Clovis News: Sports

Two Cities marathon to return in 2011

The Two Cities Marathon & Half will be back in 2011, organizers said, but the central San Joaquin Valley's only 26.2-mile footrace will have new leadership and possibly a new title sponsor.

More than 6,000 runners took to the streets of north Fresno and Clovis on Sunday morning. This year, the event included a 50-kilometer ultramarathon in addition to the marathon, half marathon and relay.

Next year's race should look more or less the same, said Debra Schmitt, one of the new co-race directors. Schmitt and Sherrie Flynn are replacing Mike Herman and Nancy Talley, who are heading up a new half marathon scheduled next May.

"Mike and Nancy provided an enormous amount of work for this event over the years," Schmitt said. "But we have a very strong team in place for 2011."

Still unsettled is whether Eye-Q Vision Care will remain the Two Cities Marathon's title sponsor. The Fresno company has signed on as title sponsor for the new California Classic Weekend, which will combine running and cycling May 21-22 in and around downtown Fresno.

Schmitt said Eye-Q will be given "first right of refusal" to continue as the Two Cities Marathon's title sponsor, but other options are available.

"Eye-Q has been a great sponsor for us, and we'd like to continue that relationship," Schmitt said.

"But if that doesn't happen, we are not concerned at all. We've already been approached by quite a few people interested in a title sponsorship."

The race, with annual costs of $750,000, will ask prospective title sponsors to pony up $35,000 to $40,000, Schmitt said.

Herman, the former co-race director, is also Eye-Q's chief financial officer. He said the company will decide in the coming days whether to continue its support of the Two Cities Marathon.

"The question is whether the company wants to sponsor two races six months apart," Herman said. "For me, personally, doing just one takes a ton of effort."

Herman will be shifting his focus to the Eye-Q California Classic Weekend, a festival with events that will include a half marathon, kids' marathon, century ride and a twilight criterium. The event's Web site (www.californiaclassicweekend.com) launched last week.

As for the Two Cities Marathon, the only snafu during Sunday's race came at the start of the half marathon, which went off 11 minutes ahead of its scheduled 7:30 a.m. starting time.

The mix-up angered several elite runners, at least one of whom asked for a refund on his entry fee.

Herman said the official timer had two clocks with him at the start line, one that was synchronized to race time and one that wasn't. The timer mistakenly looked at the wrong clock, panicked and started the race.

"By the time he realized his mistake, about a 100 runners had already gone off," Herman said. "It all happened in a millisecond, but it was already too late."

The Two Cities Marathon (formerly Trail of 2 Cities) began in 2001 as a half marathon before adding a marathon in 2008. The race is owned by Sierra Challenge Express, a Fresno-based running club.

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