It had been 609 days since runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes took to the streets of Los Angeles for the city’s iconic marathon. After the long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of participants showed up Sunday morning at Dodger Stadium for the 36th annual Los Angeles Marathon. On a Chamber of Commerce running morning – 58 degrees at the start with blanket cloud cover – the day unfolded into a celebration.
LOS ANGELES (November 7, 2021) — Two years after getting passed in the homestretch, Kenyan John Korir earned his redemption by winning the 36th Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday with a dramatic late-race surge that buried the competition. On the women’s side, Welsh runner Natasha Cockram continued her running breakthrough with a surge of her own that helped earn her first marathon victory.
Korir, 24, was among the four-person lead pack that included Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea), Edwin Kimutai (Kenya) and Evans Korir (Kenya), all sub-2:10 marathoners. Running together and changing off the lead, that foursome passed through the halfway mark at 1:08:13. But after a few more miles went by and Evans Korir fell off the pace, John Korir threw in a fast surge during mile 18 on an uphill section along Santa Monica Boulevard and ran away from Mesel and Kimutai with a 4:39 mile.
He followed that with several more sub-4:50 miles to seal the victory in 2:12:48. Kimutai finished a distant second (2:18:01), a few strides ahead of Mesel (2:18:17).
Two years ago, Korir made a similar surge late in the race and thought he had secured a win, only to have Elisha Barno outsprint him to the finish line to snatch the victory with a four-second margin in 2:11:47. Korir’s older brother, Wesley Korir, won the Los Angeles Marathon in 2009 and 2010.
“Now our family is so happy today,” John Korir said. “This is three times our family winning this race. We are happy now.”
In the women’s race, Cockram and Kenya’s Antonina Kwamba ran stride-for-stride together for the first 18 miles at a moderate pace. On paper, Kwamba was much faster, owning a 2:24 personal best compared to Cockram’s 2:30. But had raced other marathons in the previous five weeks, so it came down to how each athlete had recovered and who was willing to make a bold move late in the race.
Just as Cockram started to surge near Mile 18, Kwamba began to fade, allowing Cockram to open up a huge lead that she expanded to more than 4 minutes by the time she reached the finish line in 2:33:17 in Century City. Kwamba finished second in 2:37:35, narrowly holding off a hard-charging Nina Zarina (2:37:36), a Russian athlete who lives in the Los Angeles area.
Cockram, 28, set a new Welsh national record in March with a 2:30:03 at the British Marathon Championships in March, but narrowly missed the qualifying standard for the Tokyo Olympics. On Oct. 3, she placed 17th in the London Marathon in 2:32:32.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to actually come to LA to race, but I am glad I did,” Cockram said. “My recovery went pretty well after London, but I wasn’t sure how my body was going to be feeling. But about halfway, I felt sure and comfortable. I kind of wish I’d gone earlier. Once I made the move, I just thought that was it. I was going to run hard to the finish.”
David Rodarte of Whittier, Calif., won the handcycle division in 2:01:17, edging Norman Vilchez Jr., of Winnetka, Calif. (2:04:14). The top Americans in the race were Pasadena’s Bijan Mazaheri, a PhD. student at Cal-Tech who placed fourth in 2:21:42, and Kayla Grahn, also of Pasadena, who finished fourth in 2:48:26 in her debut marathon.
In all, the 36th edition of the marathon attracted more than 13,000 runners participated in the 36th annual Los Angeles Marathon, which was moved from its original spring date after being postponed because of Covid-19 precautions. Today’s race included 127 participants that have completed every single Los Angeles Marathon since its inception in 1986.
There were also dozens of runners who ran the race for a charity, including Kourtney Turner, the wife of Los Angeles Dodgers star Justin Turner. She was running in support of the Justin Turner Foundation, one of the race’s official charities that supports homeless veterans, children (and their families) battling life-altering illnesses and various youth baseball organizations.
The Los Angeles Marathon is owned by the City of Los Angeles and operated by the McCourt Foundation, along with The LA Big 5K, Rose Bowl Half Marathon & 5K, Santa Monica Classic, Boston Waterfront 5K and Tour de South Shore.