Race Recap: California International Marathon (CIM) 2017

Hometown races are awesome! No hotel, long drive, nor flight is necessary. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to join the California International Marathon fan club. (It’s probably because I wait too long to register and when I try, it’s sold out.)

I ran my first CIM in 2016. (Read the 2016 CIM race recap here.) This year, therefore, I approached the race knowing what to expect. I was ready to crush full marathon number 16!

Before you start to gasp is amazement and ask how many times I’ve BQ’d, let me reassure you that I am the let’s-take-the-scenic-route kind of runner. Why torture myself when I can instead wear capes or Christmas Trees on my head for 26.2 miles?!

This year I had the great pleasure of being one of 16 CIM ambassadors. This year, CIM’s 35th year, was the first time they had ambassadors. As an ambassador, I worked the CIM booth at the Modesto Marathon in March and at the Oakland Towns Half in August. I was also a mentor in the CIM First Timer’s Facebook group. As often as possible, I met up with them for group runs and provided encouragement/support within our Facebook group.


CIM does an amazing job offering pacers for the thousands of runners who register for CIM to earn a BQ time. The last pacer, however, is 5:22. The official cut off time for CIM is 6 hours. As CIM drew closer, some CIM First Timer’s expressed concern about meeting the 6 hour cut off time. Without hesitation, I chimed in with, “I’ll be your 6 hour pacer! I’ve done it before!” (Remember the Downtown River Run in Reno?)


I knew that my CIM training was not on point and I would not be earning a PR this year, so I figured, why not offer my services to help a fellow runner become a marathoner?! There’s no greater feeling than crossing the finish line of your first marathon! (I’m still trying to replicate the feeling of my first. This is why I keep running marathon after marathon. 😉)

Day Before CIM

Last year, I was a CIM newbie and did not realize there was a shakeout run offered in Sac the day before race day.  This year, I made sure not to miss it!  I, along with what seemed to be a couple hundred other runners, met at the Sacramento Convention Center at 8:30 AM.  I was so stoked because not only was it race weekend, but I was finally getting to meet Vanessa (of fattofitvanessa.wordpress.com and fellow CIM ambassador)!  We had tried two previous times to meet up, but both times did not work out.

img_3177While waiting for the shakeout run to begin, I also got to meet Amy (runaissancewoman), Jamie (jammiekomadina), Tonya (running_giraffelover), and a few CIM First Timers in person.  It’s the coolest / strangest feeling to meet people in person that you’ve felt connected to virtually for months or years!

We did a few laps around the State Capitol building and then headed to the expo.

I remember attending the expo last year and being in total amazement!  I had never been to such a large expo before.  (The closest was probably the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon.)  This year, once again, left me speechless!  So many great vendors, it’s well organized, lots of freebies, awesome speakers, great photo opportunities, etc.!

My 15 year old daughter, also known as the one who is in all of my Starbucks pictures, enjoyed attending the expo too!  I ran into another virtual running friend (and fellow Pro Compression ambassador) Bethany also known as be.fit.davis while at the expo!

After the expo, it was a day full of seeing our Japanese exchange student perform with his choir in the rotunda of the capitol building, shopping, eating Mexican food for lunch, more shopping, ice skating, and eating at BJ’s Brewhouse for dinner!

(Every year our family hosts a Japanese exchange student from Iberaki, Japan.  The group of 16 & 17 year-olds’ visit to California lasts for only a week, so we try to jam in as much activity and “American” fun as possible!)

Needless to say, by the end of the day, I was exhausted and ready to go to bed.  I quickly snapped my #flatrunner pic and caught a few hours of sleep.


Race Day

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 my alarm was set for 3:15am.  I live about an hour north of Sacramento and had to be to the start line shuttles by 5am.  As stated in my other race recaps, most race mornings I take a shower before the race.  CIM morning was no different.  When I was finally ready and headed downstairs to leave, I found the sweetest note left for me by our Japanese exchange student!


I drove to downtown Sacramento, parked my car in a parking garage, and made my way to the crowd waiting around for a shuttle bus.  I missed the first round of buses, but was first on the second round.

The ride from the finish line (downtown Sacramento) to the starting line (Folsom) took about 40 minutes.  When we arrived to the starting line at about 6am, we were told we could either wait on the bus until race start time at 7am or get off.  We were also told there were about 200 school buses that were transporting runners to the starting line, so we were to remember our bus’ number.  I had both my CIM First Timer’s group to meet up with as well as my We Run Social / Pro Compression group, so I got off the bus.

CIM First Timer’s Group
We Run Social Group

After the two meet ups, it was time for a few selfies with Sharon, Holly, and Vanessa. It was then time to line up in the appropriate spot in the starting chute area and get to know a few runners who were aiming for a 6 hour marathon goal.  *It’s important to pay attention to where you are lining up in a race.  There’s nothing more annoying than walkers lining up towards the front.  Walking is okay, but please line up towards the back of the pack.*  Since I was doing a 1:2 (run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes) interval, I lined up towards the back.

Since we were lined up quite a ways back, it took us a good three minutes before we crossed the starting line.  Can you see the starting line?


