Fernando Cabada, Mary Akor Roll In Los Angeles

Fernando Cabada breaks the tape in a course-record 1:04:56. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Peter Magill, 51 years old, runs 1:10:19 to finish fourth overall at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon. 

LOS ANGELES — Fernando Cabada arrived in California on Saturday from his altitude training base in Boulder, Colorado, so forgive him if he was a little excited to take advantage of the oxygen-rich air at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon benefiting the ASPCA on Sunday morning.

Blazing through the first mile unchallenged in a fast 4 minutes and 43 seconds, Cabada added to his lead with every stride on his way to winning the third annual event in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 56 seconds. Cabada, who has gradually been ramping up his training after taking some time off following his 2:11:53, seventh-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, was pleased with his effort.

“I was just trying to run 5-minute pace so I don’t know,” Cabada said of his quick start. “I think this is the first time I came down from altitude 24 hours beforehand and I felt easy out there. I haven’t run that fast all year, so to come through [10K] under 30:30, I haven’t ran that fast since last year. I felt great.”

RELATED: Fernando Cabada Is On The Rise Again

Passing the 5K mark at L.A. Memorial Colosseum in 14:58, Cabada — a native of Fresno, California — was already 49 seconds up on eventual second-place finisher Tommy Greenless (1:07:57). The America 25K record-holder continued to stretch out his lead, passing 10K in 30:24 and 10 miles in 49:25. Covering the last 5K in a comfortable 15:31, Cabada threw his hands up as he crossed the finish line, visibly excited with the ease of his dominating victory.

“Coach [Brad Hudson] said to win as easy as possible but I also wanted to try and run marathon pace at least,” said Cabada, who is leaning toward racing a marathon early in 2013. “I was 1:04:59 or something, so I was dead-on. It was good. I’m still coming back into training and I’m only going to get stronger. I want to get to a point where in the marathon I’ll lead the whole damn thing and break 2:11. I don’t want to rely on anybody else. I just want to prepare myself if I have to run alone and obviously if I get to draft off a group it will be even better.”

Rounding out the top-3 was 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon champion Jacques Sallberg of Pasadena in 1:09:45. In fourth place, 34 seconds behind Sallberg with a time of 1:10:19, was 51-year-old Peter Magill of Pasadena. Magill, a 5K/10K specialist who was running his first half marathon, is one of the greatest Masters runners in U.S. history, owning multiple age-group records and championships as an over-40 year old. His finishing time was 49 seconds off Norm Green’s U.S. 50-54 record of 1:09:30 set 28 years ago in Philadelphia.

In the women’s race, crowd favorite and American marathon and half-marathon record holder Deena Kastor led through the 9-mile mark before Mary Akor, who won last Sunday’s Des Moines Marathon in a course record 2:35:01, took the lead on an uphill section of the course to pull away and win by 32 seconds in a personal best 1:14:19.

“It was really tough,” the 36-year-old Akor said of her effort. “It’s nice. I’m tired.”

Kastor, 39, won this event last year in 1:11:48. After finishing sixth at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, Kastor set her sights on trying to make the Olympic team in the 10,000 meters, but developed a back injury that forced her to miss the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. Sunday’s half marathon was her first race — road, track, or otherwise — since this past spring.

Coming through 5K in 17:17, the women’s lead pack consisted of Kastor, Akor and Lauren Kleppin, who would hang on to finish third in 1:15:49. The trio stayed together through 10K before Kastor began to string things out over the third 5K segment of the race. Akor seemed content to shadow the American record-holder until she began to slow on the course’s biggest uphill just past mile 9.

“I’m just going to follow her, I’m not going to lead,” Akor said of her sitting strategy on Sunday morning. “At 9 to 10 miles I picked up the pace on the hills and that’s when I dropped her. Last year I didn’t know the course so I pushed it real hard. This year I was decided that I wasn’t going to push it, I was going to let her lead and take the pace. That’s what happens.”

A handful of celebrities were on hand to take part in the Halloween-themed festivities, including a mustached Will Ferrell, who finished in 2:03:50. Bachelor star Dr. Andy Baldwin finished the half marathon in 1:35:30, while SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett and Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson participated in the accompanying mini marathon.

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