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Published by
ross   Mar 23rd 2010, 6:46pm

**Korir Defends Men's Title**
By Claudia Piepenberg
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved - used with permission

LOS ANGELES (21-Mar) -- Undeniably the biggest story of the day here was Kenyan Edna Kiplagat's win. Her 2:25:38 garnered her a big payday of $20,000 in prize money plus $25,000 in time bonuses, and a 2010 Honda automobile for the women's win, and the biggest prize of all: the $100,000 gender challenge bonus for beating the elite men who started 18 minutes and 47 seconds behind her.

Running in a pack of six women through from miles 5 through 16, Kiplagat --an inexperienced marathoner who had demonstrated her prowess at shorter distances in 2009, finishing 3rd at Falmouth, 7th at Peachtree and 4th at Bay-to-Breakers-- began to move up at mile 17 and made it clear that she was in it to win when she threw down a 5:24 mile split at mile 21, and lowered her pace through each consecutive mile. As she neared the ocean, and the temperatures cooled, she ran 5:09 and 5:10 for miles 25 and 26 respectively. Running with a long stride and relaxed expression on her face, Kiplagat, 30, never seemed pressed, despite the fact that she hadn't run a marathon since her 10th place finish in Las Vegas in 2005.

"I knew after mile 21 I could win it all," she said, adding: "I pushed as hard as I could, especially at mile 25," the only mile during the race when she ever looked behind her to see how far ahead she was.

Joining Kiplagat on the winner's podium was another relative newcomer to marathoning, Tebya Naser (Bahrain) who also came into the race with only one marathon on her resume: a first place finish in 2:30:09 at Rock 'n Roll Arizona on January 17. Suffering from stomach problems from the halfway mark on, Naser still managed to look as relaxed as Kiplagat, as they stalked leader Silvia Skvortsova (Russia) who had led since mile two, and who has a significantly faster career best of 2:26:24.

Although it appeared that perhaps Naser and the three other Ethiopians running with her on Skvortsova's heels (#1 seed Ashu Kasim, Tiki Galena, who was a late addition to the field and Alermitu Abera) were employing team tactics, attempting to break the Russian down, at the post race press conference it became clear that that was not the case. Skvortsova, who finished third in her goal time of 2:27:20 said that she was "...surprised that no one came up to help me with the lead. They were all so passive, not like how women run in other races." She did say that although it was disappointing that she was out alone in front for so long, she ran her own race and wasn't affected by anyone else, and graciously added that Naser's and Kiplagat's inexperience explained why they ran the way they did.

In what became a tactical race rather than chasing down the women to pocket the $100K gender challenge bonus, defending champion Wesley Korir (Kenya) became only the second repeat men's winner of the Honda La Marathon, finishing in 2:09:19. Running what he admitted was a slow time for a point-to-point, downhill course that race organizers had hoped might generate faster times, and under cool and cloudy conditions (53-degrees with 73% humidity at the start) Korir said: "I knew after the first few miles that it would be rough. I tried to keep the pace honest in the first 10-K, then I began to push the pace to break people."

But after running in or near the lead of a pack of twelve men who held together through mile 18, Korir realized at that point: "I had to forget about the Challenge, there were still too many men in the pack. I figured I'd relax then. There was no point in trying to move on the downhill portion because I knew everyone else would move then, too. My objective then was to be the first man; the gender challenge was gone."

Second place finisher Richard Limo (Kenya) (2:09:48) agreed, saying that although he had thought through the first half that the race might be his "...I knew then that a man wouldn't win the challenge." When asked about Korir's breakaway move at mile 25 (a 4:34 split) Limo said: "I was trying to keep up with them, but I also wanted to maintain my own pace, so I just stayed within the gap, not letting him get too far away."

Declaring the course to be "very very tough", third place Paul Samoei (Kenya) still managed to better his 2:10:09 personal best set in Venice last year, running 2:09:54 here. During the last three miles Limo and Samoei battled back and forth for second as Korir steadily pulled away (running mile 26 in 4:44).

Saying he was overwhelmed with emotion at winning for the second year in a row, Korir, who has applied for U.S. citizenship and hopes to be on the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team in 2016, praised the quality of the field, and thanked his new bride, Tarah, for all her support. "She planned everything, our wedding, everything," he said. "She said just train and I'll take care of it all; all I had to do was what she told me to. I love her very much, and I love LA and want to come back next year. I'm ready for what the future holds."

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The race recorded 22,299 finishers, a big increase from 14,128.  Organizers reported selling over 25,000 entries.


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