Kenya's Daniel Limo surprises himself with Los Angeles Marathon win

Daniel Limo of Kenya wins the L.A. Marathon men's race in 2:10:35

With 20 miles behind him, Daniel Limo began to doubt he would win the Los Angeles Marathon.

Never mind that he just passed countryman Edwin Koech to take over the race's lead. He wasn't feeling good and was concerned Koech or Lani Rutto would beat him.

"At 20 miles I started feeling bad," Limo said. "I was not strong ... but I persevered."

Limo's "bad" was still better than everyone else's best as he racked up his first professional marathon victory at the L.A. Marathon on Sunday. Limo, 31, crossed the finish line in 2 hours 10 minutes 36 seconds, more than two minutes ahead of second-placed Rutto.

He wasn't the only Kenyan runner to prevail. Ogla Kimaiyo won the women's race in 2:34.10. She finished 23 seconds ahead of runner-up Natalya Puchkova of Russia.

Limo and Kimaiyo each won $25,000.

Rounding out the top three in each gender division were Americans who also won the USA Track and Field Championship titles. Jared Ward, 26, became the highest male American finisher at the L.A. Marathon since Bob Kempainen finished second in 1995. He finished in 2:12.56 to claim the USATF title. Blake Russell, 39, was the women's champion with a time of 2:34.57.

Ward and Russell, who each won $10,000 for finishing third overall, also will get a piece of the $150,000 USATF race purse.

Ryan Hall, who entered the race as an overall and USATF title favorite, abandoned near the 13-mile marker after being caught by the leading American runners. Hall didn't announce why he dropped out, but he didn't appear to be injured. He didn't respond to an email request for comment.

Hall's wife, Sara Hall, who was among the expected contenders for the USATF championship, finished well behind the leaders at 2:48.02.

Ryan Hall was one of the first to drop out of the lead pack after the five-mile mark. At Mile 10, a group of six runners — all Kenyans — were left at the front.

The group eventually whittled down to two runners — Limo and Koech — before Koech started to pull away after 15 miles. Limo fell back a couple hundred feet, but was confident he could reach Koech again.

"I saw that he would be hard to beat, but I still thought I would still catch up," Limo said. "But when I saw him lose [time] at 20 miles, I knew I would catch him."

Koech struggled over the final six miles. After consistently posting mile times under five minutes, the 31-year-old slowed considerably, falling to fourth place by the finish, exactly three minutes behind Limo.

Rutto passed Koech on Mile 25 to finish runner-up for the second straight year with a time of 2:12.43.

In the women's race, Kimaiyo and Puchkova emerged as the leaders at the 18-mile mark after breaking out of a dissolving group of eight runners that included four Americans. Kimaiyo then pulled away over the final 3 1/2 miles to get the win.

Like Limo, Kimaiyo, 26, doubted she would hold off Puchkova.

"When I went to the front, I didn't know I was going to win because I had a lot of pain in my legs," Kimaiyo said. "At 25 miles, I thought I was going to win."

Scott Parson, 55, won the men's wheelchair race in 1:37.13 and Shirley Reilly, 29, won the women's race in 2:00.27.

As for the hot weather, the elite runners finished before 9:30 a.m., escaping the brunt of the unseasonable temperatures. Still, Ward said the warm weather had an impact.

"It certainly made a difference in the outcome in the race," Ward said, "as far as running faster."

Twitter: @AustinKnob

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