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Race Record Is Hers, but Not the Big Bonus

Times Staff Writer

Lyubov Denisova’s spirits wilted sooner than her laurel wreath on Sunday, her Los Angeles Marathon women’s record no consolation for losing a bonus she believed had been unjustly yanked from her grasp.

The 33-year-old Russian almost withdrew Thursday after organizers announced the elite women would get a head start of merely 15 minutes 50 seconds in the chase for the $75,000 prize awarded to the first person to cross the finish line. The head start was 20 minutes 30 seconds last year, so she trained for the race, and turned down a spot at Boston next month, believing the differential might be cut to 17 minutes, but not so drastically.

“It’s like you go to Las Vegas and sit at a card table and you think you’re playing poker and you put down your money, and then they tell you the rules are something else,” said her manager, Andrey Baranov.

Doubly disheartened when she was told her lead was bigger than it was in the closing stages, she let up. Passed on Olympic Boulevard by Ben Maiyo and by late-charging men’s winner Mark Saina, Denisova finished in 2 hours 26 minutes 11 seconds, nearly two minutes ahead of runner-up Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania.

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Saina sprinted away from a flagging Maiyo just past the 26-mile banner to win the 20th running of the L.A. Marathon in 2:09:35, 10 seconds off the race record. Factoring in the time differential, Saina finished 44 seconds ahead of Denisova, and Maiyo was 34 seconds ahead, the forefront of a Kenyan sweep of the first seven places in a race-record 25,102 entrants.

“Today, her performance would put her in the top 10 in the world. The men’s performance would be in the top 100,” Baranov said. “She ran a course record, but still she lost the challenge. [Saina] ran a very good time, but [the Kenyans], they help each other. She was by herself.... If the challenge is decided by this principle, she is never coming back.”

The men’s and women’s winners each won a car and $25,000. Each also won a $10,000 time bonus, Saina for running a sub-2:10 race and Denisova for running sub-2:27. But Saina also got the $75,000 check, and Denisova got a bitter aftertaste.

“I chose this race because I love L.A. and I have a good feeling about this city in my heart,” she said through Baranov’s translation. “Now, I have mixed feelings.”

The top men, once a pack of eight and six but reduced to Maiyo and Saina 21 miles into the race, had a lead of 30 seconds at 22 miles. As the day grew warmer, they extended that over the last four miles. Simon Bor, who set the L.A. men’s record in 1999, finished fourth in 2:12:13, with Laban Kipkemboi third in 2:10:51.

Saina, who initially thought the differential too large to conquer, was diplomatic. “The challenge was not my first priority,” the 34-year-old said. “To win the race was the utmost consideration. The challenge is good also. It is truly a challenge.”

Bill Burke, president of the L.A. Marathon, said the differential “was devised by people, not devised by God, people that have 200, 250 years’ experience in the sport.” Basil Honikman, the competition commissioner, said the number was determined when statistician Ken Young tested five theories against 40 marathons with fields similar to Sunday’s and concluded that 15:50 was the difference after taking the predicted time of the second-seeded athlete and subtracting the men’s time from the women’s time.

“I think the fellows and ladies who worked on this did a heck of a job,” Burke said.

Told that Denisova had said she might not return because of the short notice about the shortened lead, Burke shrugged. “I understand that,” he said, “but somebody else will come here. If the race had been 25 miles instead of 26.2, she would have won. It is what it is.”

Denisova, mother of a 5-year-old, added to a resume highlighted by finishing third, fifth and second at the last three New York Marathons and sixth and second the last two years at Boston. On Sunday, she surged about 19 miles in, after fast-starting Hellen Kimutai of Kenya and Dire Tune of Ethiopia faded under the cloudless skies.

Kimutai and Tune couldn’t maintain their blistering pace, which was 5:06 in mile 7 and 5:14 in mile 9 and brought them to the halfway point at 1:11:43. They regrouped to finish third and fourth, respectively, in 2:28:36 and 2:30:48. Two-time defending champion Tatyana Pozdnyakova of Ukraine, two days past her 50th birthday, finished fifth in 2:31:05. That was a record for women in the 50 to 54 age group.

Although Denisova’s unhappiness clouded the day, Burke preferred to dwell on positives.

While boxing great Muhammad Ali extended a trembling right arm in blessing at the starting line at 6th and Figueroa, the throng of runners and wheelchair athletes paraded beneath an arch of bright balloons. Some carried signs, one wore a Santa hat and several wore gorilla suits. Many walked or jogged, shedding gloves and hats and plastic sheeting as they became part of a race-record throng of 43,000 runners and bikers.

