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Zane Robertson is a favorite at 35th L.A. Marathon after overcoming adversity

Zane Robertson set a New Zealand record when finishing 12th in the 10,000 meters at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Zane Robertson, shown while setting a New Zealand record when finishing 12th in the 10,000 meters at the Rio Olympics in 2016, is a favorite for the L.A. Marathon on Sunday.
(Paul Gilham / Getty Images)

His obstacle Sunday morning will be 26.2 miles winding up, down and through Los Angeles, from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica.

Given the hurdles Zane Robertson cleared in reaching the starting line of the 35th L.A. Marathon, a little more road work shouldn’t be too discouraging.

“I want to see what talent and a very hard mind-set can get me on Sunday,” said Robertson, 30, a New Zealand native and one of the race favorites.

He’ll be joined in an elite field that includes a pair of two-time L.A. winners — Elisha Barno and Weldon Kirui of Kenya — and nine runners who have broken 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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The event is expected to be staged as planned despite growing concerns throughout the country regarding the coronavirus.

Organizers are attempting to maintain as much normalcy as possible, while they acknowledged that the size of the field — more than 26,000 runners are registered — and spectator turnout could be affected.

“I’d encourage everyone to go out and enjoy the race,” Robertson said. “Don’t stress about the things you can’t control. It’s only extra stress. Your body follows your mind. I’m not even worried about it. I think we’ll be fine.”

The L.A. Marathon’s route is one Angelenos would never dream of driving. An interactive look at the route.

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On his flight to Southern California, Robertson, who lives and trains in Ethiopia, admitted he wore a surgical mask. That didn’t prevent him from suffering food poisoning on the plane.

Two months ago, he was the passenger in a car crash on his way to the gym. He was riding in a three-wheeled vehicle that was struck by a dump truck.

“The dump truck could have cut our heads off,” Robertson said. “So we’re pretty lucky to be alive.”

He suffered a hip injury in the accident but was able to maintain his training, Robertson explaining that his longer runs were easier to complete than his speed work.

As difficult as that was, he has experienced worse. Soon after moving to East Africa in 2007, Robertson and his twin brother, Jake, contracted malaria. They were bedridden and unable to eat.

“By Day Four, we thought, ‘Hey, we’re going to die here,’ ” Robertson recalled. “It became very real.”

Amid coronavirus, L.A. Marathon runners are urged to avoid shaking hands and spectators to stay six feet apart.

Eventually, he was able to sit up, drink water and eat half a banana. That started the road back.

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An accomplished track athlete, Robertson competed for New Zealand in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and set a national record while he finished 12th in the 10,000 meters.

This will be his second marathon, after his debut came in July when he ran a 2:08:19 in Australia’s Gold Coast Marathon.

“I’m here to try and win,” Robertson said. “I’ll run my own rhythm and run my own race and see what happens. It’s all about position, not time.”

While the men’s elite field is deep, the women’s has been impacted by injury.

Kenya’s Antonina Kwambai enters with the top personal-best time (2:27:43). Fellow Kenyans Jane Kibii, the 2019 California International champion, and Margaret Muriuki, winner of the 2019 Honolulu Marathon, also are expected to contend.


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