Kenyan runner holds lead this time to win L.A. Marathon

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Kenyan John Korir was the men’s winner of the 36th annual Los Angeles Marathon Nov. 7, two years after being passed in the final 200 yards, while Natasha Cockram of Wales was the women’s winner.

Korir completed the 26-mile, 385-yard “Stadium to the Stars” course in two hours, 12 minutes, 47 seconds. Fellow Kenyan Edwin Kimutai was second in 2:18:01, while Amanuel Mesel of Eritrea was third in 2:18:17.

The 24-year-old Korir was among the four-person lead pack that also included Mesel, Kimutai and fellow Kenyan Evans Korir, all sub-2:10 marathoners. Running together and changing off the lead, the foursome reached the halfway mark at 1:08:13.

Evans Korir fell off the pace after a few more miles. John Korir threw in a fast surge during mile 18 on an uphill section along Santa Monica Boulevard and ran away from Mesel and Kimutai with a 4:39 mile. He followed that with several more sub-4:50 miles to seal the victory.

John Korir made a similar surge late in the 2019 race and thought he had secured a victory, only to have fellow Kenyan Elisha Barno outsprint him to the finish line, finishing second, 6.75 seconds behind.

John Korir is a younger brother of Wesley Korir, the 2009 and 2010 Los Angeles Marathon winner.

Now our family is so happy today,” John Korir said. “This is three times our family winning this race. We are happy now.”

The men’s race has been won by a Kenyan every year since 1999, except for 2011, 2014 and 2020 when it was won by Ethiopians. The top American finisher was Bijan Mazaheri who finished fourth in 2:21:42. Mazaheri is a Pasadena resident who is a doctoral student in computing and mathematical sciences and volunteer assistant cross-country coach at Caltech. 

A U.S. runner last won in 1994.

The 28-year-old Cockram won in 2:33:16. Kenyan Antonina Kwamba was second in 2:37:35. Russian Nina Zarina, who lives in the Los Angeles area, was third in 2:37:36.

Cockram and Kwambai ran stride-for-stride together for the first 18 miles at a moderate pace. Just as Cockram started to surge near mile 18, Kwamba began to fade, allowing Cockram to open up a huge lead.

I wasn’t sure I was going to actually come to L.A. to race, but I am glad I did,” said Cockram, a former University of Tulsa cross-country standout who finished 17th in the London Marathon Oct. 3 in 2:32:32.

My recovery went pretty well after London, but I wasn’t sure how my body was going to be feeling. But about halfway, I felt sure and comfortable. I kind of wish I’d gone earlier. Once I made the move, I just thought that was it. I was going to run hard to the finish.”

Cockram is the third non-African woman to win in the past 12 races, joining runners from the former Soviet Union who won twice. 

The top American finisher was Kayla Grahn, a Pasadena resident who finished fourth in 2:48:26 in her debut marathon. A U.S. runner last won the women’s race in 1994.

The men’s and women’s winners each received $6,000, the runners-up $2,500 each and third-place finishers $1,500 each.

There were seven patients treated and three people were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Los Angeles Marathon Unified Command, which consisted of fire and police department who cover Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

The other four had minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

A field estimated by organizers at more than 13,000 runners, from 50 nations, all 50 states and 127 runners who have run all 35 previous editions of the race, left from Dodger Stadium, then ran through downtown Los Angeles, Echo Park, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and Brentwood then back through Westwood to Century City.

The race was run under near-ideal conditions, with an overcast sky and temperatures in the 60s.

The “Stadium to the Stars” course was used for the first time, with Brentwood its westernmost point, with runners then doubling back on San Vicente, Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards, ending at Avenue of the Stars in Century City.

The race was run on the “Stadium to the Sea” course from Dodger Stadium to near the Santa Monica Pier from 2010-2020.

The change was made because “the dramatically increased costs quoted by the city of Santa Monica for the 2021 running of the marathon, and future events, made remaining in Santa Monica financially infeasible,” according to the McCourt Foundation, which conducts the race.

The race was run with its smallest field since its inaugural edition in 1986 and eight months later than usual.

In 2020, the race drew a record 27,150 entrants from all 50 states and a record 78 nations, the 21st time in 22 years it topped 20,000 entrants.

Our operations team has always been planning for a reduced field size in order to safely host the marathon and provide for adequate social distancing at the start line and on the course,” Dan Cruz, the marathon’s head of communications, told City News Service.

One factor in the drop was far fewer runners from the Students Run LA free marathon training program for at-risk middle school and high school students. There are usually several thousand runners from the program in the race.

There were 70 graduates of the program in this year’s race, with City Councilman Joe Buscaino, a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, running with them.

Despite the drop, the Los Angeles Marathon again had the fourth-largest field among U.S. marathons, a distinction it held each year from 2016-19. It had the world’s largest field in 2020, when the New York, Chicago, Boston and Berlin marathons were all canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the first time that the race was run in the fall. It has been held in March since its inaugural edition in 1986, except for 2009 and 2016.

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