To say it has been a challenging year for the sport would be to underestimate the impact Covid-19 has had on the running world. A sport that at its best brings people from every walk of life and economic strata to a level ground of effort, that forges community in a time that mostly sees communities being torn apart, that sets aside petty differences so that common purpose and personal pride can emerge, became, ironically, an unsafe way to gather en masse in the time of a raging pandemic.
And so while many events were simply canceled, others were scaled back or moved. Even today, the consequences of Covid can be seen in the compressed fall schedule that has 22 big city marathons crammed into a six-week window between September 25 and November 7, including five of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors.
This weekend, New York City will celebrate its 50th marathon, a golden anniversary for a race that literally changed the game, helped resurrect a city, and bore witness to the possible in a seemingly impossible burgh.
Out west, the city of angels will be contesting its 36th City of Los Angeles Marathon presented by ASICS, another of the rescheduled events that had to move from its traditional spring date to late fall just to have a race at all in 2021.
- CHICAGO 2021 – 26,000 finishers – 2019 – 45,000+ finishers
- BOSTON 2021 – 15,000 finishes – 2019 – 26,000 finishers
- NYC 2021 – 33,000 starters – 2019 – 53,000 finishers
- L.A. 2021 – 14,000 starters – 2020 – 21,801 finishers
FALL CALENDAR 2021
Sept. 25 – Berlin (AWMM)
Oct. 3 – London (AWMM); Kosice
Oct. 9 – Stockholm
Oct. 10 – Chicago (AWMM); Buenos Aires
Oct. 11 – Boston (AWMM)
Oct. 17 – Paris; Amsterdam; Toronto; Cape Town; Lisbon
Oct. 24 – Ljubljana; Rotterdam; Venice; San Diego RnR
Oct. 31 – Beijing; Nairobi
Nov. 7 – L.A.; Istanbul; Hangzhou (China); Zurich; New York City (AWMM)
The strain on event management teams has been extraordinary. The challenge to recruit professional fields when everyone and their brother is seemingly staging a race on the same day as yours has watered down even the most robust event budgets. And the uncertainty of Covid transmission has left many an athlete waiting at embassies and airports rather than flying to forge their futures in competition.
Notwithstanding, the show will go on. Here is a thumbnail look at the small field that will gather at Dodger Stadium this Sunday morning for the 36th City of Los Angeles Marathon. Plans are already underway to return the race to its normal March date next Spring.
MEN’S RACE – Brothers are the Favorites
John Korir – 24 – (KEN) – PR: 2:09:14, Ottowa 2018. The younger brother of 2009 & 2010 LA champ, Wesley Korir, John finished 2nd in LA 2019. He had built up a big lead from 20 to 26 miles but got overtaken with only150m remaining by 2017 LA champ Elisha Barno of Kenya. “I did not know someone was coming from behind When he passed me was the first I saw him. By then it was too late to respond.” John will look to make amends in 2021./
Evans Korir – (34 – (KEN) – PR: 2:06:35, Daegu 2018) CORRECTION: turns out there is another Evans Korir who is not the brother of Leonard. And he is the 2:06-man. The Evans Korir who is running LA21 is 32 and has a PR of 2:10:31 set in Indonesia 2016. In his only other marathon attempt, he dropped out of the 2015 Eldoret City Marathon.
Still, he remains the younger brother of 2016 U.S. 10,000m Olympian Leonard Korir of the U.S. Army’s WCAP program (No relation to Wesley and John Korir).
Edwin Kimutai – 28 – (KEN) – PR: 2:09:01, Paris 2021 (Oct. 17,13th place). Winner of September 12th Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Wash D.C., Edwin’s wife, Yvonne (Jelegat) Mora, also a runner, sadly passed in mid-August from a blood clot. Edwin dedicated his win at Cherry Blossom to his wife weeks later. The couple had a young daughter together, named Abigael Jebet. The Oct. 17th Paris Marathon did not go as well as expected. He was with the lead pack until 35K on 2:04 pace, but after missing two aid-station bottles earlier in the race, he cratered in the final stretch. He made his marathon debut in Geneva in May, finishing 4th in 2:08:15. He came back in June to run the Eldoret City Marathon in Kenya. There he took 13th in 2:14:05. Then he went to Paris a few weeks ago. He’s looking to bounce back in LA, but four marathons in one year, in one’s debut year?/ (sometimes listed as Edwin Kiplagat)./
Amanuel Mesel – 30 – (ERI) – PR: 2:08:17, Valencia (ESP) 2013. A two-time Eritrean Olympian – 2012 London 5000m & 2016 Rio Marathon, Amanuel came to the U.S. to run the Houston Marathon in early 2020, finishing 3rd in 2:11:04. Then, while training in Flagstaff to compete in a spring marathon, Covid-19 hit, and he was unable to return home where he has a wife and two children. He is in the U.S. on a temporary resident status, but has applied for permanent residence. Currently, he is working as an Uber driver in Oakland, California where there is a sizable Eritrean community. Hopes to win in LA./
TOP LOCAL MAN
- Bijan MAZAHERI – 27 – Pasadena, CA – PR: 2:15:26, 28th, Chicago 2019
A PHd candidate at Cal Tech, Bijan lives and trains in Pasadena where he is also avolunteer coach at CalTech. Grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, attended Williams College, then graduate school in Cambridge, England before moving west. He ran 73rd, at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta in February 2020 in 2:21:54. His field of study places him at the center of every marathoner’s quest: Developing a structure to study consistency in overlapping expertise in the presence of uncertainty; and learning an unobservable confounding variable given assumptions about the visible variables. Oh , my!
