Deena Prepping in Pasadena
Deena Prepping in Pasadena

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.

Colleen De Reuck after 2004 Trials Win
Colleen De Reuck – 2004 Trials Champion

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


F1 Kastor Deena F Mammoth Lakes CA USA 2:19:36 40 London   Asics
F3 De Reuck Colleen F Boulder CO USA 2:26:35 48 Berlin  CO Racing
F4 Ahmed Zemzem F Addis Ababa ETH 2:27:16 28 Frankfurt  Nike
F5 Diriba Shuru F Addis Ababa ETH 2:29:47 27 Dubai  Adidas
F6 Nesga Aberash F Addis Ababa ETH 2:31:15 27 Reims  Adidas
F7 Getnet Selomie F Addis Ababa ETH 2:31:15 26 Ljubijana  unattached
F8 Chala Gulume F Addis Ababa ETH 2:36:05 20 Marrakesh  Nike
F9 Zeiger Joanna F Boulder CO USA 2:43:48 42 Sacramento  CO Racing
F10 Duliba Aleksandra F Minsk BLR Debut 27   Nike


1 Njoroge Simon M Nyahururu KEN 32 2:09:46 Frankfurt Nike
2 Chelimo Nicholas M Ngong Hills KEN 29 2:07:38 Eindhoven Adidas
3 Kigen Moses M Eldoret KEN 29 2:07:45 Dubai Nike
4 Baaru Philemon M Nyahururu KEN 31 2:07:49 Kosice Nike
5 Girma Wegayehu M Addis Ababa ETH 24 2:08:25 Seoul Nike
6 Kirui Weldon M Kericho KEN 24 2:09:06 Eindhoven Skechers
7 Bekele Birhanu M Addis Ababa ETH 31 2:09:41 Beijing Nike
8 Tsega Demssew M Addis Ababa ETH 25 2:09:44 Reims Nike
9 Kebenei Ernest M Kapsabet KEN 28 2:10:04 Otsu Adidas
10 Harroufi Ridouane M Casablanca MAR 31 2:10:14 Seoul Adidas
11 Mose Erick M Toluca, MEX KEN 26 2:10:40 Torreon Adidas
12 Arciniaga Nick M Flagstaff AZ USA 29 2:11:30 Houston Adidas
13 Gedefa Berhanu M Addis Ababa ETH 26 2:11:30 Rome Nike
14 Keter Julius M Kapsabet KEN 24 2:11:36 Baltimore Adidas
15 Shafar Vitaliy M Kiev URK 31 2:12:07 Eindhoven Nike
16 Chavez Chris M Menlo Park USA 26 2:20:19 Houston BATC
17 Simpson Jason M Monument CO USA 28 2:26:55 Duluth unattached
18 Abdosh Ali M Addis Ababa ETH 25 Debut Adidas



  1. Also back for their 28th running of the LA Marathon are the Legacy Runners. Last year 185 extended their streak to 27 in a row. Let’s see how many manage to keep it going this year. When you see the “LA28” sign, that will be us holding the sign. Going for 28 straight!

    1. Hey Lou,

      Congrats to all LA Legacy Runners. You are by far the largest group of Legacies in the marathon world. I remember well the party we had for the 20th anniversary in Hollywood with Bud Greenspan, the Olympic film-maker on hand. Who’d a thunk you all would still be getting it done all these years later. Quite an accomplishment (or mental defect, depending on how we want to look at it.) Best of luck on Sunday.

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