Kenyans sweep top spots of 30th annual L.A. Marathon

As Daniel Limo came down the final mile of the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday, he had Ocean Avenue all to himself.

The 31-year-old Kenyan took the lead from fellow countryman Edwin Koech at the 22 mile mark, just past the Veteran’s Administration building in Westwood and by the time he reached the Santa Monica city limits, he had no competition in sight.

Limo’s pace of 2:10:36 secured him $25,000 and the title of champion of the 30th annual Los Angeles Marathon.

The elite men’s field thinned out quickly, by the time the group reached Hollywood and La Cienega boulevards the lead pack had thinned to six.

Limo, who made his L.A. Marathon debut Sunday, emerged from the field into the top three just before the halfway point as the runners were passing through West Hollywood.

He continued his move to the front of the pack, reaching second by the time the leads hit the 35 kilometer mark in Westwood.

From there the race became a waiting game between the two Kenyans as Koech sprinted out to a 15 second lead.

However, it appears that Keoch's push may have cost him as the front runner wilted under the sun of one of the hottest days on record for the marathon at 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

"I saw that he would be hard to beat," Limo said. “When I saw him [Koech] lose [time] at 20 miles, I knew I would catch him.”

Between miles 20 and 21 Koech ran a 5:21 mile, dropping a full minute from his previous split.

When asked if he knew at mile 21 that he had Koech, Limo simply said, "yes."

Once Limo overtook Koech, the latter fell out of the top three and finished fourth overall.

As Limo came to the finish line under the palm trees of Santa Monica’s beachfront, his head never turned, his eyes focused on the finish.

“When I didn't see anyone behind me, that's when I kept my head,” Limo said.

In the women’s race, fellow Kenyan Ogla Kimaiyo had a similar, if not quite dominating victory in the women’s field.

Kimaiyo finished in 2:34:10, coming from behind early on and holding off Russian Natalya Puchkova and the USA Track and Field (USTAF) Marathon women's champion Blake Russell.

Kimaiyo hung in the lead pack for most of the race, however, once the women turned into Brentwood, the 26-year-old moved to the front.

She took a sliver of a lead over Puchkova at the 35 kilometer mark and closed out the race by the time she ran past the sixth hole of Riviera Country Club.

"When I went to the front, I didn't know I was going to win because I was feeling pain in my leg and everyone was strong in the field," Kimaiyo said. "At 25 mile [sic] I [knew] I was going to win."

Through out the race Kimaiyo clutched a yellow water bottle and kept it even across the finish line, where other runners had dropped theirs long ago.

"I tried to [keep] my water bottle because I was feeling dehydrated and so I took it to the finish line," Kimaiyo said.

For Russell, finishing the race was a victory in and of itself.

The mother of two had not finished a marathon since the 2008 Bejing Olympics. Though she started in the Boston and New York Marathons, she failed to finish either.

After "changing literally everything" about her training routine the oldest woman in the elite field found the strength to end her string of DNFs.

"It's hard to give up. I just love to compete," Russell said.

The fastest American man and USTAF men's champion, Jared Ward of Provo, Utah, posted a 2:12:56 finishing time, enough for a third place finish in the men’s race.

Coming out of the stadium, Ryan Hall led the American pack, registering a 29:25 time at the fifth mile.

However, from there Hall began to fall back and came into Ward’s view at about the 10th mile.

“That's certainly an adrenaline rush thinking 'ok we are now competing for a US championship.' It changes things,” Ward said.

Though the elite runners finished early enough to avoid the worst of the heat, which forced race organizers to push the beginning of the elite men’s race to 6:55 a.m. and the women's race before the break of dawn, the early morning heat still affected the elite athletes.

"There was a part at about 20 miles where I was starting to feel dehydrated, losing my water, it's hot out here. But at that point you just trust the fitness," Ward said.

This is the second year two African runners from the same country swept both the men and women's races after Gebo Burka and Amane Gobena of Ethiopia swept the 2014 marathon.

The course brought the field of 90 elite runners and over 22,000 non-competitive runners from Dodger Stadium through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and ended on the shores of Santa Monica.