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A Long Run Through the Heat : Marathon: Long Beach winners Garcia, from Mexico; Gavryluk, from the Soviet Union, overcome 80-degree temperatures.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the latter stages of Sunday’s Long Beach Marathon, Salvador Garcia frequently looked back over his shoulder. He saw Rex Wilson of New Zealand, who was threatening to pass him.

Garcia looked up at a blazing sun that was threatening to make him pass out. He could not say later which foe he feared more.

A 26-year-old Army sergeant from Mexico City, Garcia overcame both Wilson and the weather to win in 2 hours 15 minutes 19 seconds, a respectable time given the conditions. Wilson, who won the event last year, was second in 2:15:32.

Zoya Gavryluk of the Soviet Union battled Akemi Takayama of Japan throughout the race, winning in 2:42:39. Takayama was second in 2:43:15.

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Garcia and Gavryluk each won $25,000.

Jim Knaub won the men’s wheelchair race in a fast 1:39:43, and Emily Ball won the women’s race in 2:40:54.

More than 4,000 runners clogged the streets of Long Beach on a relentlessly hot day. Temperatures at the start were in the low 80s, about 20 degrees higher than elite runners prefer.

The heat engendered a conservative pace for the first few miles, while the lead runners were sizing up the field as well as the fast, rolling course. By six miles, the lead men were running in a pack of eight, by the end of that mile the pack would dwindle to six.

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Garcia and Wilson set the pace, along with Sergei Yanenko of the Soviet Union and Thomas O’Gara of Ireland. This group of four cruised along, leaving a second pack of eight in its wake, four minutes behind and out of reach.

Garcia has run 10 marathons, won five and placed second twice. Even with this success, he ran warily, looking closely at the others in his group for signs of wear. Garcia made a strong surge at 13 miles. He went from running 5:11-mile pace to a 5-flat mile between mile 13 and 14. Wilson did not go with him and Garcia held a 40-meter lead.

Wilson gradually moved up, and, by mile 15, was running shoulder-to-shoulder with Garcia.

“You don’t want to be left behind on a day like today,” Wilson said. “With this heat, your mind starts to wander. But when I caught him at (mile) 15, it was the biggest mistake I made. I should have just gone by him. I felt strong.”

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Garcia’s hesitancy was born of experience. “I remembered what happened in Boston and I was afraid,” he said, through an interpreter.

In the 1989 Boston Marathon Garcia was caught in a crowd at the start and fell, eventually dropping out. Then, in November of 1989, Garcia ran in New York until he dropped out with blisters. In Boston last month, Garcia tried again. He went out with the leaders, but picked the wrong day to do it. The first half of that race was run at an unheard-of 2:04 pace. Garcia couldn’t sustain it and dropped out.

With that in mind Garcia looked behind more than once. He surged again at 23 miles to gain a 40-meter lead on Wilson, but the New Zealander matched that and took the lead a mile later. In one more burst, Garcia passed Wilson with a mile to go and held that to the finish.

In the women’s race, Gavryluk was playing a similar cat-and-mouse game. The 33-year-old from the Ukraine said it helped more than it hurt to run side-by-side with Takayama.

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If the heat had sapped her--and she suggested it had--it was difficult to tell from her buoyant post-race demeanor. Gavryluk said it had been her “lifelong ambition to come to the United States.” Interpreter Boris Derligin was asked to clarify if her ambition had been to come to the U.S. to run.

Derligin smiled, “She didn’t say that.”

“It is like a fairy tale,” Gavryluk said.

Perhaps, but she learned the hardest capitalist lesson from her compatriots. Soviet policy regarding prize money will allow Gavryluk to keep about $500 of her $25,000.

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