Colleen Dukes did not wake up Sunday morning expecting to be involved in one of the key moments of the California International Marathon.
Dukes, a 60-year-old nurse from Danville, said she arose early Sunday to drive her son, Craig, to the starting line so he could run the Folsom-to-Sacramento race. Then she reported to the volunteers’ tent, which stationed her at the finish near the Capitol.
At 9:12 a.m., Elisha Barno of Kenya broke the tape to win the 33rd annual race. And unscripted, amid the applause of spectators and snapping of cameras, Dukes, her arms full of finishers’ medals, quickly slipped in and placed one around Barno’s neck.
“I was like, ‘Is anybody going to do this?’ ” Dukes said. “This guy worked hard for it!”
After Barno came thousands more runners who put in work Sunday morning covering the 26.2-mile course under gray skies and intermittent rain. They ran along rolling hills in Folsom, past pockets of umbrella-toting spectators in Carmichael and through the numbered streets of East Sacramento, toward a common endpoint that represented something different for each.
This year’s winners were Barno, a 30-year-old Kenyan who trains in Santa Fe, N.M., and Serkalem Abrha of Ethiopia, 28, who captured the women’s title for the second time. Barno recorded a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, 11 seconds, the 10th-fastest in CIM history. Abrha, a resident of Albuquerque, N.M., finished in 2:31.50, nearly two minutes ahead of her closest competitor.
This is my first time to carry the flag of my country.
Elisha Barno of Kenya, after winning the race
Each claimed the winner’s prize of $10,000. Both runners had their respective countries’ flags draped around their shoulders as they crossed the finish line. Barno, who broke away from a group of four lead runners just after the 20th mile marker, said he was “tired” but had enough energy left for a quick victory jog along Capitol Mall.
“This is my first time to carry the flag of my country,” Barno said. “I’m very happy.”
Abrha, also the top women’s finisher at the 2011 CIM, held off Gisela Olalde of Mexico and Jane Kibii – a native of Kenya who has lived in Colfax – to become the third woman to win the CIM multiple times.
“It feels good,” Abrha said. “I feel good.”
There were few complaints to be heard about the conditions as runners gathered in the predawn hours at the starting area near Folsom Dam. Veteran marathoners shunned warm-up gear and said they were perfectly comfortable in their running regalia. Apparel ranged from Santa hats to camouflage gear and the occasional animal costume.
One group of four women wore matching pink flowers tucked inside their headgear. The quartet said they meet every Saturday to run in the Sacramento or Davis area and dubbed themselves Team Slightly Crazy.
“Because we don’t really train,” said Lindsey Miguel, 37, of Woodland. “We just do it.”
A security presence was apparent in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, as Sacramento County sheriff’s officers roamed the area with bomb-sniffing dogs who wound among runners, course workers and spectators. But the start of the race went off without incident, with most of the field breaking loose as the clock hit 7 a.m.
Along the route, spectators braved light rainfall to cheer on an estimated 5,800 full marathoners and 900 relay teams. Some clanged cowbells while others held signs that read, “I want to be like you when I grow up” and – cheekily, around mile three – “You’re not almost there.” As the lead runners descended into quaint Fair Oaks Village, one spectator turned to a band playing bluesy music under the cover of tents and shouted: “Here they come, guys! Here they come!”
Six runners deep at that point, the lead men’s group had dwindled to four as it reached the “wall” around mile 20, a common point of exhaustion for runners. Barno, however, used the location to make his move, separating from the pack as they bypassed a temporary wall erected for runners to symbolically pass through. By the time he reached tree-lined J Street in East Sacramento, Barno needed only a quick glance over his shoulder to confirm he was running alone.
Cloudy skies did little to dampen spirits at the finish. Thirteen American runners in the women’s field recorded times of 2:43.00 or better to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials next February in Los Angeles. With the window to qualify closing in January, the CIM represented many runners’ final opportunity.
“I knew I had to have the race of my life to get it,” said Madeline Duhon of Somerville, Mass., 26, a first-time Trials qualifier. Duhon finished just ahead of Amanda Nurse, 28, a teammate with the Boston Athletic Association and another first-time qualifier.
“Amazing,” Nurse said. “I feel like I’m still in shock a little bit right now.”
Close behind them was 52-year-old Jenny Hitchings of Sacramento, who ran a 2:49.49 to set a course record for the women’s 50-54 age group. Hitchings broke the record of 2:51.01 set by Marion Irvine in 1983, the inaugural year of the event.
“I felt like it was time,” Hitchings said.
Julie Shultz and Brian Schultz crossed the finish line together just after the 3:30 mark, their hands clasped and arms held high. The aptly named Seattle couple said it was a successful end to an eventful marathon cycle.
“We started training with the engagement,” Brian Schultz said. “And she just (set a personal record) by 18 minutes and qualified for Boston.”
Finishers continued to stream in as the morning wore on, their individual goals evolving. Corvin Bazgan, a visually impaired runner from San Carlos, shared a long hug with guide Chris Coble after finishing in 3:32.02 and said of his new personal record: “It’s the greatest feeling.” Gary Hayward, a 61-year-old Modesto resident, came in about 20 minutes past his four-hour goal but described a larger significance in running his third marathon this year following a hiatus of about three decades from the sport.
“I was gaining too much weight sitting on the couch,” Hayward said. “I felt terrible, my feet hurt like crazy. So I started running again, lost 30 pounds and feel much better.”
David Oberg of El Dorado Hills, who crossed the finish line just after 11:30 a.m., said he was running to raise money for Cottage Housing Inc., a Sacramento-based project addressing homelessness. Oberg said he had run his only other marathon 10 years before. This time, his 5-year-old daughter, Eris, was waiting to meet him at the finish line, holding a sign that read: “I’m proud of my Daddy.”
“She said, ‘Are you bleeding?’ ” Oberg said, chuckling. “It was surreal to have her there.”
Staff writer Mark Glover contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 8 to correct times for the men’s and women’s winners.
California International Marathon results
1. Elisha Barno, Kenya, 2:12.11
2. Macdonard Ondara, Kenya, 2:13.02
3. Dereje Abera Ali, Ethiopia, 2:14.49
1. Serkalem Abrha, Ethiopia, 2:31.50
2. Gisela Olalde, Mexico, 2:33.50
3. Jane Kibii, Kenya, 2:36.39
Men’s Visually Impaired
1. Matthew Oliver, Santee, 2:50.41
Women’s Visually Impaired
1. Amelia Dickerson, Boulder, Colo., 3:20.28
Push Rim Wheelchair
1. Chris Houde, Carmichael, 2:24.25
1. Granite Bay Distance Squad, 2:32.55