FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Talented Women's Elite Field Tries to Stay Ahead of the Men
Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba leads a field trying to
win the $100,000 Marathon Challenge
LOS ANGELES, March 3, 2011 - Winning the Honda LA Marathon presented by
K-Swiss can do some amazing things for a woman.
For Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, it was a last chance to show that she could be a
world-class marathon runner. Uninvited to any other race, she entered the
2010 Marathon and not only found herself winning, but collecting a $100,000
bonus in the men vs. women L.A. Marathon Challenge and getting an
invitation to run in the New York City Marathon. And then she won in New
York and has become a sought-after runner in races worldwide.
Who will it be on March 20?
The favorite in the women's elite field will be Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba, who
has the fastest time entering the race at 2:25:27. She's just 21 years old
and in her fourth season of professional running, but hasn't always run as
an Ethiopian. She transferred her national allegiance to Azerbaijan
(competing as Mare Ibrahimova) in December 2008, only to revert her
nationality back to Ethiopia as of February 1, 2010 when it became clear
that she was too old to compete in the European Junior Championships. As an
Azerbaijani, she set a national records of 9:16.94 in the 3000 m and
15:42.83 in the 5000 m, and was national champion at both distances in
She had her best year in 2010, with strong finishes in her first two
marathons ever: third in Rome last March with a 2:25:38 clocking and then
improving to 2:25:27 for fifth in Frankfurt on October 31. Amazingly, she
could become the first-ever Ethiopian woman to win the Honda LA Marathon;
the race has been dominated by women from the former Soviet Union - Russia,
Ukraine, Estonia and Kyrgyzstan - who have won 15 of the 25 previous
Dibaba will face stern challenges from two other Ethiopians and a veteran
Kenyan star, all of whom have run 2:28:16 or faster. Buzunesh Deba, just
23, trains in New York with a group of other Ethiopians known as the West
Side Runners (WSX) and won an astonishing 13 out of 15 races in 2010,
including four marathon wins in Jacksonville, Florida, in the Grandma's
Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St.
Paul (with a lifetime best of 2:27:24) and the California International
Marathon in Sacramento.
Adanech Zekiros, 28, from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, has run
2:27:32 and is no stranger to the western U.S., having twice won the P.F.
Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Tempe, Arizona (2007 and 2008) and
running eighth in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego last year.
Veteran Kenyan marathoner Magdaline Chemjor, 32, brings a best of 2:28:16,
set in winning her debut marathon in Amsterdam in 2007. She will be looking
to make amends for 2009, when she competed in the L.A. Marathon, but did
In addition, the 2011 women's field includes two American entries of note,
including local legend Mary Akor. Born in Nigeria, she came over to run in
the 1993 Boston Marathon and decided to stay on, landing at John Muir High
School in Pasadena. Now 34, she's run 2:33:49 and represented the United
States in the 2005 (Helsinki) and 2007 (Osaka) World Championships in the
marathon. She is credited with 40 marathons in total and has won 12,
including the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth three times, Newport Beach
(2007) and in Carlsbad in January of this year.
American track star Amy Hastings, ten times an All-American in cross
country and track & field at Arizona State, will make her marathon debut on
March 20 after finishing eighth in the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in
Houston on January 29. She's been planning her "move up" to the marathon
since last summer.
The women's elites will be trying to stay ahead of the men's field in the
unique L.A. Marathon Challenge, which pits the elite men and women against
each other in a handicap start for a bonus prize of $100,000 for the first
runner to cross the finish line. A specific time handicap will be given to
the women's field, with the men starting later according to an exact
interval calculated by comparing the average times of the top men and women
in the race. The 2011 race will be the seventh edition of the Challenge,
with both the men and women each having won thrice, in alternate years.
Kiplagat finished ahead of countryman Wesley Korir in 2010 to even the
Challenge series at 3-3 after Korir ran past Russia's Tatyana Petrova to
win in 2009.
The women want to make it two in a row.
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