"I felt more like walking than running in the last 200 meters," said the spent Ngolepus only half in jest as he outlasted equally fatigued countryman Jomo Kororia by 20 seconds over the closing miles. The winning time was the second slowest in race history after the 2:12:45 run by Ethiopia's Belay Wolasha in the sun and heat of 2000. Yet today's weather seemed ideal for running with the traditional June marine layer hanging over the city obscuring the sun, and temperatures in the low 60s at the 6:45 a.m. race start in Balboa Park.
The men's race came down to a pack of four at 20 miles when the last rabbit, Peter Chebet, stepped off the course. Ngolepus took over the reigns with debuting Kenyan half-marathon star Paul Kirui on his left shoulder. In tandem behind them ran 2003 Country Music Marathon champion Jomo Kororia and Ethiopia's Tekeste Kebede who was running only his second marathon. By 24 miles only Ngolepus and Kororia remained and the end-game began in earnest.
"I went after 24," explained Ngolepus, "because I knew that he (Kororia) was strong over the last two miles. I'm not good in a last kick."
Ngolepus had run his fastest time last year in London, 2:07:56, but was out-kicked by two others by one second. He wasn't going to make the same mistake in San Diego. Though he slowed to a 5:44 final mile, he held just enough in reserve to hold off Kororia.
The women reduced their pack at 22 miles to just Kenya's Margaret Atodonyang and Titova after a pack of five, including two-time and defending champion Irina Bogacheva of Kyrgyzstan, began faltering after the group passed halfway in 1:14:29.
As with the men, the women's break came at 24 miles. Titova, who had cut back on her racing schedule from up to seven marathons a year to just one so far in 2004, second at the Los Angeles Marathon in March, didn't tire at all over the final miles.
"Happy people are not tired," said the 38-year-old Titova after her two-minute margin of victory.
Over 20,000 runners from all 50 states entered San Diego's signature racing event and more than 18,000 plus started. Among them were over 4,000 Team In Training runners, who raised $12.5 million for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. With today's effort the $100 million (net) fundraising milestone was reached among the four musical marathons, with over $84 million being raised in San Diego alone.
MEN 1. Joseph Ngolepus, Kenya, 2:11:04, $10,000 + Suzuki Product totaling $60,000 2. Jomo Kororia, Kenya, 2:11:24, $5,000 + Suzuki Verona Midsize Sedan 3. Tekeste Kebede, ETH, 2:11:48, $3,000 + Suzuki Intruder Volusia 800 Motorcycle 4. Ondoro Osoro, Kenya, 2:12:22, $2,500 + Suzuki Vinson ATV 5. George Okworo, Kenya, 2:13:26, $2,000 + Suzuki DF40 4-stroke Outboard Motor 6. Noah Bor, Kenya, 2:13:28, $2,000 7. Stephen Ndungu, Kenya, 2:17:09, $1,300 8. Belay Wolasha, Ethiopia, 2:18:47, $1,200 9. David Busienei, Kenya, 2:20:21, $1,100 10. Henry Tarus, Kenya, 2:21:49, $1,000
WOMEN 1. Tatiana Titova, Russia, 2:29:36, $10,000 + Suzuki Product totaling $60,000 2. Margaret Atodonyang, Kenya, 2:31:58, $5,000 + Suzuki Verona Midsize Sedan 3. Irina Safarova, RUS, 2:33:23, $3,000 + Suzuki Intruder Volusia 800 Motorcycle 4. Madina Biktagirova, Russia, 2:34:12, $2,500 + Suzuki Vinson ATV 5. Anuta Catuna, Romania, 2:34:44, $2,000 + Suzuki DF40 4-stroke Outboard Motor 6. Violetta Uryga, Poland, 2:39:46, $2,000 7. Lisha Hamilton, USA/PA, 2:43:59, $1,300 8. Janice Posey, USA/AZ, 2:50:56, $1,200 9. Irina Bogacheva, Kyrgyzstan, 2:57:41, $1,100 10. Cheryl Smith, USA/CA, 3:02:35, $1,000
Ryan Lamppa, Running USA Media Services 385 Oak View Ln Santa Barbara, CA 93111 (805) 696-6232; fax (805) 967-5958 http://www.runningusa.org