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LOS ANGELES MARATHON

Under the Weather

Rain Puts a Damper on Times but About 23,000 Still Take to the Streets

Women: Despite conditions she calls 'horrible,' Estonia's Salumae dominates the field on her way to an easy victory.

March 06, 2000|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The thought of running in beautiful Southern California intrigued Jane Salumae so much that she set up shop in San Diego for two months to train for her first Los Angeles Marathon.

Salumae has seen bad weather in her native Estonia. But this was L.A., and the thought of running through a downpour never crossed her mind.

In conditions that she called "horrible," Salumae stayed focused on the task at hand and dominated the rest of the elite women's field to win in a time of 2 hours 33 minutes 33 seconds.

Of the six victories that the 32-year-old Salumae has recorded, this may have been the most interesting. Runners splashed their way through hard rains that never ceased, winds that whipped their faces and temperatures that had a hard time staying above 50 degrees.

Just another beautiful day in L.A.

"I've never run in anything like this. It was really disappointing," Salumae said. "The worst I've ever run in was maybe 64 degrees and a little rain.

"When you're standing at the [start] line, you're getting wet. My clothes were wet, my shoes were wet. When you're running, you carry all that water around."

That led to a time well off her personal best 2:27:04 and well short of the marathon record of 2:26:23--set by Madina Biktagirova in 1992.

"I wanted to win the race," Salumae said. "I didn't care about the time."

Nuta Olaru of Romania finished second at 2:35:14. Maria Portilla Cruz of Peru was third at 2:35:24.

Without any competition to feed off, Salumae got some assistance from a pack of male runners. They formed a circle around her that lasted for miles. It helped shield Salumae from a nasty head-wind on the uphill portion of the 26.2 miles.

Alfredo Rosas of San Pedro was next to her through much of the race. Calling it a cooperative effort, the veteran 40-year-old runner said her strong style helped push him to a 19th-place finish.

"She asked if we could run with her," Rosas said. "But she helped me out too. It got real windy downhill on the last turn and that's when she took off. She was strong and it was little cold out there."

Bernard Simonet said Salumae didn't mind having some runners around her throughout.

"When I passed her early, that's when I realized that she was the leader," said Simonet, 38. "I remember one marathon I ran and I remember a woman saying that the leader got an unfair advantage because the men could break the wind for her and that it was a very big advantage.

"But I don't want to take anything from her. She deserved to win the race."

Salumae chalked up her win to a good series of workouts while in San Diego, even though she came into Sunday's race battling a nagging hamstring injury and a stomachache. Throughout the race, the engaging runner flashed smiles to pursuing television cameras.

"My legs were OK," said Salumae, who didn't race in 1999 because of a heel injury. "My heel was OK. I started off very carefully. I knew I would have enough at the end."

Frederico Rosa, who works with her and several other elite distance runners, was impressed.

"She was running very easy," Rosa said. "She looked good."

The only drama was the race for second. Olaru hovered around fourth and fifth until the 23rd mile when she pulled up to Cruz. Both jockeyed for position, even through flooded intersections, before Olaru pushed ahead for good.

For the victory, Salumae won $35,000, a new automobile and a pleasurable plane ride back home.

Beautiful indeed.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

OPEN-DIVISION WINNERS / WOMEN

2:33:33

JANE SALUMAE

Estonia

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