Story #10 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM's 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.
When the California International Marathon came to life in 1983, the focus was on “marathon,” nothing more and nothing less. The running boom was in full swing and the marathon had become the icon for the serious distance runner. All the shorter distances were delegated to the world of fun running or, at the other end of the spectrum, Olympic track competitions.
By the early 90s marathons had become mainstream for all levels of distance runners, thanks to increased knowledge about pacing, nutrition, hydration, along with the well-documented benefits, both mental and physical, achieved from the sensible marathon training programs. The CIM Board of Directors and Staff has always believed in these benefits, and what better way to show shorter distance runners all the excitement and challenge of conquering the entire marathon distance than having them participate in the less daunting distances of a 4-person relay? In 1991, with Southwest Airlines as a sponsor, they launched a 4-person relay held concurrently with the individual runners’ marathon.
The inaugural Southwest Airlines Corporate Relay Challenge also hoped to create spirited competition among local businesses. Team divisions consisted of “Large Company Men,” Small Company Men” and Coed. A handful of teams competed and the winners were Sutter Health (“Large Company Men” in 2:40:56), California Chamber (Coed in 3:24:50), and Original Pete’s Pizza (“Small Company Men” in 3:08:19) - more about Original Pete’s and their CIM connection in Story #24. Little did the CIM Board and Staff know where this would all lead…
The format was similar in 1992 and 1993, with entries holding at about 15 teams. In 1994, with the realization that the CIM was timed perfectly for high school kids to continue the rivalries established during the cross-country season that ends in mid-November, the High School division was added. The Oakmont Cross Country Vikings took top honors that year (2:58:11). In 1995 the Relay divisions were changed to simply Male, Female, Coed, High School Boys and High School Girls, and a whopping 42 teams entered! In 1997 a major change occurred when the divisions expanded to open, corporate, high school, running club, health club, and military, and each had male, female and coed categories. The teams entered that year increased to more than 80! The relay team entries steadily increased each year to an all-time high of nearly 500 teams in 2006, 150 more teams than in 2005.
Lots of Relay action at the Leg #4 Exchange. Only 5.7-miles to go!
There are good reasons for the Marathon Relay Challenge’s popularity. First, there had been an overall increase in the marathon’s growth, especially in recent years — from 3,500 in 2004, to 4,000 in 2005, to 4,500 in 2006. More people are running the marathon, so more people will be interested in running the relay. Second, more people who might not be able to tackle the full marathon distance realize that they can have “Four Times the Fun!” by running the relay. Third, the Marathon Relay Challenge Director, Julie Fingar, has done an outstanding job in publicizing the Relay. The CIM is proud to see the Relay’s growth because it verifies the CIM’s mission to bring fitness goals to our population. Our marathon entrants often tell us that they decided to run the marathon after running the Relay.
This Jesuit HS (Sacramento) boys team holds the fastest High School Relay Team time, (2:27:55) set in 2000. It was the relay course record until 2004.
The increasing number of teams made it necessary to change the relay exchange locations to areas where there would be plenty of parking for team members. In 1999, with more than 200 teams entered, the original distances of three 10Ks and a 12K were adjusted to 5.9 miles (corner of Oak Avenue and Fair Oaks Blvd.), 7.3 miles (corner of Manzanita and Fair Oaks Blvd.), 7.3 miles (corner of Munroe and Fair Oaks Blvd.), and the final leg to the Capitol was 5.3 miles. Since then there have been minor changes, and in 2006 a GPS measurement shows the current distances to be 5.9 miles, 7.6 miles, 7.0 miles and 5.7 miles.
In 2003 a very unique “sub” division was added: “The Political Animals.” Sacramento, as the California State Capitol, has politicians running amok anyway, so why not create a reason for them to get serious about their running? The 2003 team consisted of Placer County Assemblyman Ted Gaines (now State Assemblyman Gaines), Folsom City Councilman Jeff Starsky, Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Niello (now State Assemblyman Niello), and Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn. In 2006 an additional element was added when California State Assemblyman Lloyd Levine entered the marathon and issued a challenge to the Political Animal Relay Teams to “Beat Lloyd.” Didn’t happen… with Lloyd finishing in 3:14:56 well ahead of the first Political Animals Team time of 3:51:32.
