Elite field includes top American female runner and three past CIM champions
For the elite American runners in this yearís California International Marathon field, there is an added incentive to run fast - a $5,000 incentive to be exact.
The Sacramento Running Association, organizers of the California International Marathon, added an American Performance List bonus to its $50,000 prize purse for the 34th annual CIM on Dec. 4 and the result has been early commitments from many top U.S. runners.
Standout Stephanie Rothstein Bruce and 2012 CIM winner Daniel Tapia were among the first elite athletes to enter the race and headline the deep American fields.
"I chose CIM because the course, the weather in Sacramento in December and the passion of the city can't be beat," said Bruce.
"The bonus structure that CIM implemented is a great step forward in encouraging Americans to elevate their performance in the marathon and strive for fast times."
A $5,000 bonus will be awarded to U.S. athletes whose 2016 California International Marathon time places the athlete in the top 10 of U.S. marathon performers for 2016. A $2,000 bonus will also be awarded to U.S. athletes whose time places the athlete in the top 25.
"I have been wanting to run CIM since the day I won in 2012," added Tapia. "CIM treated me so well and helped launch my marathon running career."
Joining the American runners is a strong group of international runners that bring fast times and a familiarity with the race and course into this yearís competition.
Kenyan Elisha Barno will be looking to defend his 2015 title while fellow Kenyan and 2014 champion Jacob Chemtai and Tapia both appear capable of winning the menís race and the $10,000 first prize on the 26.2-mile course from near Folsom Dam to the state Capitol.
Barno, who enters the race with the fastest marathon time in the field having run a 2:09:45, beat everyone home in the 2015 menís race after dropping the pack just after the 20-mile mark for a 2:12:11 finish.
"I am looking forward to returning to CIM to defend the title of 2015," said Barno.
"I enjoyed the energy of the people along the course last year.
"It is a fast course and I hope with a strong group we can push together for a record time."
Chemtai, who boasts a marathon best of 2:11:56, won the 2014 menís race after throwing in a pair of sub-5 minute miles to pull away from the lead pack. He was also the third-place finisher in the 2013 CIM.
Tapia of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., won the 2012 CIM in 2:16.29 in a breakout performance. He lowered his personal best to 2:14:30 four months later at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Kenyan Sarah Kiptoo, who finished sixth at last yearís CIM, heads the womenís side on the strength of her 2:26:32 personal best.
"I am excited to return to Sacramento for the CIM," said Kiptoo.
"It is always competitive and I am certain the ladies will be strong again this year."
Americans Rothstein Bruce and Clara Santucci look to be strong contenders for the title and $10,000 first prize plus the American Performance List bonus.
Bruce, a 2:29:35 marathoner from Flagstaff, Ariz., will make her return to the marathon after becoming a mother of two and competing at the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials in July.
Santucci of Dilliner, Penn., winner of the 2014 and 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon, brings a 2:29:54 personal best to CIM.
"The elite field is shaping up to be one of our bests yet with a number of young up-and-comers and veterans like Sarah Kiptoo and Stephanie (Rothstein) Bruce on the women's side and returning CIM champions Elisha Barno, Jacbo Chemtai and Daniel Tapia on the men's side," said CIM Elite Coordinator Danielle Domenichelli.
"We are excited about the possibility of record-setting times up front this year."
"It speaks volumes about the quality of the elite experience at the CIM that not one, not even two, but three past menís champs will toe the line in this year's men's invited elite field," added CIM Race Director Eli Asch.
"Daniel, Jacob, and Elisha are all hungry to add to their trophy cases and it should make for an exciting race."
"And while the women's field doesn't have a trio of returning champs, with Steph Bruce, Clara Santucci and Lauren Jimison all making their CIM debuts, we may very well be welcoming a new member to the CIM champions' club in that race."
CIM helps close out the fall marathon season in the U.S. and traditionally marks the last opportunity for Americans to post top U.S. marks.
American women hoping to cash in on the new CIM prize bonus must run faster than 2:32:56 to crack the top 10 and 2:37:54 for a top-25 finish. The men must beat 2:14:57 for a top-10 finish and 2:17:20 for the top 25.
Only athletes currently able to represent the U.S. in international competition are eligible. The final U.S. Annual Performers List on All-Athletics.com will be used to determine bonuses and includes drop and point-to-point courses.
"For many years, CIM has played the role of a launching pad for many American marathoners' careers and we saw our race yield the most US Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers of any marathon in the world during the last quadrennium," said SRA Executive Director Scott Abbott.
