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Two Cities Marathon notebook: Runners brace pain for sweet finish

Two Cities Marathon runs through Fresno and Clovis

The annual Two Cities Marathon & Half brought scores of runners looking to break personal records on an early morning start at Fresno's Woodward Park on a warm fall day.
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The annual Two Cities Marathon & Half brought scores of runners looking to break personal records on an early morning start at Fresno's Woodward Park on a warm fall day.

It’s not easy running long distances of 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Just ask anyone at Sunday’s Two Cities Marathon & Half.

But the pain that came with pounding pavement mile after mile didn’t deter any of those who made it across the finish line. Some crossed with ease, others fell to all fours, grateful the hours of pounding the pavement were over.

Every which way runners may have appeared to grimace in pain, only to be cheerful for having earned the medallion around their neck.

“It’s definitely worth it. You only feel bad (after the race),” said Mila Hart, 25 of Clovis, smiling as she stretched her legs.

Hart finished the Clovis Half in 2:13:47, just ahead of her father, Chris Hart (2:14:53).

“When you cross that finish line, there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment,” Chris Hart said, as he cooled off in the shade. “It really hurts in the end, but you have to shut up that ‘I quit’ voice in your head and keep going. It’s more important to finish.”

It’s the third year in a row that they’ve run the Clovis Half together.

It started five years ago as a way to lose weight and get in shape. The Harts train together almost every Sunday morning – running nine miles from Mila’s home to her father’s.

“We couldn’t even run a mile five years ago and now we’re here,” Mila added.

▪ Gracie Johnson, 47, of Tulare, is better known as “Crazy” Johnson by those closest to her.

After being sidelined from running for two years because of plantar fasciitis, she took up cycling and swimming.

The deputy with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department wasn’t going to let the injury keep her from being active.

Since her foot has healed, she hasn’t stopped running. Before Sunday, she had already run five half-marathons this year. She signs up for so many races – triathlons and marathons – that even her boyfriend Jerry Beair is often reluctant to join her.

Nonetheless, Johnson said she’ll never quit moving. She finished the Fresno course in 2:04:39.

“I’ve got the distance, now I’ve got to get the speed,” she said.

▪ Two years ago, Clovis’ Juan Carlos Sanchez had back surgery. The former triathlete was told by his doctors that he would be unable to compete again because of his injury, so the Mexico native transitioned to the next best thing: speed walking. Sanchez, an industrial engineer, won the men’s walk title in the Fresno Half in 2:24:28.

“It all went great,” Sanchez said. “This is one of the best races I’ve been a part of.”

▪ David Sneller, of San Francisco, didn’t originally intend on running the Two Cities Marathon. He had signed up for the Santa Barbara Marathon set for next weekend, but the event was canceled in mid-October. Sneller, however, was determined to run his first-ever marathon so he signed up for the Two Cities event. He finished his first 26.2-mile race in 3:26:58 for 25th overall and seventh among men ages 30 to 34.

“It hurts,” Sneller said. “But it feels good.”

Angel Moreno: 559-441-6401, @anhelllll

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