Marathon Finish Line LIVE

The 2009 LA Marathon

By Fred Roggin
|  Thursday, Jul 16, 2009  |  Updated 2:23 PM PDT
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Marathon Finish Line LIVE

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A field of more than 15,000 is expected to line up Monday for the Los Angeles Marathon.

The field includes 208 runners who have completed all 23 previous marathons. Last year, 16,941 runners competed the race. A record 20,169 finished the 2006 race.

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The race has been dominated by Kenyan men and women from the former Soviet Union, both winning the last 10 races, with Russian women winning the last four and six of the last eight.

No U.S. runner has won the race since 1994 when Paul Pilkington won the men's race and Olga Appell was the women's winner.

Kenyan Fred Mogaka, the 2007 men's winner, is the only former champion in the field. Both the men's and women's winners will receive $20,000 plus a Honda Accord EX-L V6 sedan.

A $100,000 bonus will be given to the first person crossing the finish line. The women's elite field will be given a 16-minute, 57-second head start, calculated by a group of experts based on elite runners' times.

Women runners have won the bonus three of the five times it has been offered.

Change of Date

Monday's marathon will be the first on a Memorial Day and likely the last.

The later date -- the race has been run on the first Sunday in March traditionally -- has drawn criticism from runners because of the likelihood of warmer weather, which would make the 26-mile, 385-yard race harder to run. And some City Council members were unhappy with the change, too.

The race had been run in March, usually on the first Sunday of the month, from its inception in 1986 through last year.

When the rights to the race were bought last year by a group controlled by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the City Council stipulated that the race be shifted to a Monday holiday to limit the impact on Sunday morning church services.

Ministers with churches on or near the course had said for years the necessary street closings kept would-be churchgoers away. The ministers claimed church attendance typically dropped by about 50 percent on the day of the race.

This year's race was first moved to Presidents Day. In November, it was re-scheduled for Memorial Day after traffic experts told race organizers it would create fewer disruptions, because fewer people work on Memorial Day than Presidents Day, Los Angeles Marathon President Russ Pillar said in November.

The two shifts drew complaints from runners who twice had to change their training plans.

Holding the race on Memorial Day was called "really kind of an insult and disrespect to our veterans and those who have served this country," by City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

In April, Hahn and Councilman Tom LaBonge introduced a motion calling for city officials to renegotiate the contract with LA Marathon LLC to move the 2010 marathon back to the first Sunday in March, citing the weather and respect for veterans as concerns.

The City Council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee approved the motion May 6. It will next be heard by the Budget and Finance Committee.

At the City Council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee hearing on the motion, Howard Sunkin, senior vice president of The McCourt Group, the holding company for McCourt's various interests, said scheduling the marathon for Memorial Day was "a wrong decision."

At a Friday news conference, Pillar said he was hopeful this "will be the last marathon to be run in May, although there were a variety of constituencies, including elected officials, who have something to say about that."

"We think the March date, specifically a Sunday in March, will create an environment that we can create a better experience for all participants," Pillar said.

Warm Weather Precautions

The expected warmer weather has prompted organizers to provide as much water and medical support "as there's ever been in the history of the race," according to Rich Perelman, the marathon's director of media operations.

There will be 44 water stations on the course, each stocked with 1,200 gallons of water, the equivalent of 30,000 servings, Perelman said.

Medical support will be available at both the start and finish lines, while medical vans will be positioned at the 6th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 20th, 22nd and 24th miles of the course.

The race will also start earlier than last year. Most of the runners will start at 7:24 a.m., 16 minutes, 57 seconds after the elite women. The race started at 8:15 a.m. last year.

Wheelchair participants will start at 6:55 a.m. and hand-cranked participants at 7 a.m.

Cloudy skies are forecast for the start of the race, with the temperature around 60. The sun is expected to break out between 9-10 a.m., when the first runners will be finishing, with the temperature rising to 66 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Last year's race started under hazy, sunny skies, a slight breeze and temperatures in the 50s.

About the Course

The marathon is returning to a loop course starting at Figueroa and 5th streets in downtown Los Angeles, heading south to Exposition Park, then west to Leimert Park, the Crenshaw district, hitting the half-way point at Venice Boulevard and Burnside Avenue in the Mid-City area.

The second half of the course includes the Pico-Robertson district, Little Ethiopia, Park La Brea, Hancock Park, Country Club Park, Koreatown and ends in front of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library at Flower and Fifth streets.

The past two years the race started adjacent to Universal Studios, with a course designed  along the Metro Red Line and ended in front of the library.

Monday's course was used for the 2005 and 2006 races and resulted in the fastest men's and women's times.

"When we spent time with the runners ... we heard that they didn't like the course that it had been moved to," Pillar said. "And when we canvassed the wider running community, we also heard that this loop course that we're running this year happened to be a favorite of all possible options that they had been given in the past."

Pillar said when he met with McCourt last year to discussing financing the purchase of the race, both saw the marathon "as a fallen civic asset that really ought to be rebuilt."

Plans for the future include a course that "highlights the best of what Los Angeles has to offer," which would take the race outside Los Angeles' city limits for the first time, Pillar said, declining to provide specifics.

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