John Korir thought he was going to join his brother as a winner of the Los Angeles Marathon. But the Kenyan saw his chances of victory on Sunday pass him by within view of the finish line.
Elisha Barno of Kenya passed his countryman with 150 meters to go for the closest finish in the race’s 34-year history. Barno — who won the race for the second time in three years — crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 46 seconds and beat Korir by seven seconds.
Askale Merachi of Ethiopia won the women’s division in 2:24:12, setting a race record.
“It wasn’t an easy race,” said Barno, who finished third last year. “I saw the pace was high late but I held back a little. I decided to push the last couple kilometers.”
It was a slow pace with a dozen runners in the lead pack until mile 17. It went down to a three-man pack of Barno, Korir and Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico a mile later before Korir broke away. Barno was in third with two miles to go before passing Barrios and catching Korir.
Korir said he began to falter with a mile to go and had nothing left at the finish.
“The race was good, but I didn’t know he was behind me the last mile until he passed me,” Korir said.
Barrios was third in 2:11:59 and defending champion Weldon Kirui finished fifth (2:13:25). Tyler McCandless of Boulder, Colorado, was the top American finisher, in 11th place at 2:14:57.
McCandless, who said he was surprised by the slow pace, said the stadium-to-the-sea course served as good preparation for next year’s Olympic marathon trial in Atlanta.
“This course is quite similar, which is one of the reasons why I picked to run this race,” McCandless said. “It is a good simulation with a hilly, challenging course and how the competition might play out.”
Merachi beat Cynthia Jerop of Kenya by 1:43. She bested the race record, set by Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia in 2006 (2:25:10) by nearly a minute.
Merachi and Jerop broke away from the pack at the midway point before Merachi took control over the last six miles.
It is the first marathon victory for the 32-year old Ethiopian. Her previous best was second at last year’s Duluth Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota.
“The course was wonderful. I practiced well,” said Merachi, who set her personal best by nearly six minutes. “About 33 kilometers I figured out it was time to go and win the race.”
Lucy Karimi of Kenya was third (2:26:16). Lindsey Anderson was the top American, finishing in sixth at 2:34:45.
It was only the second marathon for Anderson, who competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Twin Falls, Idaho, native retired for six years to start a family before returning to competitive running.
“It was a pleasant surprise to come in and finish as the top American,” Anderson said. “I wanted to run conservative at the beginning and respect the course. The second half of the race I just wanted to see if I could keep moving and start picking off people, which I did.”
The winners received $23,000. Organizers said nearly 24,000 runners competed on the 26.2-mile course, which for the 10th year began at Dodger Stadium and ended near the Santa Monica Pier.