Korir, Petrova win L.A. Marathon

LOS ANGELES -- Wesley Korir didn't know what to expect at the Los Angeles Marathon.

The University of Louisville runner just wanted to post a good time in his first elite marathon. He did that and more Monday, setting a course record in capturing the title, the 11th straight year a Kenyan man has won.

"I felt good all the way," he said.

Russia's Tatiana Petrova was the top woman, breaking away from the pack after 19 miles.

Korir covered the 26.2 miles in a personal best of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 24 seconds. Ethiopia's Tariku Jafar was second in 2:09:32 and Kenya's Laban Kipkemboi was third in 2:10:29.

Paul Kosgei of Kenya was taken to a hospital for dehydration but was expected to be OK, race officials said. He finished in 2:21:10.

Korir averaged a 4:53.9 mile and broke the 2:08:40 course record set by Kenya's Benson Cherono in 2006. He took the pace after 15 miles. He and Jufar exchanged the lead several times down the stretch, but Korir stepped up the tempo when he passed the women's field after 24 miles.

"I just felt really good and said it was time to go," he said.

He sprinted past the line and didn't look fatigued, flashing smiles and shaking hands with fans. He earned $100,000 as part of The Challenge, a battle-of-the-sexes format that allowed the top women to start nearly 17 minutes ahead of the men. He also picked up an additional $60,000 for time bonuses.

In college, Korir ran 5,000-meter races. He turned heads in his 2008 marathon debut when he finished in 2:13:53 and also won three straight half marathons in 2008-09.

Kipkemboi held the pace with Korir until about 20 miles, then told his countryman to run ahead.

"At the beginning I was feeling OK," Kipkemboi said. "But after 20 miles, I felt tired so I didn't keep going with these guys. I ran at my own pace. I told him if he felt really strong to keep pushing."

The course started downtown and looped through Staples Center and the University of Southern California. Then it was over the Santa Monica freeway and through Beverly Hills.

Some elite runners were worried about the race date, the latest in event history. But the weather was 59 degrees with 76 percent humidity at the start and 62 degrees at the finish.

Petrova surged past Ethiopia's Amane Gobena to finish in 2:25:59. Another Russian, Silvia Skvortsova, was third in 2:28:35.

"When I passed 20 miles, I understood that I could win the race," Petrova said through a translator.

Nuta Olaru shared the lead for the first 10 miles, but the 39-year-old Romanian fell back and dropped out after 15 miles. The lead pack started to string out soon after, with Petrova leading and Kenyans Alice Chelangat and Magdaline Chemjor close behind. Petrova averaged a 5:34.1 mile.

Petrova, who competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Beijing Olympics, earned $40,000 for the victory. Her goal was to qualify for the road race at this year's world championships in August. The Russian federation will decide this week whether she will represent her country in the event.

The race was under new management this year. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt bought the operating rights in September under his new company, Going the Distance, and switched the race to Memorial Day.

U.S. soldiers in two countries shadowed the race, holding marathons on camp bases. More than 500 soldiers at camp Taji in Iraq ran through the desert at 5 a.m. Iraqi time to raise money for a fallen soldier, finishing the race in 99-degree heat; two soldiers in Afghanistan also ran.