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Field Likely to Set Record

March 07, 2004|John Ortega

A record turnout is expected for the Los Angeles Marathon when the 19th running of the 26-mile, 385-yard race starts this morning on Figueroa Street near 6th Street.

More than 24,000 people had registered for the event as of 3 p.m. Saturday, leading meet organizers to expect the number of participants in today's event to top the previous high of 22,167 set last year.

The wheelchair division is scheduled to start at 8:05 a.m., followed by the elite women's field at 8:12, the hand-cranked wheelchair division at 8:18 and the rest of the runners, including the elite men, at 30 seconds after 8:32.

The unusual final start time is required because race organizers are giving the elite female runners a 20-minute 30-second head start over the elite men as part of what they've termed "the challenge."

The challenge, which will be a first in any marathon, will award a $50,000 bonus to the first runner, male or female, to cross the finish line.

In addition, the winner of the men's and women's divisions will each receive $25,000 and a car valued at $26,400 from one of the race's sponsors.

Runners can also earn bonus money if they better certain time standards.

Stephen Ndungu of Kenya, the runner-up in last year's race and the 2001 and 2002 champion, is favored to win the men's title.

Kenyans Elijah Yator, David Kirui and Henry Serem are among those expected to challenge Ndungu.

Tatyana Pozdnyakova of Ukraine, who turned 49 this week, is favored to win her second consecutive women's title.

Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Russia, second to Pozdnyakova last year, and Beatrice Omwansa of Kenya, last year's Paris Marathon champion, are probable candidates to challenge her.

-- John Ortega

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