Overall Rating
Overall Rating (22 Reviews)
4.4
(22 Ratings)(22 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
2.5
SCENERY
3.8
PRODUCTION
4.5
SWAG
4.1
Welcome runners to the California Central Valley’s best marathon & half! The looped marathon course starts and ends among the fall colors of Woodward Park and runs in upscale scenic neighborhoods lined with brilliant autumn foliage. Enjoy running through historic Old Town Clovis as you are cheered on by supporting … MORE
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Recent reviews

    canderson.rce REPEAT RUNNER '19

    On a scale of good, bad, and meh, the Two Cities Marathon and Half ranks as a mostly good with just a small essence of meh. Are there areas where, … MORE

    On a scale of good, bad, and meh, the Two Cities Marathon and Half ranks as a mostly good with just a small essence of meh.

    Are there areas where, at least in my opinion, the race could be a bit better? Of course! Every race has areas where they can improve. I don’t care ff you’re talking about Disney, Boston, or Flying Pig, no race is perfect. That said, the Two Cities Marathon and Half (2CM) definitely gets it mostly right in my book of reviews. Let me break it down a bit.

    Travel Logistics:

    Traveling to and from 2CM isn’t particularly complicated. Woodward Park is located just off State Highway 41 (the road to Yosemite) on the north side of Fresno. Ample lodging is available. If you’re flying in, the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport is close. Obviously, FYI is not a major hub, so depending on where you are flying in from you will likely have to connect through a bigger airport, although there are connections to major hubs like ORD, SLC, DEN, LAX, or SFO.

    That said, if you’re thinking of making a trip from out of town to Fresno, the travel logistics really shouldn’t be much of an issue.

    Course Details:

    The 2CM event comprises a full marathon, two half marathon courses (Fresno Half and Clovis Half), a relay and a 5K run/walk. The full marathon incorporates both the Fresno and Clovis half courses. The course for 2CM is pretty much as advertised – flat and fast!

    The course gets its name from the two cities runners pass through – Fresno and Clovis. The Fresno Half utilizes city streets and roads; whereas, the Clovis Half utilizes mostly a paved pedestrian/bike pathway, but also city streets.

    The start of the race begins in front of Woodward Park and the finish line is inside the park. Each of the features races begins with staggered start times as a way to spread out the number of runners competing.

    Pre/post-Race:

    Fresno’s New Covenant Community Church plays host to the event expo and packet pick-up. Numerous vendors and other purveyors of merchandise pack themselves onto the church’s sanctuary floor. Visitors and participants weave their way around the serpentine-like pathway before runners procure their goody bag, tech shirt and personalized bib number before exiting.

    Holding an expo in a church building is somewhat unusual, but seems to work well with the size of 2CM. Upon entering the sanctuary, the room was dark, lit with rather poor inefficient spotlighting. In my opinion, whoever the light designer was, he/she needs to go back to school.

    That said, the expo was well organized and they definitely had a wide selection of items available (fuel, clothes, etc.) in case you forgot something and needed to grab a last-minute replacement.

    The organizers provide for a ton of porta-potties. If you wait for the last minute, long lines form, but if used earlier, it’s a quick in and out.
    As for post-race entertainment, there was a local band on the stage (playing mostly covers) and runners are treated with a breakfast of champions – pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs. The food is usually cold, but after a day of running, it does taste good. Also, the Michelob Ultra beer garden offers free ice-cold beer.

    All in all, I have no complaints about the pre/post-race amenities.

    Bling:

    I don’t know how you could complain about the bling from 2CM. Up until 2019, the finisher’s medal commemorates the autumn season, but the current medal incorporated features of Clovis and Fresno. Not as fashionable as years past.

    Volunteers:

    Seriously, the volunteers are always awesome! The folks running the aid stations/water stops were awesome, and definitely did whatever they could to support us on the course. Even those private citizens not affiliated with the event coming to help out with their own aid stations – even cold beer and whiskey.

    Miscellaneous:

    There is ample public parking in a business development adjacent to the park. There is a little walk to the start and finish areas, but it isn’t bad at all.

