Story #19 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM's 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.
26.2 miles is a long, long way, but nothing compared to the miles, the hours, the ups, and the downs involved in training to complete this distance. The journey from the initial “I think I’ll run the CIM this year.” to crossing the finish line is filled with a wide range of emotions revealed in thoughts like “Whose idea was this anyway?” to “What a beautiful morning to be running; this is a great sport!”
As marathon day approaches, most runners experience some anxiety about the chance of something that might keep them from toeing the start line – a case of the flu, a sprained ankle, a family emergency. CIM statistics show that of the people entered, an average of 10% do not show up at the start line. Of those who run, another 5 to 10% do not finish. For the 90 to 95% who complete the distance, there are always several who have done so in an extraordinary fashion. Here are a few of their amazing stories. If you have an “Against all Odds” story, please send it to us. We doubt that we know of them all!
In 1984, at the second running of the CM, Swedish runner Kjell-Erik Stahl was one of the pre-race favorites. As race weekend approached it appeared that his travel plans were in order, but by Saturday there was no sign of him. Late that day, Race Director John Mansoor received a call saying he had problems with his flights, but he was on his way and due to arrive at the Sacramento airport around 5 a.m. on Sunday morning! Arrangements were made and he was transported from the airport directly to the starting line. As the race unfolded he stayed with the lead pack but faded to third in 2:12:00, behind Scotland’s Fraser Clyne (2nd in 2:11:50) and winner Ken Martin (2:11:24). All four top finishes bested the inaugural CIM’s course record.
Kjell-Erik Stahl running second above, finishes second at the 1984 CIM after a taking a red-eye to from Sweden to Sacramento!
Steve became a runner for the same reason many of us did -— he had recently turned 40 and wanted to improve his fitness. He ran the inaugural CIM and became a CIM Honor Roll member, running every CIM up to 1999. While training for the 2000 CIM, he suffered a heart attack, had a stent inserted, recovered, and was given permission by his physician to resume training.
Steve went on to run the 2002 CIM. Below is his “story within a story” about the inspiration he received to enable him to finish.
“At the 2002 California International Marathon I was running my 18th CIM. I hit the 1/2 marathon right on schedule at 2 hours three minutes, and the 20 mile mark at three hrs. 15min. a little slower. Somewhere between 22 and 23 miles I ran out of gas and slowed to a walk. As some of my old friends went by, I tried to run, but I could only manage a few steps. Groups of Team in Training came by, I tried to run, with no avail. After awhile, I gave up trying to run; I thought, “I’ll just walk in.”
About that time spectators started cheering louder and louder, and I knew it wasn’t for me. I looked around and there was Helen Klein. Instinctively I started to run, and I asked her if she was going for a personal record. She said no — she was doing a world record.
At first I got a burst of energy running with Helen, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to walk again, but I couldn’t. I looked over at Helen, she was focused, and working hard. I told her this was my 1st. marathon since my heart attack, hoping she would slow down. She didn’t. I wanted to stop but couldn’t. I was thinking
“I don’t know if my body can keep up with this 80-year-old.”
For those of you who don’t know the CIM course it goes down L street, turns left on 8th street, then you go a block turn left again on Capitol Mall, and at that time the course splits for the men’s and women’s finish lines. I made my final left turn, with 50 or 60 yards to go. I gave it my all. As I got near the finish line, I could visualize the results: “Steve Galvan, Helen Klein.”
After the race, I ran into some of my friends, they asked how I did, and before I could say anything, one of them said that I had paced Helen. I answered no, not exactly and told him the truth. The next day I checked the results on the Internet and there it was: “Helen Klein, Steve Galvan."
She had beaten me by two seconds.
Steve also ran the 2003 CIM and the 2004 Napa Marathon, but his “against all odds” story does not end here. In 2006 Steve was back in the hospital for another stent and was told “no running, walking was OK.” In May 2007 he had a quadruple bypass. He is rehabbing from this and given permission to run again, but only short distances. Steve says,
“I can’t complain I’ve run 154 marathons and about 97 ultra’s and about 400 other races… but I would sure like to run my CIM Number 20!”
With the many “run/walk” programs that lead to a successful marathon finish, let’s not count him out quite yet.
