California International Marathon: Training Begins…Now.

By Amy Thoma

Are you considering a fall marathon or half marathon? I have good and bad news for you—it’s time to get out there and start training!

The fall racing season in Sacramento is fantastic. It starts with the Buffalo Stampede 10-miler and ends with the California International Marathon with tons of fun races in between. If you’ve been thinking about lacing up your shoes and tackling 26.2 or 13.1, I highly encourage you to make this the year. Anyone can complete these distances- I promise. The first half and full marathons I completed I had absolutely no clue what I was doing and I lived to tell about it, so you can do it too!

Step 1: Set Goals

First, you need to decide how much time you can dedicate to training—particularly if you decide to run CIM. A full marathon is a distance that commands respect and a little bit of fear (if you’re not afraid of the marathon you’re doing it wrong) and a ton of training.

You should be prepared to run 4-6 days per week at a minimum and need to devote 2-3 hours to your long run each week. Once you’ve figured this out choose a plan. There are lots of plans online and in books. Personally I’m a huge fan of Jack Daniels’ Running Formula but recommend Hal Higdon’s plans for first-timers.

Step 2: Sign Up!

Second, sign up! The earlier you sign up for a race, the cheaper it is. I recommend running a few other races as “tune ups” before the main event should you choose to run a full marathon or, choose one of these as your goal! It’s important to practice running through aid stations, taking energy gels and to establish a pre-race routine. Trust me, you do not want a marathon or half marathon to be your first race experience.

  • September 12: Buffalo Stampede 10-miler: It’s a not particularly scenic 10-mile race through Carmichael. Good opportunity to see where your fitness is and to get race experience. It’s well-organized but usually a bit hot and the course isn’t very exciting.
  • October 3: Urban Cow (formerly Cowtown) Half-Marathon. I love, love, love this race. It winds through Land Park, on to the Sutterville levee and finishes back in the park. The weather is usually perfect and the course is nice and flat. The Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon is usually the last weekend in October and while slightly hilly (if you’re running CIM you need to run on hills!) also a great chance to get a long run done with company.
  • November 14: The Paul Reese Memorial Clarksburg Run is perfectly timed to be the last truly long run before you taper for CIM. There are tons of distances to choose from: 5k, half-marathon, 30k (18.6 miles) and 20-mile. It winds through the Delta on empty roads through vineyards and finishes at Clarksburg High School where local volunteers put on a spectacular post-race lunch.

If you prefer to train with a group Fleet Feet, Sac FIT, Athletes in Motion and others have professional, fun and challenging training programs that will get you across that finish line.

If you decide to tackle a marathon or half-marathon for the first time there will come a moment, usually half way or two-thirds the way through training, where you will get overwhelmed, sore, tired and want to quit. This is normal. Don’t quit. If it were an easy thing, everyone would do it. If you need a pep talk, email a friend who has completed a marathon and if you don’t have a friend, email me. I’ll pump you up. I’m not kidding, email me. I love pumping up first time racers!

You should also keep in mind that not every ache, pain or funny feelings in your muscles is an injury. Marathon and half marathon training is designed to beat you down and build you back up again. You’re going to be sore, tired and hungry. You’re also going to be incredibly proud of yourself when you finish, so don’t let a few aches and pains scare you. The best advice I can give to avoid injuries is to stretch lots, hydrate regularly, strengthen your care and replace your shoes every 400 miles. (For more information on running injuries, check out Amy’s article here.)

Sacramento’s running and racing scene is truly incredible. I can’t think of another with as many well-organized, fun and cheap races. Running your first, second or tenth marathon or half marathon is an incredible accomplishment. If you’ve been thinking about taking on this challenge—do it. I promise you the moment you cross that finish line in one piece that every moment of training is worth it.

Related Posts:

You might also like


  1. Robin Swanson says

    Great article Amy! Though I won’t be doing any more full-marathons (ran 4), you’ve inspired me to sign up for another half-marathon. The Big Sur Half is my favorite. And FYI – that Clarksburg run is dreadful – I, along with a pack of about 6 other runners went the wrong direction at a fork in the road, where a very unhelpful volunteer sat and didn’t bother to tell us we were headed the wrong direction. I wouldn’t recommend that race for first-timers – it’s an intimidating race with lots of fast-paced runners and not a lot of support for the slowskies like myself. By the time the “lost” crew reached the aid stations (after running an additional 2 miles due to the wrong turn), all of the water and oranges were gone. A sad site to see the woman in front of me scavenging thru empty boxes of orange peels. Ran a great CIM after that horrid race though!

  2. Claire says

    I registered for CIM on Saturday and started training with Athletes in Motion last week! Scared yes. But from doing two 1/2 marathons last year I know I will be even more proud to complete a marathon.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.