The first time I paced the 6 hour marathon, I started out faster than a 6 hour finish time since the race was much smaller and there were no runners behind the 5:30 pacer.  This time, however, I knew I wanted to stay as close to the 6:00 pace as possible.  My goal, therefore, was to stay as close to 13:44 per mile as possible.  I hoped to accomplish this goal by sticking to my run 1: walk 2 interval.  I felt kind of silly walking within the first mile, but I wanted to stick to my goal and I didn’t want tire out anyone who was trying to stick with my pace.

Tonya, a woman from the CIM First Timer’s Group, was the runner who was with me the longest.  We started together and even ate donuts together at mile 8!

Sadly, a little after the halfway point, I lost her.  A fellow CIM First Timer, Jim, was not far behind us up to that point.  I later found out that they ended up connecting and finished together!  Woohoo!

At mile 20, I ran in to a mother who was out on the course with her 12 year old daughter.  Can you imagine running a marathon at 12 years old?!  Amazing!

Jullea and her mother fell back behind me after I ran into them, but then out of nowhere, Jullea caught back up to me at mile 25 and asked, “How long do I have until the cut off time?”  I told her she had about 15 minutes and away she went ahead of me.  Her goal was to finish under 6 hours and she did it!

I am so beyond grateful for this CIM experience being an unofficial 6 hour pacer.  I had a blast!  I met SO many amazing people and had so many people thank me for being the unofficial 6 hour pacer.  A different CIM First Timer approached me at around mile 23 and thanked me for pacing.  She said she had been following me for quite sometime!

Miles 1 – 15 were high energy, miles 16 – 24 were uneventful and filled with meeting / encouraging different runners out on the course, and miles 24 – 26.2 were filled with telling those around me, “You’re doing it!  You’re going to get to that finish line!”  Seeing Ashley of Every Runner Counts at mile 25 was like a breath of fresh air.

Another surprise encounter was seeing Christa at mile 26.  Another boost of energy I needed after about 6+ hours of on-my-feet action!

Finally, when I rounded the final corner, I spotted the finish line and then spotted my family.  They normally don’t come and cheer me on (since I run so many races that it has become nothing too grand or out-of-the-ordinary).  Our exchange student, however, really wanted to come out and support me, so they all met me at the finish line.  It was SO special to see them there!

My goal was to finish in between 5:59:00 – 5:59:59.  I ended up finishing in 5:58:16.  About 44 seconds too fast, but I’ll take it!  If anyone was following me in hopes of finishing in under 6 hours, they would have done so!


Side note: There were some volunteers running in orange vests along the course who were suppose to be the 6 hour sweepers.  They weren’t wearing a pace band, they didn’t have a sign, and they weren’t consistent with their pace.  They had me second guessing myself since they passed me within the last mile saying that they were going to miss the 6 hour cut off time.  They must have been thinking about clock time and not chip time.  Since I crossed the starting line about 3 minutes after the race started, I actually finished 3 minutes faster than what the clock showed at the finish line.  If any CIM race officials read this, I’d be more than happy to be the official 6 hour pacer next year! 🙂
Overall, it was another amazing CIM experience!  I highly recommend this race and I look forward to running it year after year!  Have you seen my CIM race recap video?  If not check it out HERE.

What’s next on my agenda you may be asking yourself?  Not a whole lot.  The most immediate event is pacing the Hot Chocolate 15k in San Francisco again on January 7th.  Will I see you there?



There’s a funny story behind this medal.  The first medal I received, I realized there was a chip in it as I sat down for lunch with my family.  I just HAD to exchange it for a different one!  I ended up running all the way back to the finish line (about half a mile) and retook my medal shot with my new, chip-free medal.  It’s all about the bling, right?!

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Christian, wife, mom/stepmom, no meat athlete, runner, teacher

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  1. […] I lined up with the 5:30 pacers… hopeful? delirious? insane? I ran a 6 hour marathon at the California International Marathon in 2017 and to do so I ran intervals of walk two minutes, run one minute. I thought the 5:30 pacers would […]

  2. […] a 26.2 mile race? No, not really. I haven’t run a full marathon since unofficially pacing the California International Marathon in December of 2017. Even as I typed that, I wondered, “Really? Has it really been that […]

  3. It was really kind of you to be the unofficial 6-hour pacer. I did CIM as well. Fantastic race!

    1. Thanks! Was it your first time running CIM?

      1. It was. First CIM, 3rd marathon.

  4. love it!!! I wish we could go back and do it again, I loved that weekend so much!!!

  5. This was so awesome – love that video! Congrats!!! I’ve heard great things about that race!

  6. Alandrea *MrsMotherRunner

    Great race recap! Makes me miss running so much! Can’t wait to get back out there!!!!

    1. Thanks friend! I can’t wait until you get back to running too! 😄

  7. 50in50marathonquest

    awesome race report..love how you integrate the videos and have such fun with the pacing…CIM is on the “to do” list at some point, it looks like a great event…oh, and nice on the Starbucks references and IG posts 🙂

    1. Thanks James! Yes, you and Paula definitely need to come down and run CIM at some point! 😄

  8. So awesome Steph! Congratulations! Great video!

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