SAN DIEGO — The Holiday Bowl Channel 10 Marathon is gaining a reputation for fast times.
Last year, San Diego's Thom Hunt set a record for San Diego marathons with a winning time of 2 hours 12 minutes 26 seconds. Janine Aiello of San Francisco won the women's division in a city-best 2:34:34. The race was the seventh-fastest in the United States for combined times of the men's and women's winners.
"I think what you will get here on Saturday is a time comparable to the winning time in Boston or New York," said Jerry Kiernan of Ireland, one of the favorites in the men's division. "You'll get a 2:11 or 2:12."
Ibrahim Hussein won the 1987 New York Marathon in 2:11:01, and Priscilla Welch ran 2:30:17 in the women's division. Toshihiko Seko ran 2:11:21 and Rosa Mota 2:25:21 at Boston.
"I think San Diego is one of the fastest courses in the country," said Aiello, who will defend her championship.
With runners trying for times of 2:20 (men) and 2:49:49 (women) to qualify for May's Olympic trials marathon in Pittsburgh, this year's San Diego race will have its best and largest field. The start is at 7 a.m. at Balboa Park.
"The word has spread about this race because of the times last year," said race co-director Tim Murphy of In Motion Inc., a San Diego-based event management firm. "The top athletes' shoe and other sponsor contracts are based on how fast they run. We've got some runners who are coming in just to run fast."
Approximately 2,800 runners have entered, compared with 1,906 last year. Another 3,500 to 4,000 are entered in the 10-kilometer race. There will be 150 five-person teams in the marathon relay and 600 runners in the two-mile fun run.
Men's marathon: "It's a strong and formidable field," Kiernan said. "You have quality, but what you don't have here yet is the depth. Here, let's say you have six people who could possibly win on Saturday. In New York, you might get 40 who can possibly win. It's a smaller elite field here, but it's going to get bigger."
Kiernan, winner of the 1987 New Jersey Waterfront Marathon (2:13:48) and ninth in the 1984 Olympics (2:12:19), considers himself; Don Janicki of Tucson, Ariz.; Ric Sayre of Eugene, Ore., and Agapius Masong of Kenya to be the top runners in the field.
Janicki, with a best of 2:11:16, was the first American finisher (21st) in the World Championships in Rome this year. Sayre (2:12:59 best) has won 14 marathons, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia, in October.
Masong was runner-up to Hunt last year and won the 1985 Holiday Bowl Marathon. Hunt will not defend his title.
Other top men: Tim Varley of San Diego, who won the Heart of San Diego Marathon in 1982 and '84; Rich Brownsberger of El Cajon, winner of the 1986 Mission Bay Marathon; Sam Sitonik of Kenya, third here last year; Dave Olds of Los Angeles, ranked 14th in 1986 among U.S. marathoners, and Mohamed Rutiginga of Tanzania, who won a marathon in Sweden this year in 2:13:25.
Women's marathon: "Sylvia Mosqueda entered," Aiello said. "That changes the whole dynamics of the competition. She's a bright young runner who tends to go out really fast and hard."
Mosqueda, 21, from Cal State Los Angeles, finished second in the 1986 Los Angeles Marathon (2:37:46) and won the NCAA Division II cross-country championship this fall.
"Sylvia is definitely one of the fastest American distance runners right now," said Aiello, who was ranked No. 2 among U.S. women marathoners last year.
Joining Aiello and Mosqueda is Maureen Custy of Denver, winner of the New Jersey Waterfront Marathon and the third-ranked woman marathoner in the United States last year. Other top entries include Mindy Ireland of San Diego, second here last year, and Liz Baker of Rancho Santa Fe, who was third.
"This is a marathon that's growing," Kiernan said. "What this marathon is lacking right now is just tradition. That comes with age."