SANTA MONICA (CBS/AP) — Markos Geneti set a Los Angeles Marathon record in winning in his debut at 26.2 miles Sunday, while Buzunesh Deba won the women’s event to give Ethiopia a sweep.
Geneti opened a big lead on Nicolas Kamakya and two-time defending champion Wesley Korir during the 17th mile and prevailed in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 35 seconds, the second fastest marathon in the world this year.
Kamakya finished second in 2:09:26 and Laban Moiben of Kenya was third in 2:13:12. Korir, attempting to become the race’s first three-time winner, was fourth in 2:13:23.
Geneti also won the $100,000 gender challenge prize by making up the 17:03 head start given to the women’s elite field. He was surprised at his victory but said he felt confident at the start.
“I’m very happy about today,” Geneti said through an interpreter. “When I saw the course I was thinking it was hard, but when I ran it was good.”
He passed the women’s leaders in the 20th mile of the rain-soaked 26.2-mile “Stadium to the Sea” course that begins at Dodger Stadium and passes through Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Deba broke free from Mare Dibaba and Amy Hastings during the 22nd mile and won in 2:26:34. Hastings was second in 2:27:03 in her marathon debut, while Dibaba was third in 2:30:25.
Deba, who lives and trains in Bronx, N.Y., passed up Sunday’s NYC Half-Marathon to run in L.A. She was happy despite the poor conditions.
“I don’t like the rain, but I prepared very, very well, and I was not hurting,” Deba said. “My husband wanted me to run 2:24, but I don’t like running in the rain. My legs were tight and my stomach was cramping.”
It was the first time an Ethiopian, male or female, had won the L.A. Marathon. Kenyans had won the previous 12 men’s races.
Geneti and Kamakya established a lead from the seventh through 10th miles, and then Geneti pulled away by the halfway point.
By the 17th mile he had a significant lead and was never threatened the rest of the way.
“I’m surprised at the time,” Geneti said. “I hoped to run 2:07.”
Geneti was considered a wild-card entry in field that featured four runners who had run 2:09:44 or faster. He comes from a successful track background and has a personal best 13:00 in the 5,000 meters.
Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich of Kenya ran the year’s fastest marathon, a 2:06:13 at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon in Japan on March 6.
Krige Schabort won the men’s wheelchair race and Shirley Reilly won the women’s division.
Meantime, the cold, wet weather prompted hundreds of marathoners to drop out of the race, according to scanner reports.
Los Angeles firefighters working the race reportedly asked buses at the finish line to return back to the marathon route to pick those runners up.
There were 23,542 registered runners, according to race officials.
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