    Overall impression:

    Over the past twelve years of 2CM’s existence, I’ve run the full 2CM thrice, the Fresno Half once and the Clovis Half five times, but my preference lies with the Clovis Half chiefly for the flatter topography and the spectator support along the pedestrian/bike trail. Will I run 2CM in the future? With the number of times I’ve run this race, it speaks for itself.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    cheryldoubledee REPEAT RUNNER '18

    This race boasts a full marathon through 2 cities (thus the name) and 2 separate half marathons, one through each city. I ran the Clovis half for the second year … MORE

    This race boasts a full marathon through 2 cities (thus the name) and 2 separate half marathons, one through each city. I ran the Clovis half for the second year in a row and earned a PR. The Clovis half is basically flat (you do run under some overpasses on the paved trail) and the course is lined with enthusiastic spectators. The swag is fantastic- tech shirt, medal and hooded sweatshirt at the finish. Plentiful course support with water, electrolytes and 2 gel stations on the half. Full breakfast and free beer at the finish. I would absolutely recommend this race if you are anywhere near Fresno the first weekend of November!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    Lani FIRST-TIMER '18

    In a nutshell, this is nice little local race. While there is nothing mind-blowingly amazing, this well-organized race offers a myriad of distances, and offers something for everyone. We were … MORE

    In a nutshell, this is nice little local race. While there is nothing mind-blowingly amazing, this well-organized race offers a myriad of distances, and offers something for everyone.

    We were in need of a marathon for this date, and the Two Cities Marathon fit the bill.

    Bib pickup was held at a local church, which is unusual, but worked well for the size of this race.

    THE START

    The race start and finish for the marathon are around Woodward Park in Fresno. With fewer than 400 marathoners, the start area never felt crowded. There were ample porta-potties near the start, and the race offered pacers as well. They even had a couple of local radio hosts as announcers, which was unexpected and gave it a more professionally run feel.

    There was plenty of parking by the park, but race organizers offered free bus shuttle service from various locations.

    THE COURSE

    The course stays on Shepherd Avenue for a couple of miles, heads down Willow Avenue and keeps going until you hit the town of Clovis. There are various turns and small loops around downtown Clovis, before you head back up Willow again. Just before you hit that start area again, you make a right turn and this time, head north on Friant Road for a roughly 10-mile out-and-back. The course runs along the edge of communities and golf courses, so the scenery is considerably different from the first half of the race. This stretch is also where they sneak in some hills. The outbound portion has a net downhill, which means you wind up really feeling the uphill as you’re coming back in the last several miles of your race.

    There were spots along the course (especially in the first half) where there were groups of spectators cheering. Aid stations were also well spaced (every couple of miles) and they all offered water and sports drink.

    BOSTON QUALIFIER

    This race is USATF-certified and can be used to time qualify for the Boston Marathon. How BQ-friendly is the course? As a looped course, it’s not the fastest course. Having a long uphill grade as you head into your last 8 miles is pretty tough. In addition, there’s a fair bit of tight turns, especially around downtown Clovis.

    As you run the second half, you run into half marathoners on the Fresno Half course, so they could pose more crowding issues with people running different paces than you.

    But there’s actually a second problem that I think makes me not recommend this race as your BQ A-race: running into the huge pack of Gavin Gladding Memorial Mile walkers (including plenty of strollers and very young children) in the last mile created an artificial (and in my opinion, completely unnecessary) bottleneck. If your BQ time is between 3:40 and 4:20, consider yourself warned. In at least three occasions, I had to navigate left and right to avoid darting kids and large groups that overflowed and spread out into the running lane. If every second counted to try to make your BQ, having to deal with this in the final mile of your race would be a serious impediment. I was surprised that they didn’t just block off a lane on the other side of the road to have the walkers not even be in the way. You’ve been warned.

    My bottom line? Yes, it’s certified so you CAN try to BQ. But if you don’t have much time to spare, pick a faster course, like the California International Marathon.

    That said, this race makes for an excellent training run for CIM. It’s exactly a month before CIM, so you can count it towards your long run, and get a sense of how you’re feeling, without going all out.

    SWAG and POST-RACE STUFF

    For a smaller local race, they really do a good job with both the swag and post-race stuff. Marathoners, half-marathoners, and half-marathon relay participants all get a tech tee, a pullover hoodie (which you pick up after you cross the finish line), and a medal. The shirts and hoodies are the same for all distances. So is the medal, but the strap is different depending on what distance you ran. I came in 3rd in my age group, and rather than getting a medal, I got a coffee mug with “3rd in Age Group” printed on it (under the race logo). What a nice prize! I can actually use that!

    The post-race area is in Woodward Park, and they turn the finish line area into one big party. There were local bands performing on stage, with lots of folding chairs and tables. The best part? Free pancake breakfast to participants. These aren’t five-star gourmet pancakes, but they were all being cooked on-site by all the teen volunteers, and they served up scrambled eggs, sausages, and pancakes. You can bet it hit the spot after running 26 miles.

    If you had family members coming out to greet you at the finish, this is definitely a spectator-friendly event.

