Life on the road as a professional marathoner can be hard. Most don’t stay in the finest hotels, and fueling up for big races can be difficult away from the comforts of home.
So when you can get a home-cooked meal and sleep in your own bed, it’s a huge advantage, and one that elite marathoners Lauren Jimison and Brendan Gregg hope will propel them to victory Sunday at the 34th California International Marathon.
Jimison, 26, is from El Dorado Hills and Gregg, 27, calls Davis home. Both will be able to monitor and prepare their favorite carbohydrate-rich meals at home Saturday night before sleeping in their own beds for an early wake-up call. With a 7 a.m., start Sunday in Folsom, and ending a little more than two hours later at the state Capitol, Jimison and Gregg will enjoy a home-course advantage.
“As a pro, you’re always traveling to far-off places to race,” said Gregg, a 10,000-meter expert looking to make a name for himself in the marathon ranks. “You never know what the meal options are before a race, where the best but still economical restaurants are. And, of course, the biggest advantage is sleeping in my own bed. I’ll get up on Sunday morning, hop across the Causeway and be ready to go. That’s a nice perk.”
Gregg, who prepped at Davis High School and ran for Stanford, qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in both the marathon and the 10K. He pulled up in the marathon Trials after nine miles due to a stress fracture in his pelvis, while his sister, Kaitlin Gregg Goodman, finished 54th with a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes and 16 seconds. They became the first brother and sister duo to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials on the same day. Gregg said his sister will not race Sunday, but will be cheering for him along the way. Gregg finished eighth (28:56) in the 10K at the Trials.
Sunday will be Gregg’s inaugural CIM start. He was an official CIM pacer in 2014, hired as a “rabbit” to run for nine miles at a blistering pace ahead of the leaders, who tried to catch him and lower their times. He said growing up in Davis, he’s been a spectator but has always wanted to run the CIM. Now that chance has arrived.
Gregg and the other elite professionals will join a field of 9,000 marathoners from 34 countries. Another 3,500 runners are entered in the CIM Relay Challenge, with an additional 2,000 participants entered in the UC Davis Children’s Hospital maraFUNrun and Fitness Walk.
“The marathon is where I think I have the best pro potential,” Gregg said. “Marathoners have a lot of cache. There’s a long and deep history there. When I tell people I’m a professional runner, they ask, ‘Oh, the mile or the marathon?’ So there’s some prestige involved, too.”
His only previous marathon came in 2014 in Chicago, where he ran an impressive 2:18:30 and finished 28th against an international field. To put that into perspective, Elisha Barno won the 2015 CIM with a 2:12:11. Barno, fellow Kenyan and 2014 champion Jacob Chemtai and 2012 CIM winner Daniel Tapia of Mammoth Lakes are the men’s favorites Sunday.
“I thought my first marathon was a disaster,” Gregg said. “I was trying for a 2:13 and was on that pace through 19 miles but then struggled those last six. I underestimated the distance and was very disappointed.”
Gregg hit what elite runners call “The Wall” – where the body runs out of stored fuel, usually around the 20-mile mark. In the CIM, that will be along Fair Oaks Boulevard just east of Howe Avenue.
“I feel really comfortable at marathon distances now,” Gregg said. “I’ve prepared my body to handle that distance.”
Jimison, who has spent her career as a professional marathon runner, said her training for her first CIM has gone very well. Like Gregg, Jimison has been a spectator but will now run in front of many family members and friends. She recently moved back into her family home in El Dorado Hills from Mammoth Lakes, where she was part of a racing team.
Jimison prepped at Capital Christian High School, where she started the school’s cross country team, and graduated from Azusa Pacific.
Ironically, her personal record of 2:34:38 was in the same 2014 Chicago marathon that Gregg ran. The two did not know each other then and met for the first time Thursday at a pre-CIM function.
That was just her second marathon and qualified her for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in February, when she finished 36th (2:44:30).
In June, Jimison ran in the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., where she finished fourth (2:35:30). Kenyan Sarah Kiptoo won that race in 2:33:28 and will be favored Sunday with Arizona native Stephanie Rothstein Bruce and Jimison.
But neither Kiptoo nor Rothstein Bruce will awake in her own bedroom Sunday morning.
“Of course we have the advantage,” Jimison said. “We know the area, the weather, the course; we can best prepare our own food; and we get to sleep in our own beds. All those are really helpful on race day.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001.