SANTA MONICA — The Los Angeles Marathon didn't even wait for the sun to rise.
With a hot day expected, the women's race started at 6:45 a.m. local time and the men's race 10 minutes later. Hours later, Kenyan runners Daniel Limo and Ogla Kimaiyo won the races, while Jared Ward and Blake Russell captured the USA Track & Field National Championships that were run concurrently.
Limo fell behind countryman Edwin Koech around mile 20 but caught him two miles later and won going away in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 36 seconds to claim the $25,000 first prize. Lani Rutto of Kenya also caught Koech and finished second for the second straight year, this time in 2:12:43. Koech finished fourth.
Ward took the lead in Mile 16 and never faltered, finishing third overall in a personal best 2:12:56, bringing a $150,000 first prize. Matt Llano was second (sixth overall) in 2:16:13 and Mike Morgan was third in 2:16:55.
Kimaiyo led the women's race from Mile 19 onward, leaving Russian Natalya Puchkova in Mile 23 and winning in 2:34:10. Puchkova was second in 2:34:33 and Russell was third overall in 2:34:57.
The race began in 71-degree heat at Dodger Stadium and finished in 75-degree temperatures near the Santa Monica Pier. But in between, the runners said, they felt the heat, which crept into the 80s as the race wound through Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
“At eight (kilometers), there was still a lot of humidity,” Rutto said. “I tried to resist my best, but I not make it. I want to say it was tough.”
The race caused several runners to change strategy. Ward said he felt dehydrated at the 20-mile mark, “but at that point, you trust the fitness.” Kimaiyo carried a bottle of fluids the final 3.1 miles, adding her legs hurt. Russell suffered cramped hamstrings around Mile 11.
The race also served as a qualifier for next February's Olympic trials, also in Los Angeles. All American male runners who finished at least 2:18 qualified, as did all women who finished in at least 2:43.
Limo, whose personal best is 2:08:39 in finishing second at the La Rochelle, France marathon in 2011, began as part of a pack of nine African runners and American Ryan Hall. Hall, the American record-holder with the fastest personal best in the field (2:04:58), went out with the lead pack, fell back 26 minutes into the race and dropped out in Mile 14.
By Mile 7, the pack had been reduced to seven. 2012 champion Simon Nojorge fell back in Mile 11. By the 14th mile, the pack had further thinned to Limo, Koech, Rutto and fellow Kenyan Milton Kiplagat, who led the first five miles and then again after seven and nine miles.
“I saw the pace was so hard, but I didn't know I could still catch him,” Limo said. “When I saw him, I understood that I can still catch (him).”
Kimaiyo became just the second Kenyan woman to win this race, following Lorna Kiplagat's consecutive wins in 1997-98. She has run a few marathons in her career, mostly in South America, though she won at Jacksonville, Florida. In her previous marathon, she finished second in Amsterdam, breaking the 2:30 barrier for the first time.
She was content to run with a pack of 12 that included Americans Sara Hall (making her marathon debut), Heather Lieberg (who was first or second overall for the first 10 miles) and Becky Wade and Japan's Mao Kuroda and Puchkova.
Puchkova debuted in the 2011 Istanbul Eurasia Marathon with a time of 2:33:02 and improved her personal best to 2:30:17 in setting a course record in 2012 Hanover, Germany. In April 2013, she won at Nagano in heavy rain that shifted to snow, wind and below-freezing temperatures.
That was hardly the case Sunday.
“I prefer snow,” she said.