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Grigoryeva, Cherono Win LA Marathon

March 19, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Russian Lidiya Grigoryeva pulled away from Ethiopia’s Gete Wami in the final stretch and staved off a challenge from men’s champion Benson Cherono to win the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday.

Grigoryeva, who set a course record in the women’s division, earned a $100,000 bonus for the winning time of 2 hours, 25 minutes, 10 seconds as part of ``The Challenge,″ a battle-of-the-sexes format that allows women to start ahead of the men.

Grigoryeva and Cherono each received $35,000 and a new car for winning the women’s and men’s divisions.

Race organizers gave the top women a 16:46 head start in hopes of creating a close finish with the top men. Last year’s time differential was 15:50.

In the last mile, Grigoryeva and Wami battled as Cherono tried to close the gap. With the finish line in sight, Grigoryeva outran Wami, who finished in 2:25:26. Defending women’s champion Lyubov Denisova finished in 2:26:18.

Cherono crossed the finish line steps behind Wami and set a men’s course record in 2:08:40. Fellow Kenyans Laban Kipkemboi and Simon Wangai were second and third in the men’s division in 2:10:08 and 2:10:35, respectively.

With the win, the women have won two of the three editions of ``The Challenge.″ Ukranian Tatyana Pozdnyakova won the inaugural event in 2004 using a 20 1/2-minute head start to her advantage. Kenyan Mark Saina was last year’s winner.

The time differential was derived this year by taking the difference between the marathon’s course records in the men’s and women’s divisions. Denisova set a course record for the women last year with a time of 2:26:11. The men’s former course record of 2:09:25 was set in 1999 by Simon Bor of Kenya.

Thousands of runners jammed the starting line in downtown Los Angeles in cool, crisp conditions. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee were among those who cheered the runners.

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