Markos Geneti beats the odds, and record, to win L.A. Marathon

The Ethiopian had never run a marathon, wasn’t used to racing in the rain and had a pain in his stomach, but it didn’t stop him from recordng the best time in event history.

Markos GenetiMarkos Geneti begins to celebrate after his record-setting victory in the L.A. Marathon. (Katie Falkenberg / For The Times / March 20, 2011)
By Melissa Rohlin
On one of the stormiest days in L.A. Marathon history, Markos Geneti had a lot of things working against him.

The Ethiopian had never run a marathon, wasn’t used to training in the rain, and had a terrible stomach stitch.

So when the 26-year-old plowed through shin-deep puddles to shatter the race record by almost two minutes with a time of 2 hours 6 minutes 35 seconds, he said he even surprised himself.

“I was hoping to run 2:07:30,” he said, through an interpreter. “But I ran a minute faster.”

Geneti not only won, he crossed the finish line with the second-fastest time in the world this year and the fastest time in California history.

“My muscles are a little sore,” he said.

Geneti took the lead at the 13th mile and left his competition in his wake at the 17th mile.

He finished 2:51 ahead of second place Nicolas Kamakya of Kenya — the second largest margin of victory in marathon history — and 6:37 ahead of third place Laban Moiben of Kenya.

Two-time defending champion Wesley Korir, who had set the race record of 2:08:24 in 2009, finished fourth in 2:13:23. He said his legs gave out at the 21st mile.

“First of all, I’d like to thank God that I’m still alive,” said Korir, smiling. “I thought it was the end of my life.”

He might not be the only marathoner with that sentiment.

The city of Santa Monica parked 10-12 of their buses at the finish line for runners seeking warmth and shelter from the deluge, and about half a dozen small hotels along Ocean Avenue have opened their ballrooms to runners, according to race officials. The storm has brought about one inch of rain to Santa Monica and 0.8 inches to downtown.

Santa Monica fire Capt. Judah Mitchell estimated that 200 runners have been evaluated for hypothermia and fatigue at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.

As of 2 p.m., with 48% of the field having completed the marathon, 12 runners had been transported to area hospitals for treatment of hypothermia. The MTA had four buses following the remaining runners in case anyone was unable to complete the race and needed refuge from the weather.

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Deba Buzunesh, 23, won in 2:26:34. She beat American Amy Hastings — who led for much of the race — by 29 seconds.

Buzunesh said she received an unexpected assist from Kamakya down the stretch. He handed her his drink as he passed her.

“He’s so nice,” she said, smiling.

Hastings, 27, posted the fastest marathon time (2:27:03) by an American woman this year and became the eighth-best American performer all-time. It was her first marathon.

“I didn’t realize how fast I was going,” said Hastings, a former All-American distance runner at Arizona State. “That might have been to my benefit in this one.”

Krige Schabort of Cedartown, Ga., won the men’s wheelchair race in 1:33:15 whle Shirley Reilly of Tucson won the women’s wheelchair event in 1:57:25.

The male and female winners each won $25,000 and a 2011 Honda Insight. Geneti also won $100,000 for being the first runner — male or female — to cross the finish line. The women were given a head start of 17:03 to even the field.

Smiling broadly, Geneti said he plans to invest his earnings in a school in Addis Adaba.

He seems to no longer have any doubts in his ability.

“If I train better,” he said. “I can improve.”

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times


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