Fastest course in the west.

Volunteers Extraordinaire: CIM Honor Roll Of Volunteers

Story #4 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM’s 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.

Where do all these people come from? …and how do they know what to do?
It is common knowledge that the CIM could not happen without the assistance of the more than 2,000 dedicated volunteers who donate their time and energy to help with everything from stuffing goody bags to finish-area clean up. What is not so well known is: Where do all these people come from? …and how do they know what to do? The answer to these two questions lies in the rolls played by the CIM’s long-time volunteers who donate their time and energy to fill key leadership positions year after year. They not only have in-depth knowledge about their positions, but many of them recruit and instruct their own groups of volunteers. Below you will learn more about the amazing efforts they put forth to ensure that you have the best marathon possible experience — whether you are a world class elite, a runner aspiring for a Boston or a Trials qualifier, a mid- to back- of the pack fitness runner, or a first-timer. At press time, we had not yet received responses from several more who are listed at the end of the article; their stories will be added as we receive them.

The Start is in Good Hands
Dean Handy and his wife, Jo Ann, along with Lynn LePage (Recreation Manager for the City of Folsom Parks and Rec Dept.) have been helping out at the start of the California International Marathon since the inaugural CIM in 1983. In the early 80s, Jo Ann was a member of the Folsom Athletic Club and involved in their exercise programs when she learned about the soon-to-come-to-Folsom marathon. She stepped forward to help and brought Dean along with her. Dean, a phone company employee now retired, started out as a greeter for the arriving runners (he said that “herding cats” was a good description of this task). He has since done the maps for the starting area, set up the PA system, used his ham operator skills for communications, been in charge of hanging the start banner, marked the start line, and actually started the race on several occasions. Jo Ann has helped wherever she has been needed – greeting runners, warning them off private property, setting up and delivering water to mention a few.

Split Timer Allegiance: “Don’t give away my mile!”
This is the kind of allegiance that Split Time Announcer Coordinator Barbara Weiss inspires. When one of her long-time volunteers is unable to serve, they tell her they’ll be back the following year, and “Please… don’t give away my mile!” The CIM is frequently complimented for providing these split time announcers, who shout out elapsed time and pace at every mile-marker. Friends of friends drew in Barbara, a consultant at the California Department of Education, to help in the CIM’s early years, and she stepped up to be the split-timer announcer coordinator about 15 years ago. She has a “staff” of dedicated people who reserve the CIM date each year. They meet at the Orangevale Oak Ave. Fire Department race day morning where they coordinate their stopwatches with the start line clock and then depart for their assigned miles. Barbara was delighted when race management issued them a porta-potty and the Fire Department provided them with lights! Her many-year split time announcers include: Tess and Dave Stanley, Victor and Tina Stiles, Bob Miller, Glen Thomas and friends, Jon Shelgren and friends, Jennifer Rousseve, Pat Brown and Les Axelrod, Ron Capalbo, Al and Barbara Balliet, Michael Gardner and Kathleen Spencer.

Marshalling the Course Marshals
Course Marshals are the volunteers stationed at every intersection who supplement the tasks of the law enforcement officers, but they are also true race officials, looking for bandits and runners making rule infractions. Margaret Martin, an instructional aide at the Ralph Richardson Center for Handicapped Children, started helping out at the CIM in 1983 due to her passion for track and field and distance running. Margaret, an Orangevale resident, was a competitive masters athlete, is a USATF official, and her daughter was the first young woman from Casa Robles High School to receive a five-year college track scholarship. Recognizing her organizational and officiating skills, event management put her in charge of all the Course Marshals for the entire 26.2 miles. After 1985, event management realized the immensity of Margaret’s task and divided the duties between three people. Margaret has stayed on to manage Section 1 (mile one through mile 9), and come September she will start to calling up last year’s Section 1 Marshals. Some of long-time Section 1 Course Marshals include Larry and Sharon Wush, Roger and Ann Royal, John and Sharon Newman, John and Claudine Kelly, Craig Davida, the Carmichael Lions Club, and the Mother Lode Lions Club.

