3, but the Women’s Trials are at Boston on April 15, 2008. So the 25th Anniversary CIM is a Pacific Association Championship for Women and for Masters, but not for Open Men. Women (open and masters) can train for the CIM as their Trials qualifier and still be ready to race in April. The CIM can dedicate the prize purse to those women, rather than dilute the money by including men who no longer are seeking a qualifier. In 2008, the CIM will not be on the Pacific Association circuit, except possibly for team competitions, since 2008-2009 are “down years” in the Olympic quadrennial.

Many regional sub-elite and elite marathoners have benefited from the Pacific Association’s Grand Prix Road Racing Circuit. Below is a list of the Pacific Association CIM top finishers over the years who went on to Olympic Marathon Trials.