The California International Marathon Is Made for PRs


Last yr, I wrote a story concerning the decline of the aggressive novice marathoner within the U.S. Using the 100th place finisher within the Boston and New York City marathons as a barometer, I recommended that there had been a lower in efficiency amongst these “sub-elites” because the heyday of the early ‘80s. It was hardly a complete examine, however every time I chat with veterans of the U.S. road-racing scene, my idea is normally corroborated. Many a child boomer has instructed me that performances that had been “nothing special” again within the day appear ok make you a local-level scorching shot in 2017. (Millennials, for their part, don’t discover this type of speak annoying in any respect.)

Against this backdrop, Sunday’s California International Marathon in Sacramento appears to have been a throwback of types; the instances on this race had been obscenely fast by present requirements. Last weekend, the 100th place finisher ran 2:29:40. Compared to the 100th place finisher on this yr’s New York City (2:37:15) and Boston (2:35:15) marathons, CIM 2017 was in a separate class—a proven fact that’s all of the extra spectacular as a result of, at roughly 10,000 runners, the race has far fewer individuals than the extra well-known East Coast marathons.

So why had been the instances so quick on Sunday?

The first cause is that the race doubled because the 2017 USATF Marathon Championships. Even although the most important names in U.S. marathoning weren’t in attendance, the fields of each the boys’s and ladies’s races had been unusually stacked with the professional and semi-pro athletes who signify the cream of the American membership working scene. (According to, there have been 48 males and 67 ladies who achieved the qualifying normal for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, the “B” normal for which is 2:19:00 and a couple of:45:00, respectively.)

But even when it isn’t internet hosting a nationwide championship, CIM can yield quick instances. In truth, it might very properly be one of the best place within the nation to set a PR.

Here’s why:

The Course

The California International Marathon is a net downhill, point-to-point race with comparatively few turns, working east to west from Folsom (366 toes) to downtown Sacramento (26 toes). According to David Monti, from Race Results Weekly, the course drops by a median of two.45 meters per kilometer, which makes it ineligible for an official world report. But except your identify is Mary Keitany or Eliud Kipchoge, you most likely don’t want to fret about that. The pertinent side of CIM is that it is eligible each for working a Boston Marathon qualifying time and, for Sunday’s high quality subject, an Olympic Trials qualifying time. The course could also be “gently rolling,” because the Sacramento Running Association puts it, however there aren’t any soul-crushing hills à la “Heartbreak” in Boston or the Queensboro Bridge in New York. For some runners, the “gently rolling” impact might even be preferable to the monotony of a flat course; as Portland-based runner Peter Bromka, who ran a 2:23:27 PR on Sunday, put it to me in a Twitter message: “I felt like every slight uphill was more than given back with a downhill. I loved riding that wave.” That stated, even irritatingly adaptable runners like Bromka will respect that the ultimate 10Okay (i.e. the toughest a part of each marathon) of CIM is nearly totally flat.

The Competition

One of the takeaways from Nike’s Breaking2 project, by which Eliud Kipchoge got here inside 26 seconds of a sub-two-hour marathon by drafting off an alternating group of pacers, is that working at threshold tempo is “easier” while you’re not working alone. The similar common precept explains why CIM may be a smart selection for somebody trying to set a private finest. The race touts itself because the “#1 Boston Qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon.” In different phrases, that is an occasion that pulls an unusually excessive variety of devotees. As Bromka (a devotee if ever there was 1) places it: “I call CIM the geekiest marathon in the country–the only reason to go to Sacramento in December is if you want to run fast. Everyone there is ready to roll.” As we noticed on Sunday, velocity begets velocity.

The Weather

CIM isn’t the one marathon within the nation that advantages from a good course and an abundance of proficient runners. At the Chicago Marathon, as an illustration, each components additionally apply. That’s why, greater than anything, it’s the climate that makes CIM a robust contender for being essentially the most reliably quick marathon within the nation. The situations on Sunday had been as near good because it will get: mid 40s at first, mid 50s on the end, no wind. For December in northern California, that seems to be the norm. According to, over the previous ten years, the warmest each day excessive on the CIM was 63 levels. According to the same site, since 2007, temperatures in Chicago have exceeded 70 levels six (!) instances on the day of the marathon, with 4 of these six days breaking the 80-degree threshold. (Meanwhile at Grandma’s Marathon, one other race that’s well-liked due to its flat course and aggressive subject, the last three years have seen race day temperatures exceed 70 levels.) How important are such variations in temperature? A latest New York Times article citing a study of knowledge gathered from almost 900 marathons helps put it in perspective. For the common runner, the examine discovered that:

“The relationship between temperature and finishing times is actually nonlinear—meaning that the effects of temperature strengthen as it gets warmer. Temperatures in the 50s increase the typical finishing time by only about five minutes, relative to a day in the 40s. On the other hand, days in the 70s would cause finishing times to be slower by 19 minutes; in the 80s, times would be 33 minutes slower.”

There’s nothing ambiguous about it: if you wish to run a PR, CIM is the place to do it.

(Editor references)

Leave a Reply