The women’s field is even more limited as only two pros will run/
Women’s Race – The Favorites
Antonina Kwambai – 29 – (KEN) – PR: 2:24:20, Siena, Italy April 2021. Visa issues kept Antonina from racing in LA 2020. But this year she comes to L.A. off a disappointing 7th place finish at the Oct. 17th Paris Marathon, where she ran 2:27:25. She got locked into the slow early pace, 73-min through the half, and couldn’t respond when the pace quickened She planned her training around back-to-back marathons. She is a half-marathon specialist now moving up in distance./
Natahsa Cockram – 28 – (UK) – PR: 2:30:03 – Natasha took runner-up honors at the British National Marathon Championships in March 2021 in London. Her 2:30:03 time was a Welsh national record. (Not the traditional Virgin Money London Marathon). She ran the Virgin London Marathon October 3rd, finishing 17th in 2:32:32. Originally from Gwent, Wales, Natasha attended the University of Tulsa from 2012 to 2015, competing in cross country. She was accepted into the medical school at the University of South Carolina but declined the position to focus on running. She finished 13th in the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in 2:33:19, tops for a UK woman. In 2020, Cockram moved to Norfolk, England to concentrate more fully on her running and now works part-time as a human resource researcher for the Norfolk Constabulary./
TOP LOCAL WOMAN
Nina ZARINA – 34 – (RUS) – Janes Elite Racing, Santa Monica – PR: 2:38:47, Boston Marathon October 11, 2021 (27th place). Born outside Moscow, Nina debuted in the marathon in a modest 3:25:41 in 2012. Since then she has made remarkable progress. In 2019, she won San Francisco Marathon; was Global Winner of the 2019 Wings For Life World Run (virtual); took top honors in Long Beach & the Zurich New Year Marathon. A graduate of Moscow State Technical University with an M.Sc. in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. She ran her second PR of 2021 in Boston on Oct. 11th, taking three seconds off her 9th place finish at June 19th/s Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN. A 2017 & 2018 Comrades Marathon finisher in South Africa./
LA expects around 12-14,000 runners to begin their journey at Dodgers Stadium Sunday morning. This year, the race introduces yet another course redesign after 11 years on the Stadium to Sea layout. To create a better post-race environment and fan interaction, while lessening the race’s footprint on the LA basin, the race will not finish on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica anymore.
The marathon’s new “Stadium to the Stars” course begins at Dodger Stadium, runs through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills before ending on Avenue of the Stars in Century City. In essence, the course will follow its traditional route until mile 22. There, just as the course enters Brentwood, the runners will double back on San Vicente, Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards before finishing at Avenue of the Stars.
Among the other storylines we will follow will be the Pomona-Pitzer College reunion, where 13 members of the Pomona Sage Hens track team from the classes 2004-2012 will resurrect memories and create a new one on Sunday. Not necessarily at the front of the group, but the leader of the pack is Will Leer, who won four NCAA D3 titles while racing for the Sage Hens. As a pro, Will went on to win two USATF indoor national titles in 2007.
127 legacy runners will be making their 36th journey from start to finish. That is four fewer than in 2020, ten less than 2019.
As in New York, Istanbul, Hangzhou, China, and Zurich, Sunday’s L.A. Marathon will showcase the best its city has to offer while lifting the spirits of runners and spectators alike.
We wish them all God’s speed and a safe journey home.
L.A. Marathon 2021: What you need to know and how to watch on KTLA. Olympian Juli Benson will join me and host Derrin Horton on the race call once again.