Burke said he was inspired by seeing kids sit on curbs “enthralled by the spectacle” of the race. “I just hope that in some of those children there is born a seed today that will grow,” he said, “so that when I’m in the home watching this on television, they’ll get on TV and say, ‘I saw this race go by. I thought about it and decided I wanted to be a long-distance runner,’ not as an avocation but as a sport to have their pleasure.”

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

TOP FINISHERS

MEN

1. Mark Saina

Kenya, 2:09:35

2. Ben Maiyo

Kenya, 2:09:45

3. Laban Kipkemboi

Kenya, 2:10:51

WOMEN

1. Lyubov Denisova

Russia, 2:26:11

2. Zivile Balciunaite

Lithuania, 2:28:10

3. Hellen Kimutai

Kenya, 2:28:36

*

Top Marathon Finishers

TOP 25 MEN

*--* 1. Mark Saina, Kenya 2:09:35 2. Ben Maiyo, Kenya 2:09:45 3. Laban Kipkemboi, Kenya 2:10:51 4. Simon Bor, Kenya 2:12:13 5. Wesley Kimutai, Kenya 2:15:22 6. Benson Mbithi, Kenya 2:17:48 7. Matthew Birir, Kenya 2:19:07 8. Bruce Raymer, Canada 2:22:04 9. Motofumi Amano, Japan 2:24:07 10. David Busienei, Kenya 2:24:44 11. Cristian Villavicencio, Los Angeles 2:25:03 12. Barry Keem, Australia 2:25:11 13. Hector Hernandez Salazar, Chula Vista 2:28:12 14. Catalino Yucute Ramirez, Guatemala 2:30:14 15. Juan Ramirez, Newport Beach 2:30:57 16. Rafael Yax Tzoc, Guatemala 2:32:54 17. Jim Maynard, Newport Beach 2:34:57 18. Fermin Sequen, Los Angeles 2:36:03 19. Fritz Van De Kamp, Pasadena 2:38:55 20. Dan Lesser, Los Angeles 2:40:54 21. Elias Tamiru, Ethiopa 2:41:56 22. Thaddeus Reichley, Santa Monica 2:42:40 23. Aniceto Espinoza Chavez, Burbank 2:44:11 24. Benjamin Gomez, Mexico 2:44:34 25. Ezequiel Hernandez, Rosemead 2:44:39

*--*

*

TOP 25 WOMEN

*--* 1. Lyubov Denisova, Russia 2:26:11 2. Zivile Balciunaite, Lithuania 2:28:10 3. Hellen Kimutai, Kenya 2:28:36 4. Dire Tune, Ethiopia 2:30:48 5. Tatyana Pozdnakova, Ukraine 2:31:05 6. Anna Pichrtova, Czech Republic 2:33:02 7. Yelena Burykina, Russia 2:36:14 8. Tatiana Titova, Russia 2:37:51 9. Aurica Buia, Romania 2:40:49 10. Malgorzata Jamroz, Poland 2:42:57 11. Hannah Kinseth, New Zealand 2:45:18 12. Luminita Talpos, Romania 2:46:22 13. Stephanie Hodge, Long Island City, NY 3:00:22 14. Gillian Mintier, Los Angeles 3:09:44 15. Edith Martinez, Brea 3:10:19 16. Kimberly Cook, Chino Hills 3:10:25 17. Rikako Takei, Los Angeles 3:11:29 18. Tracey Gold, San Francisco 3:12:39 19. Angelina Turios, Guatemala 3:14:41 20. Emily Moran, Los Angeles 3:16:37 21. Kristen Van Rooyen, Pasadena 3:16:57 22. Jennifer Murphy, New York, NY 3:17:36 23. Maribah Abiedu, Los Angeles 3:17:57 24. Cinthya Vielma, San Jose 3:18:04 25. Tina Koneazny, Pasadena 3:18:55

*--*

*

TOP 10 WHEELCHAIR

*--* 1. Kurt Fearnley, Australia 1:30:11 2. Saul Mendoza, Wimberley, TX 1:30:13 3. Krige Schabort, Cedartown, GA 1:30:39 4. Jeff Adams, Canada 1:30:57 5. Alan Bergman, Canada 1:31:04 6. Michel Filteau, Canada 1:31:09 7. Martin Velasco Soria, Mexico 1:35:37 8. Jun Hiromichi, Japan 1:35:44 9. Kenny Herriot, Scotland 1:36:28 10. Alfonso Zaragoza, Mexico 1:40:47

