21 March 2014, 11am
Maratón Internacional Lala
Sun 2 March 2014
The marathon course starts and finishes in the city of Torreon, but winds its way through the neighbouring towns of Lerdo and Gomez Palacio that straddle the border between the states of Coahuila and Durango at 1000m above sea level.
Not to be outdone by last year’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, the 26th edition was larger and more vibrant than ever. To further promote the growth of the event, and to encourage fitness participation and spectator support throughout the region, an inaugural recreational cycling event, “Rodada Ciclista”, was held on the full marathon course on the previous Sunday to begin a new, improved, week-long “Fiesta Lagunera”. The new addition attracted 1700 riders.
Even more impressive was the stunning 25m-high permanent arch built at the Finish Line. “El Grito de Triunfo” was created by Torreon architect Mario Talamás Murra, and featured on this year’s t-shirts and finishers’ medals.
With an average monthly rainfall in February, March and April of less than 2mm, this is the tumbleweed, high-desert country made famous in John Wayne westerns. The weather is almost as warm as the hospitality, but the food is hotter – and tasty.
It was already 16C for the 07.00 start in front of the Grupo Lala headquarters, and the thermometer climbed steadily to 22C at the finish line at the Bosque Venustiano Carranza Finish, but between the two there was a race to be run.
A record sold-out crowd of 5000 runners from eight countries toed the start line, and more than 100,000 spectators lined the streets. The on-course entertainment added to the energy and created the “42.195 kilómetros de emociones” as the organisers had promised.
From the start, Kenyan Hillary Kimaiyo charged to the front in his signature fashion that has seen him victorious in many Mexican races, including the 2011 edition of Maratón Lala where he set the impressive course record of 2:08:17 that still stands as the Latin American All-Comers Record. Kimaiyo pulled a lead pack of eight runners through the first kilometre in 2:59, and seemed to be oblivious to the conditions. They went through 5km in 15:36. By 8km a more judicious foursome, that included eventual race winner Stephen Mburi, backed off so that there were then two groups of four.
The lead pack of Kimaiyo, Mexican favourite Daniel Vargas, and Kenyans Simon Kariuki and Stephen Tanui pushed on, passing 10km in 31:11. Vargas kept pressing and by halfway (1:05:38), only Kariuki remained with him. When Kariuki dropped like a stone after 24km Vargas was all alone (25km in 1:18:19). At this stage, Mburi was almost a minute back.
By 30km (1:33:51), the gap was over a minute, but the signs were ominous. Of the original lead pack of four, three had dropped out: Tanui barely made it to 15km; Kimaiyo’s day was done shortly after halfway; and Kariuki’s before 30km. Still, all through Gomez Palacio, Daniel Vargas looked comfortable and on cruise control for a popular Mexican victory. Then disaster struck as he was forced to stop and stretch with leg cramps just before 35km (reached in 1:51:11 – so he ran only 17:20 between 30–35km).
He got going again, but had to stop a second time at 36km, and again within sight of the 40km marker. Steadily, the patient Mburi closed the gap, and although a valiant Vargas was able to keep going, the Kenyan passed him at 40km (2:08:11) and opened up a 50 second gap by the time they reached the Grito de Triunfo arches and “La Meta”. Kibet came home a distant third with Tlaxcala’s Pedro Espinoza just a second behind him. Guatemala’s Jose Amado Garcia, a silver medallist at the 2007 Pan American Games marathon and frequent Central American Games champion, was a disappointing fifth.
The women’s race was less dramatic, but provided an early duel between Ethiopian Shewarge Amare and Kenya’s Emily Chepkorir. The more experienced Amare had placed fourth at the 2011 New York City Half Marathon in 1:09:25, and was fourth at last year’s Santiago de Chile Marathon.
They went through 10km together in 35:37 before Chepkorir opened a 13-second lead at 15km. By halfway they were again running together, before the Ethiopian took control to eventually notch a comfortable five-minute victory.
More than ever, the finish line was a “Fiesta Lagunera” zone, with confetti, mime artists and stiltwalkers, pulsating music and crowded grandstands. El Grito Triunfo towered above it all, offering tribute to the Marathon, and the 2014 Maraton Lala’s rallying call to “se tu propia leyenda” – be your own legend.