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Costa Rican Wins Men’s LA Marathon; Ukrainian Wins Women’s Race

March 3, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Late entry Jose Luis Molina of Costa Rica won the men’s division and Lyubov Klochko of Ukraine won the women’s division of the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday, running over a new course with a new timing system.

Molina won in two hours, 13 minutes and 23 seconds, besting his country’s national record by 1 minute, 10 seconds and securing his place on the Oympic team.

``I’m accustomed to being in front,″ Molina said through an interpreter. ``When I saw that a Mexican was right behind me it made me try my best.″

Alfredo Vigueras of Mexico finished second, just three seconds behind the winner.

``He wasn’t really that much ahead,″ Vigueras said. ``Naturally, I’m sad not to win, but I’ve never won a marathon and this gives me confidence.″

Molina didn’t become an official entry until Friday. He explained that it was a mixup with his manager, an oversight that was quickly remedied.

``I had considered three months ago about entering Los Angeles,″ Molina said. ``I was training for it because I thought I was already entered in the field. It was a misunderstanding with my manager. He had many athletes to enter and he just forgot about me.″

Klochko won her second women’s LA title in 2:30:30. She plans to run the Cleveland Marathon and several half marathons to get ready for the Atlanta Olympics.

``I wanted to run with a pack of women,″ Klochko said through an interpreter, ``but no one wanted to go with me. I had to run with the men.″

The new 26-mile, 385-yard circuit covers much the same ground, but reverses direction, so that about 19,000 runners started on a slight downhill grade and finished on a downhill stretch as well.

All entrants had a computer chip tied to their shoelaces to mark start, half, and finish times. Officials could not immediately assess success of the chip and timing system, used for the first time in a major U.S. marathon.

Freeway traffic through the downtown area was backed up for several hours before race time despite elaborate preparations by the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Transportation.

Downtown freeway exits were closed and confused motorists simply stopped to let runners out of cars to fend for themselves. Runners scaled chainlink fences and climbed ivy embankments to reach the starting line.

A blimp and a half dozen helicopters hovered over the staging area amid the gleaming downtown towers. Several planes towed advertising banners.

During the marathon’s first decade, start and finish lines were at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The new course begins and ends in the center of the city in a move designed to boost business participation and spotlight the downtown area which is usually empty on Sunday.

There were a variety of characters that define wacky Southern California, including clowns, priests and nuns on the run.

Michael Fandal races as Ernest Desire, the Crime-Fighting Clown. Dennis Marsella runs while wearing a heavy winter coat, white dress shoes and gold knee socks while carrying a medium cheese pizza. Mike Cuzzacrea made the Guinness Book of World Records by running a 3:06:22 marathon while flipping two pancakes in a pan.

The band of Elvis impersonators, clutching cans of beer, took off with the rest of the runners. They were clad in white with scarfs and chains dangling around hairy chests. But none of them wore blue suede shoes.

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