25th Anniversary Maraton Lala delivers best-ever “Fiesta Lagunera”!

We just returned from Maraton Lala — an amazing weekend at Mexico’s premier marathon — where we launched our STWM 2013 campaign in Mexico: goal 200 runners this year! Better late than never, here’s my Race Report, with the view from the Press Truck.

THANKS to Canada Running Series’ Inge Johnson for the great photos!

There’s also a good VIDEO of the race, available on YouTube, put together by Juan Jose Martinez.

TORREON, Coahuila, Mexico. March 3rd. Isaack Kimaiyo and Truphena Jemeli combined for a Kenyan sweep at today’s 25th Anniversary edition of Maraton Lala, with relatively slow times of 2:13:56 and 2:37:03, in the Mexican city of Torreon, Coahuila. Labelled as “La Fiesta Lagunera”, the anniversary event saw record participation, with a sold out field of 4,500, record fundraising for local boys and girls programmes, and extra special anniversary energy.

Widely regarded as Mexico’s top marathon, Lala also boasts the fastest time in Latin America with a course record of 2:08:17 by Hillary Kimayo (no relation) in 2011. It provides a perfectly flat tour of Torreon and the neighbouring cities of Gomez Palacio and Lerdo in the adjacent state of Durango. At 1,000m, this is high desert country. It has been made famous by JohnWayne and John Ford who shot so many of their popular Western movies here, and where Wayne kept a family ranch for many years. Imagine those dry “Western” towns with tumbleweed blowing across parched, dusty landscape, and you can picture La Comarca Lagunera. The course ends at the magnificent Bosque Venustiano Carranza park – a lush green oasis built in the 1940s through the miracle of irrigation. On the first Sunday in March it belongs to Maraton Lala.

Excellent crowds were out to cheer on the 4,500 marathoners: energy on display in Lerdo at 10km!

The race is a gift to the region from Grupo Lala, the massive international dairy conglomerate that not only calls Torreon home, but whose name is a derivation of “LA LAgunera”. The company employs some 30,000 employees in 24 cities across Mexico, with 4,000 of these jobs in Torreon. It is a model for Latin American races, and owes much of its success to the tremendous organization as well as sponsorship funds that Grupo Lala bring to the event. Fully 3,500 of Lala’s local workforce turn out to form the core of Maraton Lala’s organization. Another 100+ run the 42km.

"will someone else PLEASE take a turn at leading!!" Alejandro Suarez making one of several appeals.

It was a chilly, clear 8 degrees celcius as dawn broke and today’s races started at 6:40am (women) and 7am (men) in front of the main Lala factory on Valle del Guardiana. With high desert altitude, humidity is a scant 20%, providing excellent conditions for racing. Alejandro Suarez, of Queretaro, a 27:43 10,000m man who was 4th in Maraton Lala 2009 (2:13:33), moved to the front from the outset, going through the first kilometre in 3:04. It soon became evident, however, that no-one else wanted to lead, nor push the pace, which dawdled to a 3:10/3:12 rate. 5K was thus passed by a lead group of 10 in 15:46, 10K in 31:41, 15K in 47:34, and 20K in 63:30, despite Suarez looking back on several occasions to search for assistance. Halfway was reached in 67:03 with 8 men still in contention. Growing impatient, Suarez put in a 2:58 twenty-third kilometre and then there were 3: Suarez, Kimaiyo, and Gualberto Vargas

Kimaiyo & Suarez duking it out through Gomez Palacio

from Guanajuato. By the time they reached 25k (1:19:10), Vargas was gone, and the race developed into an absorbing duel between the Mexican aggressor and the Kenyan stalker. 30k went by in 1:34:49 and 35k in 1:50:50 as Kimaiyo remained content to stay a step or two directly behind Suarez. Immediately after the 35k mark the Kenyan surged and created some separation, only to see the determined Mexican come back on him and resume the lead. When Kimaiyo dropped the hammer a second time between 37k and 38k it was all over, and he cruised home for the victory at marvellously energized Finish Line at the Bosque. Suarez held on for second (2:14:29), disappointingly shy of the Mexican qualifying standard for Moscow of 2:14:00. Tomas Luna, of Veracruz and the Rodolfo Gomez Club, came through for third in 2:15:30.

Who says running 42km is tiring? Fabulous energy at the Finish Line!

Though less competitive, the women’s race was not without interest. A group of five moved to the front early, and assumed a commanding position in the race: Kenyan Gladys Onwonga, eventual winner Jemeli, plus Mexicans Vianey De La Rosa, Paula Apolonio and Sarai Perez. Jemeli managed to get away by 30k (1:51:22), but 25 year old De La Rosa stayed doggedly close to finish just 27 seconds back in 2:37:30, taking 9 minutes off her previous best. Coached in Mexico City by legend Wanda Panfil, she was perhaps the best Mexican news of the day, as a bright new talent emerging in an era when Mexican marathoning definitely seems to be in the doldrums. Apolonio, from Guanajuato, faded over the last 10km, to come home 3rd in 2:38:56.

"The Proposal"!

But the 25th Anniversary of Maraton Lala was about so much more than the races up front. Always a “fiesta”, this year’s on-course entertainment and especially the Finish area, were the best-ever with so much energy, entertainment and celebration. One of the many highlights was the (successful) marriage proposal of Octavio Hoyos to Ivette Crespa of Mexico City. It was a great day for marathon running, where Grupo Lala, the Comarca Lagunera, and the record number of participants could all say “te amo” Mexican-style!

MEN’S RESULTS http://www.asdeporte.com/resultadoseventos/resultados.asp

WOMEN‘S RESULTS http://www.asdeporte.com/resultadoseventos/resultados.asp

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