Clovis News: Sports

Marathon this year straighter, flatter and faster

Running 26.2 miles is hard enough. No need to make it any harder.

After hearing a few grumbles during last year's inaugural race, organizers of Sunday's Eye-Q Two Cities Marathon & Half made the course flatter and straighter for Year 2.

Gone are most of the hills north of Woodward Park as the course heads home on pancake-flat Friant Road instead of the undulating Lewis S. Eaton Trail.

Many turns in the Copper River area have vanished as well.

"For a marathon, it's a better course than last year," race director Mike Herman said. "We tried to eliminate as many hills as we could. That's why we went deeper into Clovis."

The course is flatter and straighter, but whether it's faster remains to be seen.

Defending champion Aaron Sharp of Port Hueneme, who finished in 2:28:40 despite running off course, is not registered this year. Nor is 2008 women's champion Alyson Berg of Fresno.

The men's favorite could be Jesus Campos of Fresno. Last year's third-place finisher is aiming to run a 2:25, according to Felicia Gomez, Campos' personal trainer.

The 5,000 participants (up from last year's 3,000) include about 1,000 marathons, 3,500 in the half marathon and 500 in relays.

The marathon field includes 35 runners -- all men -- who have personal-best times of 2:45 or faster, Herman said.

About half the field is from outside the Fresno-Clovis area with participants coming from more than 40 states and five foreign countries (Great Britain, Japan, Sweden, Canada and the Philippines.)

"The biggest reason our numbers are booming is the influences from Southern and Northern California," Herman said. "Our word of mouth has been excellent."

In other changes, the mass start has been eliminated (the half marathon begins at 7 a.m., followed by the marathon at 7:30) and the starting line has been moved to Friant Road and Audubon Drive.