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Bungei Has Strength to Pull Away


Genilson Junior Da Silva showed enough heart to win the Long Beach Marathon Sunday.

His stomach, however, wasn't up to it.

That left it for James Bungei of Kenya to take control, coming from 150 yards behind at mile 17 to pull away from countryman John Kiposkei and Pio Mpolokeng of South Africa and win in 2 hours 16 minutes 49 seconds.

Da Silva led the 26.2-mile race early but stopped and clutched his stomach after 15 miles because of symptoms of food poisoning. He returned to the race minutes later and found six runners ahead of him.

"I kept telling myself, just finish, just finish," he said.

Despite having to stop two more times, Da Silva fought back and ended up second.

"I had to go [to the restroom] because I was in so much pain," Da Silva of Brazil said.

"But I just wanted to finish the race, and I dug deep and found some kind of strength."

Bungei said he was surprised no one was within half a mile of him as he ran the last six miles.

Race director John Goldman had predicted the flat, fast course would be ideal to break the record of 2:12:27, set in 1990.

But Bungei was not challenged, and he slowed his pace after turning around several times and seeing no one close.

Bungei said he was relieved because he "hit a wall" at mile 23 and had no strength left.

Bungei, 29, finished second in the 1999 Los Angeles Marathon in 2:10:43--the fifth fastest in L.A. history, but skipped that race this year to rest.

"I needed some time off," he said. "I was just too weak."

The toll of three years running without rest and training up to 90 miles a week became too much, resulting in a hip injury, and he went home to Kenya.

Bungei came back this year with a new frame of mind, saying he feels as if he's stronger and running smarter races, although maybe not as fast.

In the women's race, Irina Sarafova of Russia won with a time of 2:37:40, finishing 24 seconds ahead of compatriot Elena Paramonova.

Sarafova and Bungei each earned $7,000 and a bed worth $2,500.

But Bungei won't be resting too much in the next several months.

He has his eyes on another victory.

"L.A's next," he said. "I've spent a lot of time preparing to win."

At Long Beach, the fastest U.S. finisher in the men's race was Steve Wilson of Lafayette, Ind., who was ninth, in 2:25.32.

The fastest U.S. woman was Meghan Arboghast of Corvallis, Ore., who was third in 2:45:46.

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