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2 MARCH 2008: LALA MARATHON, MEXICO - by Alan Brookes.
Both Procopio Franco and Patricia Retiz recorded impressive come-from-behind victories at the 20th Anniversary race in the city of Torreón writes Alan Brookes.
Torreón is an industrial city of 1 million, at 1000m altitude, spread out across the high desert of northern Mexico and bounded by the Cerro de las Noas Mountains. It is home to the Lala milk company – one of the country's largest dairy processors and distributors – and the marathon is their gift to "La Lagunera", the city and region surrounding it. As Mexico's top marathon, it attracts tens of thousands of spectators who line the flat, 42km route in this "Fiesta Lagunera". More than 40 bands along the course cranked up the carnival atmosphere for the record field of 4,494.
Conditions were warm: 18°C at the pre-dawn starts (elite at women 06:40, others at 07:00) and Hillary Kimayo and Julius Kipyego took off like they couldn't wait to get to the post-marathon party at Bosque Venustiano Carranza – a miracle park of green grass and trees, made possible only by irrigation. They blitzed the first kilometre in 2:50, and were 14:53 at 5km. They followed up with 5km splits of 15:12 and 15:17, before the wheels started to come off. The veteran Procopio Franco, himself known as a frequently-injudicious front-runner, ran a wonderfully patient race as he worked with Guanajuato's Carlos Cordero to close the gap.
By 30km he had the Kenyan pair in his sights, but Kimayo dropped Kipyego in a vain but valiant effort to stay ahead of the charging Franco. Franco floated by Kipyego, and nailed Kimayo at 36km. Kimayo hung on for second, with the surprised Cordero coming through for third, as the cheers of "México, México" rose up from the grandstand, and the relentless desert sun beat down. This was the 34-year old Franco's first Lala victory, after two seconds and a fourth place in previous editions, when he unwisely led the early charge to the front.
The women's race was almost a carbon copy drama, played out by Mexicans Dulce Maria Rodríguez and Patricia Retiz. Paced by her Kenyan training partner, Genoveva Jelegat, Rodríguez broke away early from a lead pack of six. It was not until 35km that Retiz reeled in the fading Rodríguez. This was a second major victory for Retiz who had bested Madai Perez, Mexico's top women's marathoner, at the Guadalajara Half Marathon a week earlier.
With more than 4,000 volunteers, great sponsors and tremendous crowds, Maratón Lala provides a fine example of how well Mexican marathons are doing nowadays. Lala is their showcase, providing quality and a special "fiesta" experience.
1 Procopio FRANCO MEX 2:12:38
2 Hilary KIMAIYO KEN 2:13:08
3 Carlos CORDERO MEX 2:13:28
4 Isaac KIMAIYO KEN 2:13:58
5 Christopher KIPYEGO KEN 2:16:03
6 Julius KIPYEGO KEN 2:16:22
7 Thomas LUNA MEX 2:16:39
8 Edilberto MENDEZ MEX 2:16:51
9 Jonnatan MORALES MEX 2:17:48
10 Carlos ROMERO MEX 2:18:49
1 Patricia RETIZ MEX 2:30:29
2 Dulce Maria RODRIGUEZ MEX 2:33:23
3 Karina PEREZ MEX 2:35:07
4 Judith RAMIREZ MEX 2:36:29
5 Jessica RODRIGUEZ MEX 2:36:32
6 Viola BOR KEN 2:41:14
7 Jaqueline ORELLANA MEX 2:43:27
8 Maria Guadelupe SANTANA MEX 2:43:57
9 Alicia RODRIGUEZ MEX 2:44:55
10 Ariana QUINO MEX 2:46:08