Los Angeles Shows Support for the Twenty-Four-Year Run of the L.A. Marathon

The air is cool and fresh on a high overcast Monday, May 25 at the corner of Fairfax and Sixth Street.

Road blocks deter the passage of ill-informed motorists, and allow eager spectators to manage their patience by bobbing their heads in the crosswalks to the country music flavor of Brian Lynn Jones and the Misfit Cowboys.

Street lights blink a steady red cadence, foreshadowing the rhythmic and determined crossing of an army of runners over 17,000 strong.

To view a slide show of the marathon click HERE

Equally tenacious are the group of onlookers that have converged upon this intersection during the early hours of the Memorial Day holiday to attend the 24th annual Los Angeles Marathon. Among them was Mike Aguallo of South Central, along with his wife and two of his three sons, who held down the forward cheering position in between Wilshire and 6th.

"We've been here since 6 a.m. to cheer on my eldest, Mike Jr.," said Aguallo. "He's been training really hard since early January, eating right, and keeping his grades up," said the supportive father. The youth's work ethic may even have rubbed off on his younger brother, Austin; the two may run side by side in next year's L.A. Marathon representing Bethune Middle School.

Bethune and 164 other schools took part in Students Run L.A., a program that trains at risk children for the L.A. Marathon. Since 1989, SRLA has used the experience of the L.A. Marathon to help children set goals, and make a positive impact on academic performance and graduation rates.

"SRLA helps build camaraderie between students, and facilitates mentorship," said science teacher Jason Mertell of the Magnolia science Academy in Reseda as he waited on a tree lined residential street just before the intersection of Rossmore and Third Street.

Three of his fellow staff members and 28 students from ran the L.A. Marathon that day in association with SRLA.

The uplifting influence of the L.A. Marathon did not confine itself to any single cause or demographic. "Everyone is running for a different reason, and each reason is worthy," said Carl Abram, who volunteered his time to emcee the American Roots Soundstage back on the corner of Sixth Street and Fairfax.

"Some run to better themselves, some to give back to their communities, and still others run for the sake of terminally ill friends. It's all so inspirational."

Of course, inspirational can also be fun. At the American Cancer Society's booth on corner of Sixth Street and Highland a giant carrot and banana dance to Top Forties music while shouting reminders to eat fruits and vegetables.

"Our goal today is to promote healthy living, and cancer prevention," said Jenny Besse. "The costumes…? Well I guess it's just a fun way of doing that."

But you don't need a silly costume to dance for a good cause, as volunteers Matt Nelson and John Rodney clearly illustrated just over half a mile earlier on the race circuit, at the corner of Sixth Street and Burnside.

Here, well over a dozen volunteers sport yellow shirts and hand out refreshments to runners on behalf of the National Aids Marathon Training Program while driving house rhythms mixed with the sound of thousands of passing footsteps, and the cheers of the crowds.

"It's great," said Nelson, "we got music, we got fanfare, and a great day for running, what else do you need?" All the excitement is not without purpose. "The NAMTP is under the umbrella of Aids Project L.A.," said Rodney. We train people to run marathons, and they then acquire sponsors to raise funds for aids research."

Some gave simply for the sake of giving. Near Mile19 of the L.A. Marathon loop, yet another refreshment station was hosted by the Filipino fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

"We are here purely to volunteer," said coordinator Casey "Beboy" Mansilla.

According to Mansilla APO, which maintains chapters at Filipino universities as well as UCLA and UCI, is an organization committed to giving to its respective communities; "We offered similar services for the City of Angels Half Marathon just this past December."

With all this giving going on it might be easy to forget the big take associated with placing at the top of the pack. The regular prize purse for this year's Marathon amounted to $100,000 in cash and two Honda Accord EX-L sedans.

Additionally, for the sixth year in a row a "challenge bonus" of $100,000 will go the first person (male or female) to cross the finish line. Since the "challenge bonus" had been introduced it has been earned by three women and two men. No gender has ever won it for two years consecutively.

Rounding out fifth place for the men and the women were the Italians Negari Terfa and Irene Mogoka, respectively. In fourth place were Mulugeta Wami of the Netherlands and Lyubov Morganova of Russia. Taking third were Laban Kipkemboi of Kenya, and Silvia Skvortsova of Russia.

The event runners up were the Ethiopians Tariku Jufar for the men, and Amane Gobena for the women. Tatian Petrova of Latvia took first place for the women, earning $20,000 and a new Accord with an impressive finishing time of 2:25:59.  The men's first place finisher, also the overall first place finisher, and winner of the "bonus challenge" was the Kenyan, Wesley Korir.

He takes home a grand total of $120,000 in cash along with his new car, and returns the balance of wins and losses between the genders for the bonus challenge. Will the women get even next year? Can the men do what has never been done and win the "challenge bonus" for two consecutive years?

We'll have to wait till next year to find out, but in the meantime don't forget what this event meant to special causes; battles that could use your support year-round