L.A. Marathon participants will try to run away from the pack — and the heat

Sunday's 31st Los Angeles Marathon will not only be a race against the course and the clock, it will also be a race against Mother Nature.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-50s when the wheelchair athletes push off at 6:30 a.m. from Dodger Stadium toward the Santa Monica finish line, followed by the elite women at 6:45 and the rest of the 25,000-runner field at 6:55.

But as the competition heats up, so will the weather, with temperatures expected to soar past 80 degrees just before 11 a.m. To beat the worst of the heat, runners will have to complete the downhill stadium-to-the-sea course in less than four hours.

That won't be a problem for some.

"The race is in the morning," said Weldon Kirui, who has a marathon best of 2 hours 9 minutes 6 seconds. "It's going to be cool."

For the rest of the field, the 22 aid stations on the course will be stocked with water and a sport drink, air-conditioned "cooling buses" will be parked at the 10 medical stations along the course and misting stations, cold towels and ice will also be available for runners.

The L.A. Marathon is traditionally run on the third weekend in March and last year, when temperatures hit a race-record 90 degrees, nearly 200 runners needed medical attention. The event was moved to February for the first time this year to coincide with Saturday's U.S. Olympic trials but the warm weather followed.

The trials affected the L.A. Marathon in another way, too, luring the nation's top 364 marathoners to the starting line Saturday, narrowing Sunday's elite field to only 25. Those runners will be competing for a share of $100,000, $46,000 of which will be divided equally by the men's and women's winners.

Fight on for UCLA

Meb Keflezighi was a four-time national champion at UCLA. So he joked before the trials that he was disappointed with the course, which made four loops through the USC campus.

Not surprisingly, Keflezighi's race began to unravel there.

"Tyler [Pennel] made a big move there on the penultimate lap," he said. "We [at] UCLA fight on. And I just said 'This is it. It's going to hurt. I'm going to fight.' I was thinking that's where the team is going to be made."

On the next lap, Galen Rupp made a move of his own, dropping Keflezighi in the 23rd mile and going on to win by more than a minute in 2:11.12.

But Keflezighi, wearing UCLA colors — bright yellow shorts and a matching singlet creased with a large blue stripe — fought on then too.

"And then I just said 'I've got to make the team, I've got to make the team,' " he said. "My teammates from UCLA were there. It was a homecoming for me. So many people were pulling for me."

Rupp, a silver medalist at 10,000 meters in the London Olympics, said he may try a marathon-10,000 double in this summer's Games in Brazil. If he decides to skip the longer race, that could create a place for Luke Puskedra, who finished fourth Saturday in 2:14:12.

Mission accomplished

Lenore Moreno of West Covina, who entered the women's race ranked 103rd, wanted to finish the race in under 2:40. She did, although barely, running 2:39:38 to place 13th.

That may not be the headline, though. Moreno, a two-time NCAA Division III in track at the University of La Verne, has exercise-induced anaphylaxis. It means she risks a severe allergic reaction if she exercises after consuming certain foods or wearing some fabrics. The condition can also trigger shortness of breath, an outbreak of hives and swelling that constricts her throat.

Saturday's race was probably the last of her competitive career, although not solely because of the health risks. Moreno had a bachelor's degree and one year of grad school finished and plans to turn her attention toward earning a teaching credential.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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