    COURSES ON TOP OF COURSES

    Many races offer different distances as part of their offerings, and most of them are staggered and held on different days to allow runners to sign up for more than one race (runDisney is famous for this). The Two Cities Marathon was completely opposite of this; they put on multiple events that all happened at the same time. On the positive side, this must make it a little easier on things like road closures. But it must be such a challenge to track so many events going on simultaneously.

    For 2018, these are the races they offered. All of them used the same start line by Woodward Park:

    1) Two Cities Marathon, 6:30 start.
    2) Clovis Half Marathon, 7:15 start. Designed for runners only (no walkers)
    3) Fresno Half Marathon Walk & Run, 7:30 start. Designed for runners and walkers both.
    4) Fresno Half Marathon Relay, 7:30 start. The relay was two up with two legs.
    5) 5K Run/Walk, 7:45 start.
    6) Gavin Gladding Memorial Mile, 10:20 start. This event actually started by the 25-mile mark of the marathon and you walked back towards Woodward Park.

    It’s interesting that you can choose the Clovis or Fresno portions of the marathon course to do the half marathon. It’s also interesting that the Clovis Half is described as being for runners only, and that walkers should sign up for the Fresno Half (especially since they seemed to allow the same amount of time to finish both half races).

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    M_Sohaskey Nov 09, 2018 at 7:29pm

    Awesome review as always, Lani — I was considering running Two Cities as a training run for next weekend's JFK 50, but ended up not being able to make it.… MORE

    Awesome review as always, Lani — I was considering running Two Cities as a training run for next weekend's JFK 50, but ended up not being able to make it. But it sounds like a very well-done event, even if the idea of weaving around walkers in the final mile of a BQ effort makes me nauseous. And congrats on the 3rd place age group award! The way you started your review I'm assuming you and Alex used this as your virtual run to qualify for NYC 2019? In any case congrats on notching another marathon, every 26.2-mile finish is worth celebrating! LESS

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    Tamara REPEAT RUNNER '15

    The Two Cities Clovis Half is a good course for running a PR! This is my fastest time on a flat course. The weather was nice for running, not too … MORE

    The Two Cities Clovis Half is a good course for running a PR! This is my fastest time on a flat course. The weather was nice for running, not too warm.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    3

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    doloresybmd REPEAT RUNNER '16

    This race is a good race everyone should gave it a try. People are helpful. Fun to do. Food is great. You get your picture taken at finish line. MORE

    This race is a good race everyone should gave it a try. People are helpful. Fun to do. Food is great. You get your picture taken at finish line.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    gonzo22 FIRST-TIMER '16

    This race is really nice you have beautiful scenery, the crowd cheering you on is amazing they give you that extra push when you feel like slowing down. The whole … MORE

    This race is really nice you have beautiful scenery, the crowd cheering you on is amazing they give you that extra push when you feel like slowing down. The whole process was smooth from registering to getting your legs wrapped afterwards (since this was my first race). I’m really looking forward to 2017. Thanks two cities for welcoming me to the running family.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    bingjoe FIRST-TIMER '16

    Awesome support from the community! People will cheer you up and motivate you all the way to the finish line Course is great! Plenty of water station MORE

    Awesome support from the community! People will cheer you up and motivate you all the way to the finish line
    Course is great!
    Plenty of water station

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    stwgk1 REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Course is fairly flat with some minor hills, one fairly steep hill (no big deal though). There was great support from crowd participants and excellent aid along the way. The … MORE

    Course is fairly flat with some minor hills, one fairly steep hill (no big deal though). There was great support from crowd participants and excellent aid along the way. The aid stations were great! This is definitely a must for any Central Valley runners!

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    2
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    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    2

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    Tamara REPEAT RUNNER '16

    The Two Cities is in my hometown, so it is an easy race to get to. It also is run on the Sunday we get and 'extra hour' of sleep … MORE

    The Two Cities is in my hometown, so it is an easy race to get to. It also is run on the Sunday we get and ‘extra hour’ of sleep due to the time change. The Clovis Half is an easy course and is good for beginner runners. It is also good for trying to get a PR. A PR is my goal for next year!

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    juanitaarias FIRST-TIMER '16

    This was an awesome run I've had runs before but this one was far the best one I've ever done I loved it so much I will be doing it … MORE

    This was an awesome run I’ve had runs before but this one was far the best one I’ve ever done I loved it so much I will be doing it again next year.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    shirleywilliam REPEAT RUNNER '16

    This race is run very smoothly! It begins and ends at beautiful Woodward Park, and the course is flat and great for first timers! I can't wait for next year … MORE

    This race is run very smoothly! It begins and ends at beautiful Woodward Park, and the course is flat and great for first timers! I can’t wait for next year already!

