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Eager to Go the Distance

The Los Angeles Marathon field looks set for another growth spurt next Sunday.

February 23, 2003|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

The growth of the Los Angeles Marathon is expected to continue next Sunday when the predicted minimum 20,000 runners start the race near Figueroa and 6th streets at 8:30 a.m.

Marie Patrick, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Marathon Inc., said she expects the number at the start line to actually surpass last year's record 22,107 runners.

With a race-record 18,737 official finishers in 2002, the L.A. Marathon was the world's seventh-largest marathon and fourth in the nation behind New York (31,834), Chicago (31,106) and Honolulu (26,477).

London was the world's largest marathon with 32,899 finishers, according to USA Track & Field's Road Running Information Center Web site.

Kenyan Stephen Ngundu and Ukrainian Tatyana Pozdnyakova top the list of men's and women's entries in the 18th running of the L.A. Marathon.

Ngundu, 35, became the first man to win consecutive titles last year when he ran a career best of 2 hours 10 minutes 27 seconds.

Ngundu is expected to be challenged by fellow Kenyans Benson Mbithi, the 2000 champion, Peter Chebet, Ibrahim Mitei and David Kirui, Tanzanian Andrew Sambu and Japan's Toshiya Katayama.

Pozdnyakova, 47, is the top returning women's finisher after placing second in 2:30:26 last year.

Her top challengers are expected to be Romanians Aurica Buia and Nuta Olaru, Russians Lidiya Vasilevskaya, Irina Safarova and Olga Kovpotina, Lithuanian Zivile Balciunaite and Kenyan Anna Kibor.

Marathon President William Burke says the reconfigured course is flatter and faster.

The race will be televised by both English- and Spanish-language stations for the first time.

Channel 4 will televise the race in English with Channel 52 handling the coverage in Spanish. Coverage starts at 8 a.m.

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