Is There a Doctor …or a Nurse …or an EMT on the Course?
In an event as strenuous as a marathon, the need to be prepared for medical emergencies is essential. With rising health care costs and insurance liability issues the means for satisfying these needs has become more and more complicated. To the rescue comes the CIM’s dedicated Medical Staff Coordinator for the past six years, Richard Wonacott. Richard gives full credit to his predecessor, Chris Forsyth, for his years of work establishing the structure that Richard has been able to build upon. Richard, Legislative Director/Press Secretary for 24th District Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., is himself an EMT and past California Highway Patrolman. Early in his “tenure” he outreached to Catholic Healthcare West and UCD Medical Center, who have since provided thousands of dollars worth of supplies and staffing for the CIM. He has also enlisted the support of the California Highway Patrol as “roving medics” with their unique “golf cart” medical vehicle, and the Capitol Corps (formerly State Police) for additional finish line EMT assistance.

He brought together aid station staffing at three “Wall” area locations as well as at the Lyons office at 28th St. and J, supported by a partnership between Harry and Philip Duncan of Vitek Mortgage with Lyon Realtors. Richard recognizes the following people who have been extremely helpful in bringing volunteers to these positions: Denny Powell and Dr. Manny Diaz of Catholic Healthcare West, Jennifer Noble, R.N. and Aida Calpo, R.N. of UCD Medical Center, Damon West (Chiropracter), Evelyne Jamet (and her 15 friends who are all turning 40 this year), Mike Nivens of the Captiol Corps, and Capitol Corps EMTs Emmett Spraktes, Dan Schneider, Aaron York. Currently more than 50 volunteer physicians, nurses, EMTs, massage therapists and various assistants are present at the California International Marathon’s aid stations and the finish.

“Under the radar screen – that’s the way we like it.”
Bike Marshals escort the lead male and female runners, checking that the roads are clear of vehicle and pedestrian traffic to ensure their safe passage. They are prepared to stop and assist these runners in times of difficulty, and they carry space blankets, first aid kits and cell phones. Gerry Miller, a senior Environmental Planner with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and avid cyclist, has been coordinating the CIM Bike Marshals for the past five years. Gerry became involved due to his experience at this task with many other Sacramento running events, and notes that recruiting volunteers isn’t too difficult because cyclists like to support runners and vice versa. He advises his team of about 20 bike marshals to do their hard rides on Saturday to take the edge off their competitive instincts, because the Sunday “duty” must focus on runner safety and they must be ready for anything. Their race day meeting place is the Vic’s Market on Oak Avenue, and the first cyclist takes off ahead of the first wheelchair athletes to make sure the course is clear and the cones are in place. As the lead runners approach, those assigned to them break away, and the next break away is for the lead women runners. The remaining Bicycle Marshals follow as a back up for the first three packs. Gerry reports that a good CIM race day is one when they have no major incidents to report after they congregate at their finish area tent. They’ve done their job, are under the radar screen, and that’s the way they like it. The Bike Marshal honor roll list includes Larry Robinson, Steve Schorer, Scott Taggart, and Tom and Glenda Higgins. Gerry’s wife Rosie and Charlotte Carson get the credit for having the finish area tent well-stocked and ready to receive the returning cyclists.

And Then There Were Two!
In 1983, Chris Graser was a Capital City Flyer, a Sacramento Long Distance Running Association member, and one of the inaugural CIM planners (her brother just happens to be the event co-founder John Mansoor). In the following years, Chris, a fifth grade elementary school teacher, has done everything from run an aide station at the 13-mile mark, to figuring out age division awards at the finish (she reports that it “…wasn’t fun…we had to go through those reams and reams of names to find the winners”), to her current tasks of handling late registrations at the Expo followed by day-of-race registration at the Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun.

In 1987 her duties were a tad limited due to being almost nine months pregnant. Her daughter Jenny Graser was born a week later, and now Jenny has been involved ever since, first as a “show stopper” wherever she accompanied her Mom, and later, once she began walking and talking, helping with late registration and the maraFUNrun. Chris reports that like her Mom, Jenny, now a sophomore at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has never missed a CIM. She even juggled her busy college schedule to come home to help at CIM last year – which she plans to do again for 2007.

The Chutemaster
Early event organizers established a scheme for the finish line area, and in 1985 the man in charge became Chris Hadley who moved there after two years of start line duties (remember him from story #1?). Chris, a civilian employee with the Sacramento City Police Department, held the finish line coordinator position for 12 years, took a three-year break and returned for an additional four more years. Needless to say, he has seen many changes. He reports that “During those early years I’d arrive around 6 a.m. to set up and leave around 2 p.m. after clean up. I recruited police officers and their wives to work the finish chutes. To keep runners in finishing order, John Mansoor fashioned clothes hangers – each with a number attached. We would remove the runners tags and place them on the hanger and when full, a person would run the hanger to the results room.” Chip timing has helped with all that, but along with it came a big price tag. Chris observed what used to take about nine hours for the finish area set-up and take-down time increase to closer to 48-hours, as runner numbers and course closure times increased. Watch for more about marathon technology changes over the years in CIM Story #6.

