California International Marathon: Pros and Cons

First off, let me say that I did what I set out to do…I beat Oprah! Hurray! 

Now, let’s talk about race pros and cons. The California International Marathon, held in Sacramento, starts at Folsom Lake and ends at the Capitol Mall downtown. It is a net elevation decline; however, this does not mean that it does not have hills! In fact, according to my Garmin, the total ascent was 3600 ft. and the total descent was about 3900 ft., which pretty much matches up to the course profile. 

The course itself is a beautiful course. There is still fall foliage. It runs mostly down Fair Oaks Blvd, which is a tree lined and sometimes winding road. The weather started out in the high 30s/low 40s and got up into the high 50s/low 60s by the end of the race. The race started at 7 am and although you could not drive to the start, there were free bus shuttles from several areas nearby. You could also pay to get the bus from several hotels. If you paid, you got to sit on the bus until the start of the race; if you took the free shuttle, you had to get off and wait in the cold. 


Plenty of port-a-potties at the start of the race. In fact, there were probably near to 300 of them. This is a huge pro for me, since I have a bladder the size of a pea, especially on race day, when I am nervous and hyper hydrated.

Plenty of aid stations (17 total). There was an aid station pretty much every one and a half miles serving both water and Ultima Replenisher. There were three places where they were handing out Gu as well (miles 13, 20 and 23). They had the Gu stations right before the water stations, so you could take your Gu and then have a nice swig of water to wash it down, which I have found is critical. I carried my own water (24 oz) because I like to have more control over when I can drink, but I would have been fine without it.

Great race swag. The t-shirt for this race was a long sleeved technical tee. It came in both women’s and men’s sizes, which is great because the men’s shirts just don’t fit me quite as well. It’s light blue (the men’s were dark blue…what the heck), which is not that exciting, but at least it’s not white.

The Expo. The expo was huge. There were tons of vendors there, both selling and giving away things. There was a lot of information about other races in the area. REI was there, giving away money (I still don’t know if I won anything…fingers crossed!) It was well organized and easy to manipulate. I did not buy anything, since I pretty much have everything I need right now, but if I needed anything, this would have been the place to get it!


The Relay. This race was not only a marathon, but also a marathon relay. What I did not quite understand is that they don’t split up the four legs evenly; it’s 5.9, 13.1, 20 and the end. Strange. Anyway, I wish that they had this as a separate race. The areas where the relay runners had to swap over was so congested. I think there were something like 1000 teams, so hundreds of people were lined up, ready for the exchange at the transfer points. At each transfer point, there were corrals and the relay people went one way while the marathoners went another. It was just a bit confusing and was a little too much hubbub for me.

Bivvys on the course. As I mentioned before, this is a very personal con for me, since I use the bathroom a lot. I had to go 4 times during this race. Each time I waited as long as I could, because all of the port-a-potties had long lines. At each aid station there were only 4 or 5 potties, therefore making this a con in my book. I think that without the bathroom lines, I may have been able to shave 5 minutes off of my time, maybe more! Or maybe I just need to learn to pee on myself, like the pros.

Walkers. This may be of no fault of the CIM, but what is up with the people walking in front of me when I was corralled in the 4:10 – 4:25 area? Shouldn’t they have started farther back? The race start was not corralled per se. There were only signs telling you what pace should be starting here, but no actual cordoning off of people (like when I ran in NY). I am not fast enough that it really made a difference to my time, but it is still annoying that people slower than me must have started way up at the 3 hour pace mark, when they are obviously not going to finish in three hours. I admit to sometimes corralling myself in a 30 second per mile faster than I normally run, but not HOURS!


Before the race started I asked a lady at the port-a-potty line how many people had signed up. She said 25,000. I remember thinking, “Holy &^%$”. Once the race started and I had been running in a pretty thick pack of people for about 2 hours, I assumed she must have been right. The crowd barely thinned; even by the end I was still running alongside a lot of people. Afterwards, we checked online. Here are the official numbers.

Marathoners signed up: 7909
Marathoners finished: 5900 (not official)
Relay Teams signed up: 1056 (x 4 people)

Course Record: 2:10:06, Jerry Lawson, USA, 1993
This Year’s Winner: 2:11:50 Erick Monyenye, USA

All in all it was a great race. I was pretty tired at the end, but I made it. I finished. Stay tuned for the race recap on Friday!  

Have you ever been to Sacramento? What did you do this weekend?


  1. Sounds like a great race! i have heard good things about CIM, especially about the elevation, but then I look at the elevation profile and it looks like lots of rolling hills so it doesn't seem as 'downhill' to me! I am glad you had a great experience and I had NO DOUBT you'd beat Oprah. :)

  2. Congratulations on beating Oprah! She looks upset about it...j/k. I did a downhill course this fall and yeah, it's still hilly!

  3. sounds like a nice course - can't wait to read about your race!

  4. Woohoo! Glad you "beat Oprah"! I'm really impressed with how many aid stations there were. That's great! Can't wait to hear about the race!

    Fingers crossed you win money from REI!

  5. I've never run a downhill race so I'm not sure if I would like it. It seems like it was a good race for you so yay! Now I want the realllll recap. ;)

  6. I'm glad you had such a great race!!! It sounds fun!

  7. Lots of good pros, not too many cons, so it sounds like a good race. Great job beating Oprah! I am a few hours from Sacramento and have to go a lot for work so I think this may have to be on my list for next year!

  8. I would have to agree on the relay part. I did a half that also allowed for relays in an already crowded race, I say go run a 5 or 10k separate race or just do the relay as a separate race.

  9. Congratulations on your first marathon! I have the same issue with going to the bathroom during races. I have only made it without having to stop and pee during two of the seven half marathons that I've run, and two I had to stop twice.

  10. You forgot the women's course records and winner. We are not competing with the men.


Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!