LOS ANGELES (CNS / FOX 11) - Weldon Kirui broke away from fellow Kenyan Willy Koitile in the final mile, to win the men's division of Sunday's 31st annual Los Angeles Marathon. Nataliya Lehonkova of the Ukraine was the women's winner.
Kirui completed the course in two hours, 13 minutes and seven seconds, 18 seconds ahead of Koitile. Lehonkova won in 2:30:42, and Serkalem Abrha of Ethiopia was second among the women, at 2:32:24.
Kirui and Lehonkova both earned $23,000 for their victories, while Koitile and Abrha each received $11,250 from a total purse of $100,000. The top five male and female finishers on the 26-mile, 385-yard course received prize money.
Approaching 17 in Beverly HillsPosted by Marla Tellez on Sunday, February 14, 2016
The threat of hot weather did not materialize for the elite runners on the race course, and temperatures were in the 60s from Dodger Stadium all the way to Santa Monica. Thick fog enveloped the last mile of the course, the
winners could not see the finish line until they were a half block from it.
Koitile led from the ninth through 17th miles. Alex Chesakit of Uganda took the lead in the 18th mile. Koitile regained the lead in the 20th mile. Kirui moved into second in the 22nd mile, with the same time as Koitile. They were 1-2 with the same times until the final mile when Kirui made his move.
The 33-year-old Lehonkova was the women's leader throughout the race.
The last time a male runner from outside of Africa won the men's race was 1997. A U.S. runner last won in 1994.
And this was the second time the race was not run in March. The shift was made so it could coincide with Saturday's U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials, and because 364 elite runners chose to run Saturday, the elite field was shrunk to just 25 today.
The first February edition of the marathon also meant this was the first time the race is being run on Valentine's Day. The race had several ties to the romantic day.
At the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, in the 10th mile of the course, a stage was set up and more than 80 couples registered to either be married or renew their wedding vows during the race, said Tracey Russell, the CEO of Conqur Endurance Group, which conducts the race.
Some of the couples will run the entire race together, Russell said.
For this year only, participant shirts, bibs and medals were Valentine's Day themed.
Organizers expected a record number of finish-line proposals.
The race, officially known as the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, was run for the seventh consecutive year on the "Stadium to the Sea'' course from Dodger Stadium to Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in Santa Monica.
One slight change was made. In the 21st mile, the course went around the Veterans Administration grounds rather than through it, making a north turn on Sepulveda Boulevard and then a west turn on Wilshire Boulevard.
The field of more than 25,000 included runners from all 50 states and 62 nations. There were 157 runners who have run in all 30 previous races.
There were 50 bands playing on the course, which will had six entertainment centers.
The men's elite field includes two previous champions, Daniel Limo, who won last year's race and fellow Kenyan Erick Mose, the 2013 winner.
More than 100 official charities participated in the race.
The race customarily draws complaints from some residents of the four cities the race passes through -- Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica -- about the street closures caused by the race.
"I think most Angelenos love the marathon,'' Mayor Eric Garcetti told City News Service. "It's a moment to see friends and families,'' Garcetti said, citing the Students Run L.A. program, which trains middle school and high school students to run the marathon.
"A little inconvenience is nothing compared to living in a great city that can stage the best events on the face of the Earth.''
The other time the race was not held in March was in 2009 when it was run on Memorial Day.
When the group backed by then-Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt purchased the rights to the race, the City Council stipulated that the race be shifted to a Monday holiday to limit the impact on Sunday morning church services.
The race returned to March the following year.