LA Marathon notebook: Kenyans sweep; Ward wins U.S. title; Hall drops out

Daniel Limo and Olga Kimaiyo led a strong Kenyan contingent at the LA Marathon. AP Photo, Getty Images

Kenya’s Daniel Limo used a late surge to win the ASICS LAMa rathon men’s race in 2:10:35 over compatriot Lani Rutto (2:12:42). American Jared Ward broke up the Kenyan podium sweep by making up ground in the final miles, and was also crowned the USATF 2015 U.S. Marathon Champion.

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.

“When it starts getting hot like this, you adjust your timing,” Ward said. “(The heat) made a race out of it, which is kind of fun. It becomes a true championship race instead of a time trial.”

Ward’s 2:12:56 would have been the ninth-fastest in the United States in 2014. Next year, the top three finishers at the U.S. Olympic Trials (to be run in Los Angeles) will go on to represent their country at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, and Ward may be a contender for one of those spots.

“There’s certainly a lot of talent,” Ward said. “I’ll just go and get myself as ready as I can and see what happens. I don’t like to think so far ahead, so I’ll focus on the races ahead of me, staying fit and having fun. As we get closer in training, we’ll assess where we could end up.”

With Ward's U.S. Championship victory, he has the option to run the marathon at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. His summer racing plans, which may include races on the track, are still undetermined.

In his third crack at the 26.2 mile distance, Ward’s transition from an All-American track runner to marathoner is progressing well.

Rough day for Hall family

ESPN.com was able to get this statement from agent Ray Flynn on Ryan Hall, the American record holder who dropped out of the race just before the halfway mark:

“I haven’t spoken with him yet. He texted me and told me that he’s OK. I thought he was doing really well at the beginning of the race and not really sure what happened. It was hot out there. The pace was pretty hot. I’m sorry it didn’t go the way he wanted. I’m sure he’s disappointed and I hope he can get back on track.”

After leading in the the early miles, Hall never passed his wife, Sara, who was making her marathon debut on the women's side. Sara Hall went on to finish in 2:48:02.

Russell gets it right

Blake Russell, 39 years old and the mother of two, has not been able to finish a marathon since placing 27th (2:33:13) at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Russell was unable to finish the 2011 Boston Marathon and 2014 New York City Marathons.

“New York was kind of devastating,“ Russell said. “It felt like I built a whole year leading up to it, but it wasn’t meant to be that day. I can’t blame it on the weather, because it just wasn’t there. For this one I changed everything up -- literally everything -- from mileage to schedules to training runs to paces.”

Russell will return to Los Angeles to face stiffer competition at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in less than a year.

Llano getting better

Matt Llano’s runner-up finish for the U.S. championship crown was much better than his debut in Chicago. Llano finished sixth overall in 2:16:13, an improvement of over a minute improvement from his 2:12:43 last October.

“I actually felt a little worse today than I did in Chicago,” Llano said. “It was a hilly in the downtown loops, which was drastically different from Chicago. We’ve been preparing for it in Flagstaff, so I knew they were going to be there.”


• The most discussed race factor entering Sunday was the record heat expected for the race. Elite runners started taking water from volunteers in the early miles of the race to prevent dehydration.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Llano said. “I didn’t start to notice it until later on. I think we were all being pretty proactive throughout the race and even between all the fluid stations, we were all grabbing waters off the side.

“I’m glad it’s done”

• Scott Bauh was once the youngest runner to break four minutes for the mile and 28 minutes for 10,000-meters. After years of preparation, he finally made his marathon debut and finished 22nd overall in 2:32:34.

“I’m glad it’s done,” Bauhs said. “This isn’t going to be my last marathon, but probably my last for a while. I might try to get the Olympic trials qualifier in the half and go to the trials or just go to some shorter stuff and keep going.”