Blink and you’d swear the clock rolled back a decade as the top two female bib numbers at this Sunday’s Asics Los Angeles Marathon will be worn by Americans Deena Kastor (F1) and Colleen De Reuck (F3). Both women have resumes filled with national records and championships, not to mention Deena’s Olympic Marathon medal from 2004, and Colleen’s win over Deena in the same year’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in St. Louis. But both are master’s runners now, Deena having joined the ranks a month ago, Colleen sneaking up on the senior division (50+). In one sense having Deena and Colleen as head liners is a testament to their lasting value, but in another it’s an indication of how competitive the spring racing season is for available talent.
Within a month of L.A. there are/were marathons in Tokyo and Nagoya (Japan), Rome & Brescia (Italy), Tel Aviv, Seoul (Korea), Barcelona (Spain), Bratislava (Slovakia), Zhenghai (China) and Algeria. And that’s not to mention lucrative new events like Dubai in January with its insatiable want of talent, or the traditional spring majors in Boston, London, Paris, and Rotterdam, all of which offer significant appearance guarantees. There is only so much talent to go around.
In total there are only seven pro women in this year’s L.A. field, and one, Joanna Zeiger, is a 42 year-old former Ironman Triathlon 70.3 champion. The race lost its top runner Buzunesh Deba Ethiopia/Bronx (PR, 2:23) to a slower than expected recovery from January’s Houston Marathon. And while there remain three other Ethiopian women bound for the L.A. starting line (see full field below), none of them has a PR better than 2:27:16. Which all comes to mean Deena might win this thing!
A master winning a marathon would no longer be as unusual as it may once have been, as athletes have extended their careers well into their 40+ years in recent times. In 2003 & 2004 Russian super master Tatyana Pozdniakova won L.A. Marathon titles outright late into her 40s in 2:29:40 & 2:30:17.
Of course, the competitive signature of the L.A. Marathon is its Gender Challenge. Now in its tenth year, the Challenge pits the pro men in a chase format against the top women who are given a competitive head start (the Differential will be announced at a 10 a.m. Friday press conference). But with such a thin field of women out front, doesn’t seem possible to create an energy-sharing pack to carry them deep into the second half. The men’s field, on the other hand, is more dense, with six sub-2:10 men, including three sub-2:08s.
While Deena is coming off a solid third-place finish at the USATF Cross Country Championships in St. Louis February 2nd and a non-competitive win (1:12:57) at the hilly Pasadena Rock `n` Roll Half Marathon February 17th, she will be running her first competitive marathon since a sixth-place finish (2:30:40) at the January 2012 U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon.
At age 48, Colleen De Reuck has had “a few setbacks with illness and minor niggles”, wrote husband Darren from their home in Boulder, Colorado. “No real fast goal in sight…just a solid effort and see what happens.”
Like Deena, Colleen’s last marathon was at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston. She came home in 35th place in 2:38:52. She and Darren will be joined in L.A. by their seven year-old daughter Tara.
Notwithstanding any of the above, it may well take an American master’s record by Deena to win on Sunday. That mark, not surprisingly, is held by De Reuck, 2:28:40 from Chicago 2005. For perspective, here’s the list of the all-time top marathon master’s marks for women.
|Women – W 40 – 44|
|2:25:43||Ludmila Petrova||RUS – New York 2008|
|2:26:51||Priscilla Welch||GBR – London 1987|
|2:27:05a||Firaya Sultanova Zhdanova||RUS – Duluth 2003|
|2:27:42||Lyudmila Petrova||RUS – London 2009|
|2:28:06||Irina Bogacheva||KGZ – Nashville 2003|
|2:28:31||Madina Biktagirova||RUS – Istanbul 2006|
|2:28:36||Helena Javornik||SLO – Treviso 2008|
|2:28:40||Colleen De Reuck||USA – Chicago 2005|
|2:29:25||Tatyana Pozdniakova||UKR – Chicago 1998|
|2:29:43||Joyce Smith||GBR – London 1982|
(courtesy Masters Athletics Track and Field – World Rankings)
Update: RW’s Scott Douglas reminded me that Germany’s Irina Mikitenko ran 2:26:41 last month at Tokyo. Thanks, Scott.
|The L.A. Marathon has its own history of women’s master’s excellence. Last year Tetyana Mezentseva of Ukraine ran 2:31:20 at age 40 to take fifth place. And of course Russia’s Tatyana Podzniakova laid down master’s marks in L.A. that will seemingly withstand the sands of time.|
In 2002, a day before her 47th birthday, Gainesville, Florida-based Pozdniakova bettered her age 45 women’s world record in L.A., placing second in 2:30:26. The next year, two days before her 48th birthday, she returned to L.A. and ran 2:29:40 to take first place overall. Then, three days after her 49th birthday, she completed back-to-back wins in Los Angeles in 2004 with a 2:30:17 clocking. And finally, to celebrate her 50th birthday in 2005, she ran fifth in Los Angeles in 2:31:05, setting the W50 world record, more than 17 minutes faster than the previous mark.
While there may never be another master on par with Pozdniakova who, you may recall, was also a 3:56 1500 meter runner during the height of the Soviet Union’s middle distance dominance in the 1980s (and read into that what you will), we are beginning to see more and more open division runners maintaining not just fitness, but focus necessary to compete beyond age 40. Colleen and Deena are just two examples.
The main competition this year in L.A. will come from F4 Zemzem Ahmed of Ethiopia, age 28. A 3000m steeplechaser who finished seventh at the 2012 London Olympic final, Ahmed has only run one marathon to date, a sixth-place at the October 2012 Frankfurt Marathon in 2:27:16. However, that was in a 2:21:01 winning race. And with such little experience in the marathon, you wouldn’t expect Ahmed to attack early.
In a January 22nd post, DEENA KASTOR RETURNS TO RACING WITH FULL SPRING SCHEDULE, Deena spoke of going for the win in L.A, hopefully being in 2:24-2:25 shape. But, again, it’s one thing to be in that shape, and run that time against a well-matched field, but can you imagine trying to bust 26.2 miles at 5:32/mile pace all alone or with one other competitor when your half-marathon tune up averaged 5:34? Of course, she might have been cruising in Pasadena, too. That, among other things, is what we shall find out this Sunday as she runs her hometown marathon for the first time. You can imagine who the fans will get behind on race day.
I’m heading up to L.A. today to begin the countdown. Will post from the press conference on Friday when the Differential is announced. Then, watch the 28th Asics Los Angeles Marathon in L.A. on KTLA 5 beginning at 6:00AM PDT. KTLA will also provide live online streaming of the ASICS LA Marathon broadcast beginning at 7:00AM PDT at www.ktla.com.
2013 ASICS L.A. MARATHON – WOMEN’S FIELD
|F3||De Reuck||Colleen||F||Boulder||CO||USA||2:26:35||48||Berlin||CO Racing|
2013 ASICS L.A. MARATHON – MEN’S FIELD