A Star Is Born At The L.A. Marathon

Ethiopian Markos Geneti ran the second-fastest debut marathon of all-time on Sunday, running 2:06:35 to win the Honda L.A. Marathon. Photo: LA Times

Ethiopian Markos Geneti ran the second-fastest debut marathon of all-time on Sunday, running 2:06:35 to win the Honda L.A. Marathon. Photo: LA Times

The Ethiopian winner is now #2 on the all-time debut list.

Written by: Toni Reavis
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

LOS ANGELES — Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti, 2:06:35, and Buzunesh Deba, 2:26:34, took home top honors at Sunday’s rainy, wind-swept 26th Honda L.A. Marathon.

With temperatures in the mid-50s and rain falling, at times in torrential downpours that turned the streets to rivers of water, Geneti navigated the “Stadium to Sea” course in remarkable fashion, winning by nearly three minutes, smashing the event record by 1:49, and tying countryman (and world marathon record holder) Haile Gebreselassie for number two on the all-time fastest marathon debut list.

Only Kenyan Evans Rutto’s 2:05:50 from Chicago 2003 has been faster.

Behind Geneti came three Kenyan runners: Nicholas Kamakya in 2:09:23, 2008 L.A. champion Laban Moiben in 2:13:12, and two-time defending champion Wesley Korir in 2:13:23.

Deba’s victory came over debuting American Amy Hastings of the Mammoth Track Club who finished just 29-seconds behind the Bronx-based Ethiopian. For their victories Geneti and Deba both won $25,000 cash and a new Honda Pilot automobile. Geneti also earned the $100,000 Challenge bonus, a prize that goes to the first runner of either gender to cross the finish line in Santa Monica.

As part of L.A.’s signature Gender Challenge, the professional women were given a 17:03 head start based on the personal best times of the fields. There were a scant 12 women in the elite field, but quickly three leaders emerged led by American debutant Amy Hastings, the former NCAA 5,000 meter champion out of Arizona State. Tucking in behind Hastings were Deba, who had won both the Twin Cities and Cal International Marathons last fall, and pre-race favorite Mare Dibaba, twice a 2:25 marathoner in 2010.

While the women started out conservatively, hitting 10K in 35:42 (2:30 marathon pace), the men pressed hard out of Dodger Stadium and into downtown L.A. Led by 2005 L.A. runner up Ben Maiyo and fellow Kenyan, 2:08-man Nicholas Kamakya, the men took an early advantage in The Challenge pacing. Needing to average 39-seconds per mile faster than the women to make up the 17:03 differential, they chopped double-digit seconds off every mile. The only question was whether they were attacking too fast, too early. The three women remained in their Hastings, Deba, Dibaba configuration for mile after mile as the rains came in a steady downpour.

In mile nine with a pack of six men together, Korir, the two-time champion, missed his water bottle at the elite aid station, and had to stop to go back to retrieve it. He lost precious distance, and it may have been an omen for his day. By 59 minutes Geneti dispatched his final rival, Kamakya, and began putting distance on his competitors with every stride. Miles 11 to 15 fell in a rush: 4:33, 4:34, 4:47, 4:36 & 4:28!

Unfazed, Geneti passed halfway in 1:02:46, maintaining his electrifying pace. Then just before the 20-mile mark he surged past the three women, hitting that mark in 1:35:18, on pace for a 2:04:48 marathon. Though he averaged just 5:02 per mile over the final 10K, Geneti was in total command as he broke the tape on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, announcing himself as a new star in the sport.

Deba broke free of the determined Hastings in mile 22, and held firm to win by 29 seconds. Dibaba finished a disappointed third in 2:30:25. It was an auspicious debut for Hastings, the third-fastest in U.S. history behind Kara Goucher’s 2:25:53 in New York 2008 and Deena Kastor’s 2:26:58 from New York 2001.

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