People stand in the rain along Ocean Avenue and cheer for the runners nearing the finish line on Ocean Avenue (photo by Brandon Wise)

OCEAN AVE — Thousands of runners braved pouring rain and cold temperatures to complete the 2011 L.A. Marathon in Santa Monica on Sunday, some breaking personal records despite the inclement weather.

Triumphant finishers were greeted with cheers, mylar blankets and a pantry of food from some 50,000 bananas brought in for the event to fruit cups and bagels.

Mayor Richard Bloom and Mayor Pro-tem Gleam Davis assisted Marathon Chairman Frank McCourt in holding up the finish line ribbon broken by the top male and female runners.

“We want to show them we’re glad they came to Santa Monica, even if it took them 26.2 miles to get here,” Davis quipped.

Elite runners arrived just over the two-hour mark, with Ethiopian rookie Markos Geneti cruising to a record-breaking finish at 2:06:35. Buzunesh Deba, also from Ethiopia, won the women’s division with a 2:26:34 time, and a first-time American marathon runner, Amy Hastings, came in second.

It wasn’t just the top-ranked competitors that came away with big personal wins, however.

Miguel Canton beat his personal best time by almost six minutes, coming in just over the three-hour mark.

Canton, originally of Oaxaca, Mex., and a current resident of Venice, has run six L.A. Marathons and shaved almost an hour off of his 2006 time.

Eighteen-year-old Tiana Thorp, of San Pedro, also conquered her sixth marathon with a top time Sunday.

Thorp began running marathons in the sixth grade. She came away with a 3:52 finish in some of the worst conditions she’s competed in, she said.

“I’ve never run in something like this, it was insane,” Thorp said. “With 200 meters left, it just started pouring rain.”

When the Daily Press caught up with Thorp, she was recuperating in the second of three temporary emergency departments set up by Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center volunteers at the senior center on Ocean Boulevard.

Several runners walked in small circles around the room, coaxing cramped muscles back to life, trying to regain body heat lost to the cold, rain and wind in the race.

Marathons come with a set of expected ailments, including dehydration, heat stroke and cramps, said Posie Carpenter, chief administrative officer with the medical center.

This Sunday, runners arrived at the finish line on Ocean Boulevard at California Avenue with hypothermia.

According to the National Weather Service, winds in Santa Monica were expected to reach between 25 and 30 miles per hour, and temperatures hung just below 60 degrees.

Over 125 Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center staff members volunteered their time and services to help the soaked participants recover in the three temporary emergency departments set up in three locations after the finish line.

The centers were quickly overwhelmed. As runners poured in, staff worked with the Fairmont Hotel to open the Starlight Ballroom as an impromptu warming station, said Santa Monica-UCLA spokesperson Ted Braun.

News wire services reported that over 200 runners were sent to the Fairmont, while 300 total were treated for hypothermia. Twenty were sent to mobile hospitals for hypothermia and severe muscle cramps.

Nurses tended to runners with towels, warm fluids and electrolytes in an attempt to warm and rehydrate them, Carpenter said.

Even elite runners reported to the first emergency department, just outside the Fairmont, said Dr. Nick Shamie, an orthopedic surgeon with the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

The weather brought other challenges to athletes, including slippery conditions that resulted in multiple falls. One man spilled out of his wheel chair just outside of Dodger Stadium, cutting his finger badly in the process, Shamie said.

“He had an open wound on his finger,” Shamie said. “He got back in and just plowed through the other 26.2 miles.”

The people completing the race were inspirational to the volunteers, Shamie said.

“It’s a good feeling to be here today helping these heroic athletes,” he said.

The L.A. Marathon hasn’t experienced weather like this since 2000, said Peter Abraham, creative director of the race.

“So far, I’m really impressed by how resillient the runners and volunteers are,” he said.

Steady rain and chilling wind did not deter die-hards from coming out to watch the race, although the crowds were not as thick as in previous years.

Family members and friends lined the fences in an effort to see their competitors, some arriving as early as 6:30 a.m. to grab a choice spot.

Alicia Guererro, of Ontario, and her family came to watch son Miguel Guererro compete in his first marathon.

“He’s been practicing for months,” she said excitedly. “He’s on pace for four hours.”


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