FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Boe
Koech Wins, Kovpotina Sets Course Record at Las Vegas Marathon
NASCAR's Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty Complete Course for Charity
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - (January 30, 2005) - At the 39th Las Vegas Marathon,
Gilbert Koech of Kenya and Olga Kovpotina of Ukraine won their respective
titles in 2:13:45 and 2:31:54 with Kovpotina setting a course record. Both
champions earned $25,000 out of a race record $104,000 prize purse.
On a calm and clear Nevada morning, the marathon got underway bathed in a
spectacular sunrise to strains of "Viva Las Vegas" by an Elvis
impersonator. With a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like at his side, Running Great
Bill Rodgers served as Honorary Starter for the race. Nearly 10,000
runners, walkers and their friends, representing all 50 states and more
than 30 countries, tackled the flat, fast course, finishing in Nevada's
largest public park, Sunset Park. The weather broke after days of rain to a
sunny dawn and temperatures reaching perfect running temperatures of 57
degrees. Wind picked up an hour into the race, slowing the course for all
For 28-year-old Koech in his debut marathon, this was an impressive win. He
currently trains in Albuquerque, N.M. with Pieter Langerhorst, who has
produced many world class athletes, including Lornah Kiplagat, who took 5th
in the 10,000 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Koech has a strong track
background, having run 27:55 in the 2004 Grand Prix in Ostrava, Czech
"I felt like I was ready to run my first marathon," he explained.
"Everything just fell into place today. If it hadn't been for the wind, I
feel I could have run 2:09." The men's course record of 2:12:37 was set by
Frank Plasso Jr. in 1986.
Henry Serem, who has had some impressive wins in Europe, finished second in
2:14:32 with fellow Kenyan, Elly Rono, third, in 2:15:44.
Koech made his big push at mile 21.5 with Serem, Rono and Frederick Chumba
following behind. Despite stiff headwinds in the second half of the race,
Koech clocked low 5 minute miles to pull away for the 47 second victory.
With the first half clocked in 1:04:37, the second half was over four
minutes slower (1:09:09).
In the women's race, Kovpotina and Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Russia raced
head-to-head until the last mile before Kovpotina from Kiev, Ukraine broke
away for a 19 second win, 2:31:54 to 2:32:13. Both were under the old
course record of 2:32:22 set by Marzena Helbik of Poland in 1997. Top
masters athlete Firaya Zhdanova, 43, from Russia finished third in 2:36:08.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip
ran the 26.2 mile course in 3:56:52, beating his personal record of 4:16
set at his first marathon in Kiawah, S.C. Michael's wife, Buffy, completed
the half-marathon with a time of 2:01:05. Michael's buddy Kyle Petty ran
alongside Michael and completed the race in a time of 4:16:02.
"We feel a little out of place with all these elite athletes", quipped
"It's a little like a taxi driver showing up to race the Daytona 500."
Michael Waltrip explained: "I was ecstatic that I beat my personal best,
but today isn't about time - it's about children. Today, we succeeded on
the course and for the camp."
Along with the support of fans, sponsors and other NASCAR drivers, Michael
Waltrip has committed to raising $1 million to benefit Victory Junction
Gang, a camp for chronically-ill children. Victory Junction Camp was
started in 2004 by Kyle and Pattie Petty in memory of their son Adam.
Waltrip has created "OPERATION MARATHON: Going the Distance for Kids," the
official charity of the Las Vegas Marathon.
The mission of The Victory Junction Gang Camp is to enrich the lives of
children with chronic illnesses by creating camping experience that are
exciting, fun, physically safe and medically sound. Fans can contribute to
OPERATION MARATHON by logging on to www.michaelwaltrip.com or calling
1/866-WALTRIP. For further information, visit www.lvmarathon.com.
Highlights of the full weekend of entertainment, world class dining,
partying and gambling included Sunday's 26.2 mile Marathon and the
Half-Marathon, Wheelchair Sports Division and 5-person Relay Teams.
Four-time Boston and New York City Marathon winner Bill Rodgers was on hand
to sign books at the Health and Fitness Expo, spoke to runners at
Saturday's Pasta Party and served as the Honorary Starter for the Marathon
The Half-Marathon was started just before the sun rose over the hills
surrounding the desert. Christian Hesch from Morro Bay, Calif. won the
men's race in 1:06:35 and Nili Abramski who lives and trains in Rehovot,
Israel was the women's champion by nearly three minutes with a time of
1:15:55. The Israeli Olympian happened to be visiting friends in San Diego
and decided to come to the race.
The International Friendship 5K Run presented by OPERATION MARATHON stepped
of Saturday morning at 6:00am with light rain and enthusiastic crowds.
NASCAR's Michael Waltrip served as Honorary Starter for the run down Las
Vegas Blvd. Coming in to break the tape was Henderson, Nevada's Jeff
Gardner with a winning time of 17:43. Roslyn Alexander of Fairkirk,
Scotland won the women's division in 20:41.
Sponsors for this year's race included The Luxor, Excalibur, Michelob
Ultra, Findlay Toyota, Thrifty, Tylenol 8 Hour, Ultima Replenisher, Avid
Energy Bars, the City of Las Vegas, Ocean Spray, Sierra Springs, Clark
County Parks & Recreation, Williams Scotsman, Battistas Hole-in-the-Wall
and the Thunderbirds.