Organizers and participants in the California International Marathon, which has earned a reputation over the years for its pleasant weather on race day, are bracing for a turbulent experience when the event turns 30 on Sunday morning.
The storms buffeting Northern California are forecast to continue, and possibly reach their peak, during one of the area's premier sporting events, which is expected to draw about 15,000 participants from across the country and tens of thousands more spectators along the Folsom-to-Sacramento course, bringing a weekend jolt to Sacramento's economy.
Still, while race officials said Wednesday that conditions may keep a few people from the 7 a.m. start, other runners said they're prepared to get wet.
The National Weather Service predicts rainfall could be intense during the marathon, as a storm due in Saturday night is expected to produce some of the heaviest rain of the week. But winds, which can pose a bigger problem for runners, are expected to taper off to 10 to 20 mph by Sunday.
For Bruce Mauldin, an Anaheim resident credited with finishing every CIM, the forecast simply means packing an extra item for the trip: a large garbage bag.
"I just cut out a neck hole," said Mauldin, 65. "At this point I figure, it's going to be wet and windy, so no worries."
Many recall the 1987 CIM as the worst, weather-wise. Rain and wind whipped the course so badly, Mauldin said, that he's pretty sure the gusts ripped the winner's singlet, while Mauldin found himself ducking behind a bigger runner around the halfway point.
"That was a whole different enchilada," said Steve Polansky, board president of the Sacramento Running Association, which puts on the CIM. "This is going to be a little challenging, but I don't think it's going to be anything major."
Race director John Mansoor said rain has affected only a handful of past CIMs, resulting in a slight increase in the number of runners who don't show up on race day. Most who started the run in bad-weather years did finish more than 90 percent, Mansoor said.
"We'll get some bump in no-shows because of the weather: a three, four, five percent deal," Mansoor said.
Those most affected by the weather will likely be runners hoping to use CIM's reputation for being a fast course to qualify to achieve a low time perhaps to qualify for the Boston Marathon and its wheelchair and crank-chair competitors. And then there are the event's 2,000 or so volunteers, many of whom staff aid stations along the course and monitor the route, Mansoor said.
"What we have seen is the no-show factor among volunteers is higher than normal," Mansoor said of inclement weather years. "Hopefully that won't happen this time, but they're the ones expending a lot of time and usually getting cold."
The same goes for spectators, on whose energy fatigued runners often rely for a boost. "The Party at the Wall," a gathering of hundreds of spectators at the marathon's 20-mile mark, is due to go on regardless of weather, said Carol Black, the race project manager for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, which is sponsoring the event.
Coldwell Banker, which planned to shut down Drake Circle near Fair Oaks Boulevard and offer food, prizes and live music, will be erecting tent covers for performers, serving hot drinks and doughnuts and distributing cowbells for the crowd urging competitors to power through the final 6.2 miles of the race.
"We're hoping for hundreds of people to help everybody push through that veritable wall," Black said. "Hopefully, they're going to hear the crowds roar."
Mike Testa, the senior vice president of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the rain could cause some drop in the expected crowd of 55,000 people. Testa said 2,260 hotel rooms are expected to be filled for the event, which will generate about $7.3 million in local spending.
"We're fortunate this course is very popular," Testa said. "Certainly, the rain is going to make it a little more difficult. But these athletes are trained to run, and I don't think this is going to stop that."
Sacramento International Airport spokeswoman Karen Doron said the storms aren't expected to cause flight delays for travelers coming in for the event. She said airport operations crews will be conducting extra patrols to ensure there is no storm-related debris on the airfield, and that most air carriers can land and take off in limited visibility.
Still making the trip are more than 100 members of the Gilbert's Gazelles running group in Austin, Texas, said one of their coaches, Michael Madison. The group planned the trip months ago for its 10-year anniversary, and the entrants, like thousands of others, have been training for months.
"Rain or shine, we're on our way," Madison said.
Race officials said that marathon participants should resist the urge to bundle up, which can cause the body to overheat while running. They suggested light clothing, appropriate footwear to prevent blistering, bringing a warm change of clothes for the end and staying dry as long as possible before the run.
At Fleet Feet in midtown Sacramento, staff said Wednesday that two out of every three customers coming in were asking about proper wet-weather running gear. Among them was Bryan Wertzer, 42, a Rancho Murieta resident getting ready for his first marathon.
"It's just a little stressful, I guess, not knowing what to expect," Wertzer said of the weather.
But fear of the unknown, Wertzer said, wasn't going to keep him from the starting line.
"Just going to see how it goes," he said.
30TH ANNIVERSARY MARATHONMORE COVERAGE
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