I don't know exactly what it is about marathons that makes them so popular right now. Everything seems to go in cycles, including sports, and marathons are hot.
It could be the health angle, the anti-smoking movement, the emphasis on exercise, the 400 studies a week that say 99.4% of Americans get winded just reading.
Whatever it is, marathons are booming, and what better evidence than the Two Cities Marathon, a brand new event that drew 3,000 entrants the first year and 5,000 the second. You could hold a free celebrity golf tournament and it would take at least a couple of years to catch on.
Two Cities isn't done. Nowhere close. The organizers are convinced it could have 10,000 by the fifth year, and if Sunday's marathon and half marathon were any indication, there is no doubt they are correct.
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Everything went well. The weather was perfect. The temperature was running-friendly. The streets were clean. The portable toilets were bountiful. The post-race eggs were hot and the sundaes were cold.
The police were swift opening the streets. The new course was a major improvement. I'm telling you, the birds chirped on cue. About the only thing that could have been better were the crowds in Clovis. The streets were bare. It will take a little time to catch on with spectators.
I didn't go to the airport to see it in person, but the out-of-town participants must have boarded planes -- gingerly, of course, because that's the only way to board a plane after running 26.2 miles -- bragging about Fresno and Clovis, and then went home to tell everyone they know to come here next year.
This will be my last marathon column for a while. Promise. It's just that it was exciting and there hasn't been that much to be excited about lately. Sports in this town took some major blows in the past couple of years. We couldn't grab a PGA event, or hold on to a pro-am, or keep a pro hockey team, but the local marathon is already drawing from other countries. Here is success, something to celebrate.
And this isn't like lacrosse at Fresno State, where a non-native sport is forced on the general public and schools and fans have to adjust. This Valley is filled with runners. Fresno has its own running series for adults. The marathon starts and stops in Woodward Park, where the trails are often filled.
The San Joaquin Valley is currently home to the California state track meet and the state cross country meet. One of the Valley's high school running teams was featured in "Sports Illustrated" several years ago.
This isn't a runner's paradise, by any means. It's rainy in the winter and sauna-hot in the summer, and the air tastes brown all the time. But running is a test. It's supposed to be hard.
This Valley doesn't have runners by coincidence, it throws them in a kiln and dares them to give up. Really, in the end, I think that's what makes marathons so popular. It's just you out there. No one makes you keep going. There is no team. No one would hate you if you quit.
You can crawl in the last four miles to a 4:07.32 marathon, or you can gut it out for a 4:01.48, and absolutely no one in the world will know the difference but you.
There is beauty in that, and these days, it's nice to see something beautiful.