Today's fourth annual Los Angeles Marathon has its best elite field, in terms of names and times, but whether or not these athletes are prepared to run fast here is another matter.
The race, which begins about 9 a.m., already has its largest field, surpassing last year's 17,040 entries. But some in the invitational field are saying this isn't the time for them to run fast.
Example: Taisuka Kodama of Japan, who has the fastest time of 2 hours 7 minutes 35 seconds, is recovering from a back injury. Orlando Pizzolato is in fine shape but his federation in Italy committed him to the World Cup Marathon at Milan next month and so he can't go all out here.
Everyone in the Soviet contingent says it's too early in the season for its runners to run close to their best times, and even Rosa Mota, the world's best female marathoner, said she's backing off a bit this year and would be happy to run within two or three minutes of her best time.
In the men's race, at least two runners will admit they are in good shape. Mark Plaatjes, formerly of South Africa, has been training specifically for this race at altitude in Boulder, Colo. Martin Mondragon of Mexico City, last year's winner, also trains at altitude. Mondragon said he believes the men's winner will need to run 2:10.
Among the women, whatever Mota runs will probably be the winning time. Last year's winner, Blanca Jaime of Mexico, said Friday that she had been fighting the flu for a month and had sought medical care here this week. The other top woman, Zoya Ivanova of the Soviet Union said the winter at her home has been too harsh for her to train properly.
The race will start and end in the Coliseum area.