The first "Political Animals" Relay Team, L to R: Jeff Starsky, Roger Niello, Steve Cohn, and Ted Gaines.
The most recent relay division was added in 2005. Sacramento City Deputy Police Chief Rick Braziel, an Ironman triathlete and serious runner himself, believes in the mental and physical benefits of running. He had trained for and run the full marathon at the 2004 CIM, where he came up with the idea of a relay division for law enforcement officers and firemen. He knew this would be a great way to showcase running as a fitness tool for these people, and it would promote camaraderie and friendly rivalries between the different departments. Rick approached the CIM staff and board, who enthusiastically agreed, and he followed up by helping to promote the division regionally. Now the “Police/Fire” Relay Team division (for men, women and coed teams) is a permanent part of the CIM Relay Challenge.
New for 2007 is a “Run the Relay” program for high school youths. The CIM’s Youth Fitness Program targets middle school kids and trains them to run the 2.62-Mile maraFUNrun. The “Run the Relay” program continues this concept by targeting high school kids who are new to running and will train them to run the longer relay distances. The program includes a training schedule, running logs, entries to both the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon Relay and to the CIM’s Relay Challenge. For more information, visit runcim.org.
Another change for 2007 was caused by the 2006 surge in Relay entrants. To avoid another unexpected increase, the CIM has capped the number of teams that can enter at 750. This will enable us to better plan the number of t-shirts, medals, on-course aid and other details to ensure the quality of the event. We are already well ahead of last year’s entries, so if you are planning to enter, enter early!
...can a relay team run the marathon? The current course record is 2:23:23, about a 5:30 minute per mile pace, set by an Open Men’s Team (Toddlers Bladder), in 2004. A men’s Running Club team, River City Rebels, holds the second fastest time (2:26:08) in their 2006 attempt at achieving the course record. Third on the all-time list is the Jesuit High School Boys team who ran a 2:27:55 in 2000. Could a Relay Team ever beat the individual overall course record? That record is 2:10:27 set by Jerry Lawson in 1993. All that’s needed is a team of runners who can each run their leg at just under a four minutes-58 seconds-per-mile pace.
The monetary beneficiaries of the California International Relay Challenge have always been regional youth fitness programs. Originally funds were directed toward the Sacramento-area Boys and Girls Clubs. More recently the hugely popular and successful California International Marathon’s Youth Fitness Program is its primary beneficiary (read more about this program in Story #12).
Anchor leg of Toddler's Bladder kicks it in for the Relay record in 2004.
Before closing this article, the relay tradition of finding clever team names deserves mention. Each year the CIM Program lists some of these from the previous year, so here is a recap of those: Three Chips and a Dip (Buffalo Chips Running Club), oowwww-Chewaawaas, Fine Whine, Somebody Call 911, Hot Tamales, You Go girls, Running Ragged, The Free Radicals, Miles of Smiles, Oh! My Quad!, Who let the Mom’s Out?, The Quad Squad, Speedy Locks and the Three Bears, Jog Bra Junkies, Slow and Slower, 2 Old 2 Young, Crime Stompers, Geeks in Sneaks, Not SO Incerdibles, Flabtastic Four, Four Stooges, Tooty and the Slow Fish, Three Shots and a Chaser, Snails ‘r’ Us…
If you’d like to check out more team names and potential competition, all the Marathon Relay Challenge results from 1995 to present are posted in the results section at runcim.org.
Cal Trans Director Will Kempton (back row with the tie), helped to organize three relay teams for the 2006 CIM. Cal Trans Team Hancock won the Corporate Men's Division with a time of 2:59:58.