Kastor wins women’s race; Somers Smith sets pending 50+ world-record.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
LOS ANGELES — Ten thousand runners from all across the country lined up at L.A. Live for the start of the second-annual Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon on Sunday morning, but in the end it was a couple of Californians who were the first runners to cross the finish line.
Employing a gritty surge just past the 13-mile mark in the heart of downtown, 27-year-old Charlie Serrano of Chico broke the tape in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 20 seconds–five seconds ahead of second-place finisher Benson Cheruiyot—to claim victory.
“I almost threw in the towel,” Serrano said after the race. “I was making moves on (Cheruiyot) and he was making moves on me. He wasn’t breaking me, but I wasn’t breaking him and I was getting really uncomfortable. I heard the lead bike lady say something like ‘yeah, they’re neck and neck with 100 meters to go’ and I just changed gears and he didn’t come with me.”
In the women’s race, Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and American half-marathon record holder Deena Kastor dominated from the get-go to win in 1:11:48. It was her second Rock ‘n’ Roll series victory this month, as the Mammoth-based Kastor also won the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on Oct. 2 in 1:12:23.
“I was hoping to run about a minute faster here today but I’m really happy with the effort considering the hills on the second half of this course,” Kastor said afterward. “It was really awesome to go out and back in two separate locations because you got to see the masses in two different parts of the course which is really great to get that encouragement along the way.”
Finishing second to Kastor in 1:15:18 was Linda Somers Smith, who won last year’s inaugural race here. The 50-year-old from Arroyo Grande set a pending age-group world-record with her time on Sunday morning, a performance that bodes well as she prepares for her fifth Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston on January 12 of next year.
“It’s really good,” Somers Smith said of her finish. “I’m just trying to be really cautious so I can get (to the Trials) not injured. I really liked the course. It makes you go out a little too fast because it’s so flat the first half and then it gets a little tough, and it’s not very tough–just a little tough–but if I hadn’t gone out too fast it would have been perfect. I’m happy.”
The men’s race got off to a swift start, as a pack of eight cruised through the first 2 miles in 4:47 and 4:49, respectively. For much of the race Serrano and Cheruiyot were joined by American 50K record holder Josh Cox, sub-4:00 miler Christian Hesch of Hollywood, Robert Cheseret of Colorado Springs, and Tommy Greenless of Walnut Creek, Calif., who all took turns sharing the lead as the course turned from flat to undulating over the final 7 miles. The pace, too, proved to be just as uneven and erratic as the layout itself.
“One minute we’d be going 5:15 pace, then a few minutes later we’d be running 4:40 pace,” Cox commented after the race.
Coming through 5 miles in 24:42 the lead pack was down to six, and over the next four miles that group slowly separated until Serrano, Cheruiyot, Cheseret and Hesch were the only runners remaining. Serrano threw in a significant surge with four miles to go, breaking everyone except the smooth-striding Cheruiyot. The duo, who passed 10 miles in 49:44, ran side-by-side all the way into downtown before Serrano tightened the final screw with less than a quarter mile to go.
“The plan going into it was to conserve as much as possible and maybe turn what’s normally a 13-mile race into maybe a 4-mile race toward the end,” said Serrano, who is training for the Olympic Marathon Trials. “Coming I I didn’t really want to run this fast but with money on the line I’ve got to do what it takes to win.”
Kastor’s road to the finish line was less contested, as the 38-year-old was clear of the rest of the women’s field by the 2-mile mark, which she reached in 10:47. She came through 5 miles uncontested in 27:01, and passed 10 miles in 54:53. A final 5K of 16:55 brought her to L.A. Live amongst the cheers of thousands of fans.
“It was a lot of fun,” Kastor said of her L.A. experience.
After running next Saturday’s Dash To The Finish Line 5K in New York City, Kastor ‘s full focus will be on preparing to win her third-straight Olympic Trials Marathon title 11 weeks from now in Houston, Texas.
“I’m going to go home after my trip New York and really just focus on the trials and start ramping up my training from there,” Kastor said.
Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon
Top-5 Men’s Results
1. Charlie Serrano (Chico, CA), 1:0420
2. Benson Cheruiyot (Sun Prairie, WI), 1:04:25
3. Robert Cheseret (Colorado Springs, CO), 1:05:31
4. Christian Hesch (Hollywood, CA), 1:05:58
5. Josh Cox (Mammoth Lakes, CA), 1:06:05
Top-5 Women’s Results
1. Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, CA), 1:11:48
2. Linda Somers Smith (Arroyoa Grande, CA), 1:15:18
3. Cheryl Smith (Laguna Beach, CA), 1:17:13
4. Mary Akor (Hawthorne, CA), 1:18:25
5. Erika Aklufi (Los Angeles, CA), 1:20:41