SANTA MONICA (AP) — Fatuma Sado has never finished worse than second in any of the four marathons she has entered — and still she isn’t satisfied.
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The Ethiopian-born Sado, who is only 20 years old, won the 27th Los Angeles Marathon in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 39 seconds Sunday, the fourth-best finish in race history and besting her personal record by more than 2 minutes.
Simon Njoroge became the 11th different Kenyan to win the men’s race, finishing in 2:12:12 for his seventh marathon win overall and sixth in his last nine.
Sado’s victory follows a win in Hamburg, Germany, in her debut last May and second-place finishes in Istanbul, where she ran her previous best of 2:28:01, and in Mumbai, India.
“It’s not enough,” Sado said through an interpreter. “I am successful running marathons because I train with the elite Ethiopian marathoners.”
Some of those can run in 2:19 and 2:20, she said, and Sado wants to get there.
If she gets there, she will be richer. She earned a $100,000 gender challenge bonus in addition to the $25,000 first prize and a new car. The women’s elite runners received a 17:31 head start over the men in chasing a prize given to the first runner, male or female, to finish.
As for her next race, Sado said that’s not known, either.
“My coach will decide my next race,” she said.
The weather was expected to be rainy and windy, less than optimal conditions for the runners. Instead, it was cold, the sun appeared in the later miles and the wind picked up at the end.
The cold might have been the reason Sado started the race feeling a twinge in her left leg. But she said she pushed herself a bit, and the pain subsided.
Sado led over the final 20 miles, but her victory wasn’t assured until she broke away from countrywomen Belainesh Gebre and Yeshimebet Tedesse with split times of 5:05 for mile 15 and 4:58 for mile 16.READ MORE: Kroger Closing Ralph's And Food 4 Less In Long Beach Saturday Over Hero Pay Law
She remained on pace to shatter the meet record of 2:25:10 set in 2006 by Russia’s Lidiya Grigoyeva until mile 21, when an uphill climb through the Veterans Administration land caused her to slow to a 6:05 pace, followed by mile splits of 5:50 and 5:51.
The wind didn’t help, either.
“At the end, it was windy and that is why I did not get so good of a time,” she said.
Still, she had enough to beat Misikir Mekonnin, an Ethiopian living in Albuquerque, N.M., by 2 1/2 minutes. Mekonnin finished in 2:28:09, and Tadesse was third in 2:30:46.
Mekonnin was a prerace favorite, but she said back problems hurt her early.
“I felt better after 10 miles and picked up the pace,” she said. “There was good weather but windy at the end.”
Njoroge started as part of a group of eight that included Teodoro Vega of Mexico, who led for 10 of the first 13 miles. By mile 16, it was a two-man race between Njoroge and countryman Weldon Kirui, and they stayed together until reaching the VA property, when Njoroge increased his lead to 11 seconds, then 22 seconds.
“From the first kilometer, we tried to push the pace up to try and catch the girl’s leader,” Njoroge said. “When I knew that I could not catch her, I tried to go with Weldon.”
Kirui said that he had leg problems over the last few miles.
“I tried to come with my best attempt to stay with my friend, but because of the problem with my leg, I was not able to stay with him,” he said.
Kirui finished second in 2:13:40 and Kenyan Stephen Muange was third in 2:13:50.
Krige Schabat, a 48-year-old South African living in Cedartown, Ga., won the men’s wheelchair race for third consecutive year, this time in 1:39:53. American Shirley Reilly successfully defended her women’s wheelchair title, winning in 1:41:14. It was her third victory in this event. She first won in 2006.MORE NEWS: LA County’s COVID Positivity Rate Hits Record Low; 600K Vaccine Doses Available Next Week
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