The Conemaster
What do the Sacramento Jazz Festival and the California International Marathon have in common? Jim Dent, The Conemaster! About fifteen years ago, when Terry DeBencik became the CIM’s Technical Director, late in the CIM planning stages Terry was at his wits’ end to find someone to place cones (and there are literally hundreds of them) on the CIM course. Terry outreached to the folks he knew at the Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jim Dent signed on. Every year since, Jim and his crew of volunteers meet at 6:30 a.m. in Fair Oaks Village and proceed down the course pulling a trailer Jim had modified so they could efficiently “drive and drop” the cones. Once the task is completed they retire to a favorite pub for a Bloody Mary and watch the runners go by. When asked if much had changed for them over the years, he chuckled, “Well, now when we are done we meet at Club 2-Me rather than the Torch Club.” Last year his daughter-in-law was able to benefit from his work when she successfully ran her first marathon at the CIM.

“It’s Not an All You Can Eat Buffet!”
Once the runners get past the finish line area, providing a detour to the medical tent is not warranted, the next stop is for water and food. For the set up and serving of these items they can thank Roger Miller and Felipe Valverde who have been in charge of this task for the last 15 years. A friend of theirs, Bill Turner, orignally recruited them to assist with food at the Santa Parade and then the CIM. They arrive at the finish area around 6 a.m., unpack boxes of water, bagels, fruit, and assorted other goodies provided by various sponsors, arrange them on tables, replenish them throughout the morning as needed, and monitor the portions taken (it’s not an “all you can eat” buffet, afterall).

They also assist the Girl Scouts in setting up the steaming kettles of that ever-popular soup. Once the major crush of runners have come through, they consolidate the remaining supplies and put everything in order for clean up. They report that the runners’ gratitude keeps them returning each year making their efforts enjoyable and rewarding.

Jim Currier – The Info Man
I’m a computer repairman for the California Dept of Consumer Affairs. I’m nearly sixty and I’ve been running and race walking since I was 12.

I think it was 1983. I had just moved my family to the Arden area, and I heard about this new marathon that was being contested along Fair Oaks Boulevard. Having been a middle distance runner since I was in grade school, I was very curious. I also heard that a few ex-teammates from my championship cross country teams at Highlands High School would be competing in the race. That first year I positioned myself near mile 18 with my pockets full of energy bars and bananas and cheered until I was hoarse and the last competitor had passed. ?I believe it was for the race in 1987 that I officially volunteered for the first time. We spent the Saturday before the race stuffing and handing out goody bags, greeting competitors, and answering every question we could about the race. On Sunday I had volunteered to be a course pace announcer, and was at the Firehouse on Oak Avenue at some “God awful” hour in the morning waiting to set my pace watch at the start of the race. We heard the gun, set our watches, then, after the runners had passed, raced off in our vehicles to take up positions as pace announcers at mile markers along the course. I manned mile #18 for about six or seven years in the late 1980”s and early 1990’s, and I’ve been at the CIM Expo manning the information booth almost every minute during the expo every year since 1992. I love it.

Even with all of the information, encouragement, and excitement about the race all around me, and with all of the encouragement I gave to those in the race each year, by 1992 I had yet to run the distance myself. I was running five mile, ten mile, and half marathon races all around the area, but just couldn’t break that 14 mile barrier. Then, in 1993 tragedy struck. I had to have my right hip and upper femur replaced. The surgeon told me that I might as well forget about running for the rest of my life. Even so, in ‘94’ I was back at the CIM Expo information booth greeting old aquantances and answering any and all questions.

By 1996, I had discovered race walking, a challenging, but “low impact” way to compete in distance events and I was beginning to enter races once again. Then in 2001, at the age of 52, I finally competed in, and finished my first CIM, race-walking the course in 4: 42 in a driving rainstorm. Since then I‘ve repeated the feat, competing in both the full race and the marathon relay challenge. CIM Rocks!

More CIM Honor Roll Volunteers:

  • Tony and Debbie Wells: Sweats Bags, 15+ years
  • Floyd Brown: Kaiser Permanente maraFUNrun (t-shirts at Expo and race day help)
  • George Foxworth: 25-year manager of course volunteers from 19th St. to the finish
  • Barbara and Tom Farren: They help out everywhere – all weekend long!