Los Angeles, CA – The forecast for tomorrow’s 33rd Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon looks excellent, 46F (8C) at the 7 am start at Dodger Stadium near downtown, only creeping up to 50F (10C) by the time the leaders turn onto Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica 26 miles later, all under partly sunny skies. The high for the day will only be 64F (18C). That is good news for all concerned, runners, officials, medical team, and spectators.
33 is an impressive number, what numerologists call an angel number, as it resonates with inspiration, honesty, discipline, bravery, and courage. Very apropos, don’t you think, for the marathon in the City of Angels.
In 2018 threes are wild in LA. The last three men’s champions return, Skechers Performance is back for its third year as title sponsor, the Students Run LA program (SRLA) is in its 30th year, and 3 × 3 = 9, with this being our ninth year on the iconic “Stadium to Sea” course flowing through LA, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica.
Over 500,000 runners have crossed the various LA finish lines in 32 years, another 24,000 lining up at Dodger Stadium on Sunday morning, coming from all 50 states and 63 nations, a real celebration of the diversity that makes Los Angeles the world city that it is.
As I said, threes are wild in 2018. To that end, we have our last three men’s champions returning. The defender, 31 year-old Elisha Barno stopped the the clock at 2:11:51 last year after a back-and-forth battle with 2015 champion Daniel Limo that came down to a 4:40 25th mile down San Vincente Blvd. 2016 champion Weldon Kirui took 4th place in 2017, the same finish he had in 2013, after his first run on the course in 2012 had him finish in 2nd place.
Barno returns to the City of Angels off a PR 2:09:32 3rd place finish in Houston in January. Yesterday, he outlined a final 25K tempo run two weeks ago in Eldoret, Kenya as a confidence builder for tomorrow’s marathon. It was 25K in 1:20, which Barno said equated to running 2:10 – 2:11 comfortably.
2016 champion Weldon Kirui has run LA four times, but his PR stands at 2:09:06 from Eindhoven 2012.
For the second straight year, Weldon visited one of the Students Run LA schools on Wednesday, the program that trains at-risk high schoolers in 175 area schools to run the LA Marathon. In its 30th year, SRLA has mentored over 60,000 students (3200 in 2018), 98% of whom finish the race, 95% who plan to go on to college. Since 2010, Conqur Endurance Group has donated over $6.5 million in race fees to support SRLA.
2015 LA winner Daniel Limo is another veteran on this LA layout. He has finished on the podium each of the last three years, winning in 2015 (2:10:36), 3rd in 2016, 2nd in 2017, 39 seconds behind Elisha Barno.
Daniel claimed to have had stomach problems last year, an ongoing issue he’s had in the past, including at his last marathon in Lisbon in October 2017 when he took third in 2:12:14. He told me he has to be very careful with his diet the week of the race. and tends to only drink water in competition.
The father of two (8 year-old Dennis and 5 year-old Chelegat) Limo trains with a group of 20 that includes former New York City Marathon champion Stanley Biwott. In our talk yesterday, Daniel pointed to a 38k run he does back home in Kapsabet, Kenya as his measure of fitness.
“Time doesn’t matter,” he said. “If I feel strong at the end, then I’m OK.”
So all three former champs are confident and prepared. But there are others that could take all three of them down. The most likely two are #2 Gebresadik Adihana of Ethiopia, and #3 Dominic Ondoro, the training partner of Elisha Barno.
Adihana has run 17 career marathons since his debut in Amsterdam 2012, where he finished second in 2:06:21, which, counterintuitively, remains his PR. His manager, Gianni DeMadonna says, ”apart from Toronto (5th, 2:12:32), 2017 was a perfect year. He is in good shape, and can run a good race in LA.”
Adihana won in Marrakech in January 2017 (2:08:55) and Prague in May (2:08:47). He is a prolific marathoner, with seven 2:09 times or better. Though he’s not likely to over achieve at this stage in his career, he’s just as likely not to fail, either.
Dominic Ondoro is the 2017 Houston (2:12:05) and three straight Twin Cities (2:11:53 in 2017) Marathon champion. He has a PR of 2:08:00 from the 2013 Tiberias Marathon. A hamstring grab at 10k had him drop out of the Houston Marathon this January. But according to his manager Scott Robinson, that issue has been resolved.
Ondoro and Barno have been training in Albuquerque under the long-distance tutelage of former 10,000 meter world record holder Yobes Ondieki.
“Expect both men to be at the front challenging a 2:09 time,” said Robinson. “Dominic broke Dick Beardsley’s long-standing course record in Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth) in 2014 (2:09:06), and then took down Phil Coppess’ 1985 record (2:10:05) in Twin Cities 2016 (2:08:51).”
The LA record was set in 2011 by Ethiopian track star Markos Geneti. His 2:06:35 came on a day when it was 54°F at the start, but turned into an absolute gully-washing downpour two hours into the race. 2.05 inches of rain fell that day, making it the wettest in L A Marathon history. But Geneti rushed home before the hard stuff started really coming down.
No such threat in tomorrow’s forecast, just an ideal day for runners and spectators alike. You can watch coverage of the race live in LA on KTLA, or nationally on WGN America. I’ll be joined by KTLA Sports Director Derrin Horton and Olympian Juli Benson on the call.
The start goes off with the pro women at 6:45 a.m. Pacific. The men and full field begin their journey 10 minutes later.