‘Runners’ elite’ gear up for Sunday’s LA Marathon

Corey Moore/KPCC

Elias Kemboi at Dodger's Stadium.

Thousands of people are gearing up to run in Sunday’s L.A. Marathon. It kicks off from Dodger Stadium, rain or shine — and rain is a definite possibility.

Among the “elite” competitors is a champion from Kenya... and he has a previous record of 2:06:35 to beat. To make things even more interesting, there’s a $100,000 up for grabs, for the winner.

Elias Kemboi of Kenya tells me he’s the one to watch out for.

“When I run, sometimes there is that tension,” says Kemboi, who lives with his wife and three young sons in Kenya.

He doesn’t appear tense. At 27, he looks more like a kid, with his small frame, bald head and baby-face smile. A humble guy, but with just enough confidence in his voice to tells you that he wants to win... badly.

In 2009, Kemboi ran a race in Sao Paulo, Brazil and won in just under two hours and 14 minutes. He went on to beat that record by five minutes when he competed in the Netherlands last year. That was his personal best.

All the while, passport challenges prevented him from running the L.A. Marathon.

“I was supposed to come to this race but I missed [getting] the visa... what I’m expecting, I’m expecting good,” Kemboi says.

With his visa and winning spirit intact, Kemboi joined some fellow competitors at a pre-event panel at Dodger Stadium.

He’s got some stiff competition.

Many of these athletes have set records similar to Kemboi’s. They’ll all run the Stadium-to-Sea trek through Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Silver Lake and along the Sunset Strip to their final destination on Ocean Avenue near the Santa Monica Pier.

Not too hilly a course - and Kemboi likes that. After this race, he says he may want to start coaching. When I ask how a novice runner like me can get the training - and the nerve - to run that long 26-mile course, he barely hesitates.

“What’s difficult for you is the weight. When you train maybe you slim a bit... and make your exercise well.”

Right. I'll set my sights on that 5K.

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