The 2006 CIM was my first marathon, and I had trained for months in preparation for it. As a result of nerves, I woke up at 3:42 am marathon morning thinking I had overslept my alarm. When I cleared my eyes, I realized my house was on fire. At first I could only see the orange glow of the flames and hear the roaring crackle from outside. The smoke was just beginning to stream into my family room. I awakened my mother and father in-law who were in town to watch me cross the finish line. Then I moved on to call 911.
We were lucky, all 4 adults, 2 children, 3 dogs and 2 cats safely exited the burning building. As the fire trucks arrived and began putting out the fire, my husband Sean came to me and asked if I still wanted to run. My first response was “No.” How could I possibly run a marathon while my house was burning and I was still in my pajamas? I began to feel an over whelming sense of guilt for still wanting to try and not give up despite the flames that now consumed half of my house. Sensing this, Sean reminded me that everyone was safe and said I should “make a better day of it.” He also pointed to the fact that we as a family had all trained for four months and wanted to see a proper end.
Before I knew it, he was out the door. After a few minutes, he returned with my running clothes and supplies. It helps to lay out your stuff the night before. Anyway, my shoes were still smoking and warm to the touch, but I got dressed and headed outside. The lights from the 15 fire trucks blinded me at first. Then I heard the most encouraging cheer rise up from the firemen and women who busy putting out the flames on my house. My mother in-law in her night gown was standing by her car yelling “Hurry! You are going to miss the bus!”
I boarded the second to last bus and headed out on this most surreal journey. On board, everyone was nervously chatting in the dark. As we pulled away from the curb, someone across the aisle commented to his seat partner “it smells like a campfire in here.”
The bus dropped me off at the start line. The lights blazed above the lines of people jittering as they waited for their turn in the port-a-potty. I quickly started to regain my thoughts and look for my running partners at our predetermined meeting spot. We had just enough time to assemble and use the potty one last time before the gun. As we waited in the starting line up I told them about the fire. I said I didn’t think I could run the whole way because I wasn’t able to get my inhaler. Just then, the woman in front of me turns to me and said “Albuterol? Open up!” I did, just before the gun went off and the crowd began to surge forward. I was on my way.
Five hours and 15 minutes later, I rounded the corner and entered the chutes to complete my first marathon.
A year later, my family and I are still doing great! I am currently preparing to fly to NY to run the ING marathon. While I am nervous about running by myself, I hoping my past experience will help me over the finish line. When I return home to Sacramento, I will take my place among the other runners at the starting line for the 25th Anniversary CIM marathon. It just seems fitting to celebrate the day a year later doing what I love most, running.
Northern Californians might know Kristine. She grew up in Sacramento, graduated from CSUS, did a brief stint as a Playboy bunny, and launched her successful broadcast career here at KCRA. She went on to work at KGO, KTVU, and KRON in San Francisco, and then to ESPN where she reported, anchored and did color commentary for many sporting events.
In 1985, KCRA featured her as a CIM entrant, complete with live feeds from her as she wended her way down the course. All went well until the last few miles, when her perky commentary transitioned first to very short sentences and then to a gasping plea for help. No mercy for Kristine; her producer ordered her to finish. Lucky for her, veteran distance runner Bruce Mauldin (and now one of the CIM’s Honor Roll runners), had been running near her and paced her to a 4:31:21 finish.
In recent years Kristine’s passion has become gardening. She received her Master Gardener certificate from UC Davis and moved to Mendocino County where she was the director of horticulture at the Ceago Vinegarden. She is currently back in Sacramento and does presentations for Do It Yourself Network, conducts landscaping and gardening seminars, is a gardening expert on radio shows, and writes for magazine gardening Q&A columns.
At the 2001 Boston Marathon, a CIM Board member was patiently standing in a porta-potty line chatting with the runner standing behind her. Discussion inevitably turned to “Where did you qualify?” and the following story unfolded. The woman’s name was Linda Haymes, and she had qualified for the 100th Boston at the CIM. A month before “the 100th” (1996) she nearly lost a leg in an automobile accident. After multiple surgeries and three years of physical therapy she began running once again. Joined by a group of seven other friends, they set their sights on qualifying for the 2001 Boston Marathon and chose the 2000 CIM for their qualifier. Linda finished the CIM in 3:42 and her seven friends achieved their Boston qualifiers as well!