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Three top runners highlight California International Marathon field

Birhanu Dare #73 led the pack early on during the 32nd annual California International Marathon Dec. 7, 2014, that started in Folsom, Calif., and ended at the state Capitol. At right is winner Jacob Chemtai #9.
Birhanu Dare #73 led the pack early on during the 32nd annual California International Marathon Dec. 7, 2014, that started in Folsom, Calif., and ended at the state Capitol. At right is winner Jacob Chemtai #9. rbyer@sacbee.com

Last year, California International Marathon winner Jacob Chemtai hung back with a lead pack of runners until about mile 22, when he broke away and beat everyone to the finish line by nearly two minutes in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 55 seconds.

Chemtai will return for this year’s Folsom-to-Sacramento race Sunday, and this time a select group atop the men’s field could make it a much closer finish.

Chemtai, the 28-year-old Kenyan who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., will try to defend his title against challengers Elisha Barno of Kenya and Kibrom Ghebrezghebher of Eritrea, both of whom have run sub-2:10 marathons. The CIM course record is 2:10:27, set in 1993 by Jerry Lawson.

“With the three (top) guys, with their credentials, there has been some discussion of potentially making a run at the course record,” said Scott Abbott, executive director of the Sacramento Running Association, which puts on CIM. “The conditions are looking really, really good from a runner’s standpoint.”

Abbott said it should be apparent early in the race whether the top runners are thinking of challenging the course record. If they cover the first 4 or 5 miles at record pace, the possibility will remain in play. Otherwise, the race will likely unfold like last year’s, in which the leaders stayed together until Chemtai’s late break.

“I don’t think there’s anybody out there that really feels like they can run away from the field,” Abbott said. “But I would think there are two or three that could run at that (course-record) pace.”

The women’s course record fell last year, with Volha Mazuronak of Belarus winning in 2:27:33. With Mazuronak not returning this year, 2014 runner-up Jane Kibii, a Kenyan who has lived in Auburn, is among the women’s favorites, along with Sarah Kiptoo of Kenya and Serkalem Abrha of Ethiopia.

Kiptoo has a personal-best 2:26:32, set in 2013, and Abrha ran a 2:31:39 earlier this year. Mazuronak ran an aggressive race last year, pulling away from the field early, but Abbott said this year’s pack could stay together longer with the possibility of a late break.

Map of marathon course 

CIM AT A GLANCE

  • When: Sunday, 7 a.m.
  • Course: Folsom Dam to the state Capitol
  • 2014 winners: Jacob Chemtai (2:11:55) and Volha Mazuronak (2:27:33)
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