With 32 first-time Olympic Trials qualifiers already under its belt in the first two years of the qualifying window, CIM became the first and only U.S. marathon with over 40 first-time qualifiers setting the mark with 45 after 13 American women ran faster than the 2:43 ĎBí qualifying standard at last yearís CIM.
"CIM boasts efficient logistics, a forgiving and fast course, depth of competition, and optimal racing weather which leads to it consistently being one of the top performance-oriented marathons in the country," added Abbott.
"It is a great opportunity for top American runners to create as close to a controlled environment as possible for themselves to produce a breakthrough performance.
"We are excited to continue to find ways to encourage, support, and reward top American marathoners that use CIM as their fall marathon attempt."
Local elite runners Brendan Gregg and Lauren Jimison are a part of the elite field and both hope to contend for the overall title at this yearís CIM.
Gregg, a product of Davis High School and Stanford University, ran 2:18:30 in his only marathon in Chicago in 2014. He also qualified for the U.S. Marathon Trials and U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters.
"CIM really provides the best of all worlds. It's a great course to run fast on and it provides a great opportunity to compete at the front of the race," said Gregg.
"That fact that it's more or less in my backyard is a nice bonus, too.
"My goal is to win. I'm looking to keep the CIM title in the region this year."
Jimison, a native of El Dorado Hills, boasts a 2:34:38 personal best set at the Chicago Marathon in 2014.
"The prize purse for CIM this year is really something special," Jimison said.
"I really feel like this only shows the support of the Sacramento community, businesses and organizations.
"We have a supportive hometown."
The Sacramento Running Association has been one of the industry leaders in providing substantial prize money, performance bonuses and travel support for elite runners from all over the world participating in SRA races, including the California International Marathon and the SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run.
Last year, the Sacramento Running Association offered bonuses for U.S. runners achieving the Trialsí standards: $2,500 for an ĎAí standard and $1,000 for a ĎBí standard. The SRA awarded $13,000 in bonuses above the traditional prize purse at the 2015 CIM.
The SRA also has a history of supporting elite long distance runners as they pursue Olympic, national, and regional success.
In 2012, the SRA established a training grant for local Sacramento-area runners who were Olympic hopefuls heading into the London Olympic Games. That support resulted in grant recipient Kim Conley making her first Olympic team.
Earlier this year, the SRA awarded nine athletes a total of $15,000 with the Olympic Hopeful grant. First-time U.S. Olympian Kate Grace was one of the grant recipients.
For more information on the CIMís American Performance List bonus, visit RunUSA.org.
The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.
A look at the elite field for the California International Marathon:
Elisha Barno, Kenya, 2:09:45
Tesfaye Alemayehu, Ethiopia, 2:11:18
Jacob Chemtai, Kenya, 2:11:56
Sergio Reyes, USA, 2:13:34
Philemon Terer, Kenya, 2:14:04
Daniel Tapia, USA, 2:14:30
Jameson Mora, USA, 2:15:44
Scott MacPherson, USA, 2:16:02
Nicholas Hilton, USA, 2:16:20
Nelson Oyugi, Kenya, 2:16:38
Bret Fransen, USA, 2:17:37
John Raneri, USA, 2:18:07
Matthew Fecht, USA, 2:18:19
Brendan Gregg, USA, 2:18:30
Mason Frank, USA, 2:18:34
Luis Orta, USA, 2:18:53
Robert Winslow, Canada, 2:19:00
Eric Noel, USA, 2:21:31
Michael Kallenberg, Great Britain, 2:21:38
Danny Mercado, USA, Debut
Eric Fernandez, USA, Debut
Eric Finan, USA, Debut
Sarah Kiptoo, Kenya, 2:26:31
Stephanie Bruce, USA, 2:29:35
Clara Santucci, USA, 2:29:54
Lauren Jimison, USA, 2:34:38
Alvina Begay, USA, 2:37:14
Tina Muir, Great Britain, 2:37:35
Samantha Bluske, USA, 2:41:13
Molly Friel-Dowling, USA, 2:41:30
Merrilee Blackham, USA, 2:41:59
Heather Tanner, USA, 2:42:19
Victoria Russell, USA, 2:42:20
Heather McWhirter, USA, 2:44:12
Lissa Zimmer, Canada, 2:44:56
Allison Drynan, Canada, 2:45:07
Kate DeProsperis, USA, 2:45:16
Kath Hardcastle, USA, 2:45:42
Jennifer Bergman, USA, 2:49:06
Ashley Brasovan, USA, 2:48:39
Jennifer Bigham, USA, 2:51:55
Sara Slattery, USA, Debut
Amy Schnittger, USA, Debut