Thirty-three Americans 25 women and eight men ran under the qualifying times for next month's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at the 29th California International Marathon on Sunday.
Those attempting to qualify at CIM for the 2012 Trials, scheduled for Jan. 14 in Houston, likely were taking their final shot. The last day to qualify is Dec. 11.
Among those who beat the men's standard of 2 hours, 19 minutes was Roseville's Tim Tollefson, who ran the 26.2-mile course in 2:18:26 and drew a particularly loud cheer at the finish line "friends and family," he said.
"It honestly is a dream come true," Tollefson said. "I was hopeful, but I also knew it was kind of a long shot. But it clicked today, and it just felt great."
Tollefson, 26, had extra incentive to qualify for these Trials his fiancée, Lindsay Nelson, already had.
The women's qualifiers included Victoria Russell, 39, of Spokane, Wash., who beat the standard of 2 hours, 46 minutes by eight seconds.
"Words cannot describe it," Russell said. "The Trials are Jan. (14), and I turn 40 on Jan. 24. I can't think of a better way to end my 30s."
Russell overcame cramping that caused her to slow down around Mile 16 and lose sight of the pack of runners pacing for the qualifying time, she said.
"I hurt everywhere, but it was just all up here," she said, pointing at her head. "I looked at Mile 20 and said, well, you might be able to pull it off."
Sacramento's Megan Daly also qualified. Daly, 32, finished in 2:44:23.
Worth the wait Patrick Crowe of St. Louis Park, Minn., completed the marathon in 2:54:38. He then changed into a collared shirt, tie and slacks pinning his bib number to the pants and waited for his girlfriend, runner Jenny DeVlieger, at the finish while holding a bouquet of flowers and a ring.
"We both run together a lot," said Crowe, 33. "Since it's her first marathon, I figured it'd be a great way to celebrate her finish."
As DeVlieger crossed the finish line, Crowe proposed. DeVlieger, 29, nodded yes. Her time was 3:19:26.
No handicap Aaron Scheidies, 29, an accomplished triathlete who lives in Seattle, won the men's title in the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes national marathon championships in 2:48:19.
Close behind was the women's winner, 34-year-old Amy McDonaugh of Irmo, S.C.
McDonaugh finished in 2:49:28, bettering the time she used to win the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in May by nearly nine minutes.
It was the third year that the CIM has served as the national marathon championships for the USABA.
Dramatic finish Among the day's more inspiring finishes was that of Jessica Johnston, 31, of San Francisco.
Johnston, nearing the end of her first marathon, fell to a knee and paused about 30 yards from the finish line as seconds ticked off toward her goal of 3 hours.
Johnston, though, regained her footing and made it across at 2:59:57.
"It was the time," Johnston said of her motivation for the last stretch. "It was just so close."
Et cetera Of the 6,000 marathoners who started out near Folsom Dam, more than 5,750 finished. About 3,600 relay runners also participated.
Members of the state-champion American River College cross country team won the four-person relay event in 2:17:07.