    DIFFICULTY
    1
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    5
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    amyhance REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Two Cities is well organized, affordable, and runner-friendly. I've completed the marathon, both half marathon routes, and this year did the half relay with a group of friends who wanted … MORE

    Two Cities is well organized, affordable, and runner-friendly. I’ve completed the marathon, both half marathon routes, and this year did the half relay with a group of friends who wanted to keep a streak alive. Every year, this race is well worth the entry.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
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    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    csaba.toth.us REPEAT RUNNER '16

    The last several years the weather was pretty good for running. The race is always exactly in the morning of daylight saving time change (you gain an extra hour during … MORE

    The last several years the weather was pretty good for running. The race is always exactly in the morning of daylight saving time change (you gain an extra hour during the night). The parking and organization of the race is excellent. I always ran the Clovis half which is the lightest, you can choose the Fresno half which is more hilly (but not too bad). The marathon is kinda the combination of two with some extras. The start and finish park is very beautiful, the cities are nice. Some years ago I ran a PB here (~1:28:30), but it’s perfect for leisure running.

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    pwr_htr13 REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Please type of water on course; medical; volunteers all along the course cheering you on. Very friendly event...one of the best 1/2's I have ran. MORE

    Please type of water on course; medical; volunteers all along the course cheering you on. Very friendly event…one of the best 1/2’s I have ran.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    amkelley REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Very professionally organized; expo, parking, start and finish lines were all very smooth. And every year it's the only fairly large race I do that always has plenty of porta-potties! … MORE

    Very professionally organized; expo, parking, start and finish lines were all very smooth. And every year it’s the only fairly large race I do that always has plenty of porta-potties! Lots of volunteers and aid stations. Course is completely closed to vehicles–very nice. Not very scenic, but reasonable numbers of spectators over whole course. This year there was very little music on the course, and minimal choice of post-race refreshments. The Fresno half-marathon course has one significant hill, not steep but several blocks long, that you run down and back up just past the halfway course. The race is not really special in any way, but reliably a good experience and I certainly plan to be back.

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    CoachMoCutsHair FIRST-TIMER '16

    Loved everything about it. Have so many friends that recommended it. Ran a personal pr. Nice course. Looking forward to running the other half next year. Plenty of aid water … MORE

    Loved everything about it. Have so many friends that recommended it. Ran a personal pr. Nice course. Looking forward to running the other half next year. Plenty of aid water and medical stations.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    5
    SCENERY
    4
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    4
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    chelly.g REPEAT RUNNER '16

    This was my first time running the full marathon ! I had around the Clovis half twice so I was familiar with the first half of the course That runs … MORE

    This was my first time running the full marathon ! I had around the Clovis half twice so I was familiar with the first half of the course That runs along the Clovis trail. This race has always had the best cheer squads so much support along the course ! When I decided to run a full marathon there was no doubt that two cities would be the race I would run ! Plenty of stations for fuel and medic care! Tons of spots for spectators ! So much energy on the course and it’s great to be able to see people on each side of the course! As this was my first marathon as soon as I cross the finish line I knew that I would run it again ! Race swag is awesome and the custom medals are made to perfection !

    Very well organized and plenty of food and entertainment after !

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    kristiinam REPEAT RUNNER '16

    This is a quality race! The volunteers and staff make this race run so smooth and it came off without a hitch!! The swag is also fantastic!! I recommend this … MORE

    This is a quality race! The volunteers and staff make this race run so smooth and it came off without a hitch!! The swag is also fantastic!! I recommend this fabulous race to all runners and walkers! Yes, the offer a 1/2 walk as well!! Look forward to next year’s race!!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
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    5
    SCENERY
    4
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    5

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    kcurnutte REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Great run! Two 1/2 marathon courses!! I LOVE this run! The course is great! The goodies at the end are great! One of my favorite races!! MORE

    Great run! Two 1/2 marathon courses!! I LOVE this run! The course is great! The goodies at the end are great! One of my favorite races!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    5
    SCENERY
    4
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    5

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    hugo.casahonda FIRST-TIMER '16

    Gotta say, it was very well organized! High energy, amazing volunteers, plenty of water and GU stations. Incredibly flat! For my first marathon it was for sure an incredible experience. … MORE

    Gotta say, it was very well organized! High energy, amazing volunteers, plenty of water and GU stations. Incredibly flat!
    For my first marathon it was for sure an incredible experience. Would I race it again? Absolutely!
    Would I recommend it? You bet!

    Overall a must do for Fresno, either a half, relay or the full!
    Got to handed to the volunteers! Awesome job guys!

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    1
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