Perfect weather conditions yield fast times, exciting competition.
Morocco’s Khalid El Boumlili, 31, broke the East African stranglehold on the San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Sunday with a dominating victory, finishing with a time of 2:11:15. Remarkably, Boumlili, who finished third at Boston last year, had attempted to run the Los Angeles Marathon just six days earlier, but dropped out halfway through. Meanwhile, defending champion Yuliya Gromova, 35, of Russia pulled away from three strong competitors in the later miles to defend her title with a finishing time of 2:27:36, a personal best and one of the fastest women’s times ever run on this course.
Both races started slowly. A pack of 18 male elites cruised the first mile in 5:14. Among them was American Dan Browne, coming off a recent victory at the U.S. 25K National Championship. The women’s elite field was very small, with only four women having a legitimate capability of winning: Gromova, her countrywoman Albina Mayorova, Kenya’s Helen Kimutai, and Nuta Olaru of Romania, who, like Boumlili, was looking for redemption in San Diego after having dropped out of Memorial Day’s Los Angeles Marathon. The four quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field, covering the first mile in a slowish 5:46.
It didn’t take Boumili long to become restless in his group. As the course funneled the men onto the Route 163 freeway from downtown, he threw in a withering surge, running the uphill eighth mile in 4:51. By the end of that mile he had a gap of 100 meters on his pursuers. Two miles later his lead had doubled, and he continued to pull away through the remainder of the race. The greatest drama came from Boumlili’s comedic attempts to find his personal fluid bottles at two elite fluid stations. At the first of these, Boumlili missed his bottle, turned back and ran a complete lap around the table in search of his drink. At the next, Boumlili knocked his bottle of the table and it fell through a sewer grate.
No matter. He could have had much greater troubles and still won on a day that saw an unusually large number of the male elites turn in substandard performances or drop out altogether. Among the DNF’s were Belay Wolasha of Ethiopia, who won the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 2000, and Dan Browne. At the finish, Boumlili’s margin over second-place finisher Samuel Mugo (2:12:36) of Kenya, was more than 90 seconds. Just 23 years old, Mugo has a bright future in the sport. Ethiopian Tesfaye Tola claimed the third spot in 2:13:02 and Kenya’s Agustus Kavuti finished fourth in 2:13:23.