Every runner needs a little push.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, more than 50 wannabe marathoners gathered in the parking lot of Rio Americano High School to start pushing themselves and each other.
For most of this group, the goal is the Dec. 7 California International Marathon, Sacramento’s marquee running event. But getting to the start of that race can be tougher than running the marathon itself.
“The most important piece of (running) equipment is not your shoes,” coach Charlie Brenneman told his students during their first group workout. “It’s the human body.”
Getting in shape means mental as well as physical exercise, he added.
“I’ve got a mantra (to say) to myself: ‘Push yourself but don’t be a bully,’ ” Brenneman said. “ ‘And take care of yourself but don’t be a baby.’ ”
A longtime runner, Brenneman coaches for the Sacramento Running Association, which founded the CIM. The association encourages runners of all ages and abilities to get moving. To help more local runners participate in its main event, the SRA started hosting CIM workshops in 2011. Brenneman leads SRA’s Wednesday and Sunday workouts.
“The one thing we tried to do is create a program that’s a catch-all for anybody interested in running a marathon, or maybe they’ve run a marathon before and are after a best time and maybe a potential Boston (Marathon) qualifier (time),” said Scott Abbott, SRA’s executive director and head coach. “It’s very goal-oriented. ... It makes it easier if you have a target, whether it’s breaking five hours or four hours or getting a Boston qualifier.”
Training as a group helps; each member pushes the others.
“It’s definitely helped me,” said Sacramento’s Jon Thomas, 67, as he trained at Sunday’s workout for his third CIM. “I’m an old fuddy duddy. I like the camaraderie.”
Abbott said support is part of the group advantage. “The esprit de corps, bonding through battle,” Abbott said. “ ... We want people to come together.”
“Camaraderie and consistency; that’s key to success,” added Brenneman. “You get group support and you’re being held accountable to do two hard workouts a week.”
The CIM annually showcases Sacramento’s love of running. Now in its 32nd year, the 26.2-mile race takes runners on a route from Folsom to the state Capitol. With 6,238 finishers in 2013, the race now ranks as the 13th-largest marathon in the nation.
Race organizers will cap entries for the 2014 CIM at 9,000. As of Friday, more than 8,000 runners had already signed up. The event started in 1983 with 1,600 participants.
More importantly to serious runners, the CIM has become a gateway to the Boston Marathon. Some starting berths in CIM are reserved for runners who qualify within five minutes of Boston’s time standards.
The CIM has reached capacity for five consecutive years. Registration closed for the 2013 race before Labor Day.
“Our goal is to improve the CIM every single year,” said race director Eli Asch. “So whether you’re a streaker who has run every race since 1983 or a first-time participant, you should register soon to get your spot on the starting line for what we hope will be our – and your – best CIM yet.”
Interest in marathoning and the CIM has particularly grown in the last decade. Entries have more than doubled since the 2005 CIM hit the 4,000-runner milestone.
In 2000, about 300 marathons dotted the nation. Last year, more than 1,100 organized marathons were held in the United States.
Plenty of half-marathons and other events have sprung up, too. Among them is Sacramento’s Urban Cow Half Marathon, which marks its 10th anniversary on Oct. 5.
Those coming events give runners options and potential goals. Group training not only offers support and guidance to reach those goals, but helps pace runners’ progress.
“The biggest mistake people make is trying to do too much too soon,” Brenneman said. “We have quite a mix of runners. At least half (of workshop participants) are women. The ages in our group range from early 20s to 60s, with lots of people in their 30s.”
Training together also has other benefits.
“Even in the age of technology, people still want to meet new people,” he added. “And the group keeps you accountable to do your training. You have to put in the miles.”
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.