*--*

*

MEN’S AGE-GROUP WINNERS

17 AND UNDER

*--* 1. Francisco Delgado, Harbor City 2:56:00

*--*

*--*

18-24

*--*

*--* 1. Barry Keem, Australia 2:25:11

*--*

*--*

25-29

*--*

*--* 1. Ben Maiyo, Kenya 2:09:45

*--*

*--*

30-34

*--*

*--* 1. Mark Saina, Kenya 2:09:35

*--*

*--*

35-39

*--*

*--* 1. Simon Bor, Kenya 2:12:13

*--*

*--*

40-44

*--*

*--* 1. Ezequiel Hernandez, Rosemead 2:45:01

*--*

*--*

45-49

*--*

*--* 1. John Araujo, Placentia 2:45:53

*--*

*--*

50-54

*--*

*--* 1. Romeo Iraheta, Azusa 2:57:28

*--*

*--*

55-59

*--*

*--* 1. Carlos Saturno, Culver City 3:08:37

*--*

*--*

60-64

*--*

*--* 1. Wayne Mitchell, Modjeska Canyon 3:14:08

*--*

*--*

65-69

*--*

*--* 1. Jimmy Toyama, Los Angeles 3:23:02

*--*

*--*

70-74

*--*

*--* 1. Joe Villalpando, Los Angeles 3:56:50

*--*

*--*

75-79

*--*

*--* 1. Tom McKiernan, Camarillo 5:14:23

*--*

*--*

80-98

*--*

*--* 1. Luis Hidalgo, Los Angeles 4:23:34

*--*

*

WOMEN’S AGE-GROUP WINNERS

17 AND UNDER

*--* 1. Katja Goldring, Los Angeles 3:24:20

*--*

*--*

18-24

*--*

*--* 1. Dire Tune, Ethiopia 2:30:48

*--*

*--*

25-29

*--*

*--* 1. Zivile Balciunaite, Lithuania 2:28:10

*--*

*--*

30-34

*--*

*--* 1. Lyubov Denisova, Russia 2:26:11

*--*

*--*

35-39

*--*

*--* 1. Tatiana Titova, Russia 2:37:51

*--*

*--*

40-44

*--*

*--* 1. Rikako Takei, Los Angeles 3:11:29

*--*

*--*

45-49

*--*

*--* 1. Christa Koot, Chino 3:25:35

*--*

*--*

50-54

*--*

*--* 1. Tatyana Pozdnakova, Ukraine 2:31:05

*--*

*--*

55-59

*--*

*--* 1. Carol Bautista, Hacienda Heights 3:37:13

*--*

*--*

60-64

*--*

*--* 1. Karen Haycraft, San Clemente 3:45:34

*--*

*--*

65-69

*--*

*--* 1. Yasuko Furushima, Japan 4:29:08

*--*

*--*

70-74

*--*

*--* 1. Marlene Kalish, Dana Point 6:16:12

*--*

*--*

75-79

*--*

*--* 1. Byungye Kim, Hacienda Heights 6:48:08

*--*

*--*

80-98

*--*

*--* 1. Margaret Davis, Azusa 5:42:49

*--*

*

MEN’S WINNERS

* 2004: David Kirui, Kenya...2:13:41

* 2003: Mark Yatich, Kenya...2:09:52

* 2002: Steven Ndungu, Kenya...2:10:27

* 2001: Steven Ndungu, Kenya...2:13:13

* 2000: Benson Mutiisya Mbithi, Kenya...2:11:55

* 1999: Simon Bor, Kenya...2:09:25

* 1998: Zebedayo Bayo, Tanzania...2:11:21

* 1997: El Maati Chaham, Morocco...2:14:16

* 1996: Jose Luis Molina, Costa Rica...2:13:23

* 1995: Rolando Vera, Ecuador...2:11:39

* 1994: Paul Pilkington, U.S.,...2:12:13

* 1993: Joselido Rocha, Brazil...2:14:28

* 1992: John Treacy, Ireland...2:12:29

* 1991: Mark Plastes, U.S....2:10:29

* 1990: Pedro Ortiz, Columbia...2:11:54

* 1989: Art Boileau, Canada...2:13:01

* 1988: Martin Mondragon, Mexico...2:10:19

* 1987: Art Boileau, Canada...2:13:08

* 1986: Ric Sayre, U.S....2:12:59

For more marathon results, please visit latimes.com/marathon.


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