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Biggest Field Expected for Marathon

March 02, 2003|John Ortega

A record number of runners, walkers and wheelchair racers are expected to start the 18th Los Angeles Marathon this morning when the race begins near the intersection of Figueroa and 6th streets.

A little more than 23,000 people entered the marathon last year and race officials said the number of entries this year had surpassed that total by Saturday afternoon.

The wheelchair division of the marathon will start at 8:10 a.m., followed by the hand-cranked wheelchair division at 8:18 and the running race at 8:30.

Stephen Ndungu of Kenya will try to win an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the men's race.

Ndungu, 35, won last year's race in 2 hours 10 minutes 27 seconds. Kenyans Peter Chebet, David Kirui, Mark Yatich and Benson Mbithi, the 2000 L.A. Marathon champion, Tanzanian Andrew Sambu and Japan's Toshiya Katayama are expected to be Ndungu's top challengers.

Tatyana Pozdnyakova of Ukraine, 47, is the top returning women's finisher with her runner-up effort from last year. But 32-year-old Romanian Nuta Olaru is the fastest entrant in the field with a 2:25:18 best set in finishing sixth in the 2001 London Marathon.

There will be a prize purse of $125,500 in the men's and women's races with the winners getting $25,000 and a Honda Accord valued at $25,300.

The race will be televised by Channel 4 and Channel 52 (Spanish), starting at 8.

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