Simon Njoroge won the L.A. Marathon men's race last year, but came… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)
Simon Njoroge intends to a employ a different strategy in the 28th Asics L.A. Marathon on Sunday.
The Kenyan runner won the men's race last year but could not catch the women's winner, who collected a $100,000 gender challenge bonus for crossing the finish line first.
This year, the women will start 18 minutes 35 seconds ahead of the men — the difference in time between event records in the men's and women's divisions. The bonus is $50,000.
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"This time," Njoroge said Friday, "I am focused to get that bonus."
Njoroge, who won last year's race in 2 hours 12 minutes 12 seconds, is part of 16-man elite field that includes Kenyans Nicholas Chelimo, Moses Kigen and Philemon Baaru — who have run sub-2:08 marathons. American Nick Arciniaga, who attended Cal State Fullerton and has run 2:11:30, also is in the field.
Deena Kastor, the U.S. women's record holder with a time of 2:19:36, is among eight runners in the elite field.
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Kastor, 40, said she was accustomed to tempo runs with men while training in Mammoth Lakes and quipped that it won't be a surprise if she turns her shoulder at the starting line and says, "Catch me if you can."
Winners of the men's and women's races will each receive $25,000.
This is the 10th year the Los Angeles marathon will feature the gender challenge bonus. Women have won five times, including last year. With a 17-minute 31-second head start, Ethiopian runner Fatuma Sado won the women's race in 2:25:39.
Njoroge, 32, said he and other elite men "did not want to push each other" in the early part of the 2012 race, which cost him in the gender challenge.
"From the start, we made the mistake to go slow," he said.
According to organizers, this year's race is sold out with 24,000 entrants. The 26.2-mile course begins at Dodger Stadium and ends at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and California Avenue in Santa Monica.
Three-time defending champion Krige Schabort is among 18 men in the elite wheelchair division. Schabort won last year in 1:39:53. Two-time defending champion Shirley Reilly, who finished in 1:57:09 last year, is among seven in the women's elite field.