If it weren’t for his aching feet, Lotatoa "Lota" Ward thinks he would've finished the recent Antelope Island Buffalo Run, a 50-mile trail race near Salt Lake City, Utah.
He made it 33 miles, an impressive distance for any runner to complete. But Lota isn’t just any runner, he's an 8-year-old with a brain tumor.
"I like running because it helps me a lot with hard times," Lota told Runner's World Newswire. "It doesn't make me feel scared going into brain surgery."
Inspired by his ultrarunner dad, Keith, Lota started hitting the trails behind his family home in Layton, Utah, last year. He ran three half-marathons, including the 2014 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship 21K in September, where he raised about $1,700 for two of his friends who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy.
"As his mom, I had a lot of reservations about his running," Rowena Ward said. "I honestly did not want him running the long races. But Lota didn’t take 'no' from me. He brought up the topic every day. Then his dad talked me into letting him try a half-marathon. My hope was that afterward, he would say he would never want to run a race again because it was too hard. But that’s not what he told me at the finish line of his first race.
"At that point, we didn't know he had a brain tumor," she added.
In October, a visit to the optometrist showed the back of Lota’s eyes were swollen. A month later, doctors told the Wards the swelling was due to a benign teratoma brain tumor. Lota underwent two surgeries to remove the tumor.
During a routine follow-up in February, an MRI revealed a new tumor that was four times larger than the original one. The golf-ball-sized mass contained early signs of cancer. Lota went in for his third surgery the next day so doctors could collect samples.
"That surgery was on a Wednesday, and he did a 10-mile training run on Sunday," Keith said. "I think running has helped the mental part of his recovery. Every time he has surgery, he is so motivated to get out of bed. He's up and walking within six hours."
Keith said his son's doctors fully support his running. In fact, his neurosurgeon is a trail runner himself.
"We asked [the doctor] if Lota's running would affect the growth of the tumor or cause it to do mutations, and he said it doesn't affect it at all," Keith said. "He said, 'As long as it keeps him happy and healthy, I don't see anything wrong with it.'"
Rowena said Lota will undergo a fourth surgery soon before doctors decide whether chemotherapy is necessary.
"I think running really helps him deal with a lot of what he's going through," Rowena said.
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organizers of the Vuelta a España, announced invited teams for the 2015 race on Friday in Madrid.
Along with the 17 WorldTour teams that are granted automatic invitations, five wild card selections were also named for the race that will take place from August 22 to Sept. 13.
The Vuelta will start in Puerto Banús (Costa del Sol. Málaga) and conclude in Madrid. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador is the reigning champion, but it is unlikely that he will defend his title in 2015, because he plans to target the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France instead.
LONDON -- Ethiopian distance-running great Kenenisa Bekele has pulled out of next month's London Marathon because of an Achilles tendon injury.
Bekele, a multiple Olympic and world champion on the track, had been scheduled to make his debut in the London race on April 26, but picked up the injury to his right Achilles while competing in the Dubai Marathon in January.
He says he "desperately wanted to run in London this year, but the injury to my Achilles has not healed sufficiently for me to compete against such a great field."
Organizers announced two new entrants to the field Monday: Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai and Ethiopia's Aselefech Mergia.
Mutai is a two-time New York Marathon champion and winner of the 2012 Berlin Marathon.
The lineup already features current marathon record-holder Dennis Kimetto and former record-holder and defending champion Wilson Kipsang.
Copyright 2015 by the Associated Press
Kenya's Ogla Jerono Kimaiyo surged after a steady pace by the women’s lead pack for a majority of the race, winning in 2:34:10. Natalya Puchkova was second in 2:34:33 before the top American crossed the finish line with Blake Russell third in 2:34:57.
Here are a few observations from the day’s action in Los Angeles:
How good is Ward?
Before the race, the 2014 U.S. marathon championship runner-up was thinking about running somewhere within the 2:10 and 2:11 range, but when the forecasts for warm weather began coming in Ward adjusted his goal.
Sunday’s race will be contested in record-hot temperatures as a weather advisory was issued earlier in the week. The full field start time was moved from 6:25 a.m. to 6:55 a.m.
Ryan Hall, America’s fastest marathoner, does not believe weather will be much of a factor, as long as humidity is not involved.
“I don’t think it’ll be too bad,” Hall said. “We’ve been running at the same time as we would during the race for the last couple days and the weather is similar temperatures for race day. Might be 70s in Santa Monica, which is similar to the conditions to when I ran 2:08 in London.”
For Hall, the conditions can not be worse than the warm, humid and polluted air at 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing.
“It wasn’t bad as it could’ve been on that particular day,” Hall said. “It was something that required special preparation and I was training in sweats and wearing a beanie -- all that crazy stuff.”
For Hall, there will be no ice vests at the starting line or insulated water bottles along the course in Los Angeles. He will stick to his preparation and trust the training he did in Ethiopia over the last couple weeks.
Mike Morgan (2:14 personal best, 2012 Olympic Trials) tailored his training by spending two weeks in Orlando, Fla.
“You have to make some adjustments to your overall training pace and that’s what we’re hoping to do,” Morgan said. “As far as what that is, it’s a guessing game. It’s not going to be as humid here, but you just hope you can figure it out from previous experiences with the heat.”
World championship spots at stake
United States Track and Field will also use the Los Angeles Marathon as part of the national team selection process for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. One each of the three men and three women that will represent the U.S. in China will come from the Los Angeles Marathon’s top five finishers.
Since LA is not an IAAF-eligible course, those athletes must have run faster than the 2:18 qualifying standard between July 1, 2014 and April 26, 2015.
Hall said he would “politely decline” the USATF selection.
“I just don’t like running marathons in really hot conditions,” Hall said. “I think it could also be detrimental to your career in general. If you look at Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley after they had their Duel in the Sun, that set them back for quite a while. I’m not a big fan of running marathons in the heat, unless you have to like the Olympics.”
On the flip side, a runner like Mike Morgan, who has not made an Olympic team, would take the opportunity if selected.
“Any chance I can get to represent the United States, I’d take,” Morgan said. “It’s an awesome opportunity and some of my best memories in running come from wearing a U.S.A. jersey. I would have a tough time turning one of those down.”
HOKA One One Northern Arizona Elite coach Ben Rosario said he’s had internal talks with athletes Matt LLano and Scott Smith and they would decline the USATF selection as well.
“We can’t risk the Olympic Trials or future on one race,” Rosario said. “The runners that accept it also understand the risk.”
At some point during Sunday’s race, Ryan Hall will pass his wife Sara, who is running her marathon debut, along the course in her marathon debut.
Sara Hall said the training leading up to her 26.2 mile debut felt natural and is “excited that it’s finally time to take the plunge.”