Two Cities Marathon will be a first for Clovis woman; defending champion CJ Albertson returns

Cheryl Solem, a 52-year-old resident of Clovis, will make her marathon debut at the Nov. 3 Two Cities Marathon. Here, she competes in the 2019 Wascally Half-Marathon.
Cheryl Solem, a 52-year-old resident of Clovis, will make her marathon debut at the Nov. 3 Two Cities Marathon. Here, she competes in the 2019 Wascally Half-Marathon.

World indoor marathon record-holder – and defending champion of the Two Cities Marathon – CJ Albertson returns to the site of his marathon debut on Sunday (Nov. 3).

Since smashing the course record with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 40 seconds, Albertson has gone on to post course records at marathons in Bakersfield (2:19:45.3) and Modesto (2:16:45).

The coach of the Clovis Community College cross country team (which captured its conference title on Wednesday) also broke the world indoor marathon record in 2:17:59.4 in New York in April.

Race director Nate Moore, when asked about the elite field last month, replied, “The only top runner that has contacted me about running the race is returning champ Mr. CJ Albertson, I doubt any faster than him is coming out.”

Well, that takes care of the elite contenders.

Just like Albertson did last year, 52-year-old Clovis resident Cheryl Solem is making her marathon debut.

While very unlikely to run as fast as the former running star from Buchanan High and Arizona State, Solem is among many whose inaugural marathon will remain special and spark future memories.

How excited is the married mother of two daughters?

Check out a recent training run in which she and her training partner spelled out ‘2 Cities.’

cheryl solem

“I have ran around 26 half marathons in the past four years including two of them being the 2 Cities Clovis Half,” said Solem, who married her high school sweetheart. “I decided in July I was ready to tackle my first full. I wanted it to be in my home town knowing I would see people I know.”

The 2015 Urban Run in downtown Fresno was Solem’s first race. When her friend Jenn Willems couldn’t run, Solem accepted her racing bib and finished the 5-kilometer run that included running up and down Chukchansi Park stadium steps.

“After the Urban Run, I started the couch-to-5K program,” said Solem. “I found out that running events handed out medals to run. This got me motivated to run.”

Soon she increased her distance to 10K races.

In 2016, a friend asked her to run the California Classic Half-Marathon relay.

“I never thought I would ever run 13.1 miles to do a half marathon,” she said. “I knew I could run 6 miles.”

When she got to the relay exchange, Solem felt so good she continued running to complete her first (but unofficial) half-marathon.

She decided in July to train for the Two Cities Marathon, and enlisted Willems to help her prepare.

“We started off with a few miles four days a week and slowly adding more and more as the weeks went on,” said Solem. “I usually ran in the evenings because I’m a night owl.

“As my miles got longer, I started enjoying the early morning run, getting up at 5:30 a.m. And, if you know me, this would amaze you!”

Solem’s longest training run was 22 miles.

She has many favorite runs in her short running career, including some with her daughters Ashley and Amanda by her side.

So, what is she looking forward to at Two Cities?

“I’m really looking forward to finishing my first full marathon, which will either be my favorite run or a run that kicked my butt!” said Solem.

What to know about Two Cities races

Starting times, all on Friant Road just north of Audubon:

▪ 6:30 a.m. marathon

▪ 7:15 a.m. Clovis half marathon

▪ 7:30 a.m. Fresno half marathon run, walk & relay

The Sierra Pacific Orthopedic Health & Fitness Expo will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 2) New Covenant Community Church, 1744 E. Nees Ave.

Last chance to register is in-person Saturday at the expo; no sign-ups on race day. Fees are $125 for the marathon; $105 for either half marathon; $105 for full marathon relay. Prices increase after 11:59 p.m. Nov. 1.

Registration ends at 12 p.m. Nov. 2.

Sunday road closures

▪ Friant Road: Audubon to Willow Road (4 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

▪ Shepherd Avenue (eastbound from Friant to Willow): 5 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

▪ Shepherd Avenue (westbound from Willow to Friant): 5 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

▪ Teague Avenue at Willow Road: 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

▪ Alluvial Avenue between Peach Avenue and Clovis Avenue: (6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.)

▪ Old Town Clovis (7 a.m. to 10 a.m.)

Alternate routes

▪ Willow Road open at all times including at Shepherd Avenue

▪ Nees Avenue open at all times

▪ Herndon Avenue open at all times

The Two Cities Marathon and Half course will be marshaled for 6½ hours from 6:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. After this time remaining participants will be directed to use sidewalks and obey all traffic laws. However, the finish area, complete with timing mat, will remain open until 2 p.m. Start times are subject to change.

Don’t forget Daylight Savings Time kicks in at 2 a.m. Sunday, which means runners will get to enjoy an extra hour of sleep.