The 35th annual Los Angeles Marathon began Sunday with public health officials encouraging runners and spectators to take enhanced measures to protect themselves from the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommended that spectators who were sick with even mild illness remain at home. Spectators were advised to engage in “social distancing,” keeping at least six feet away from other people who are not family members or friends.
Public Health also advised spectators not to share food or water bottles, avoid shaking hands, and frequently wash hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, particularly before eating, after using the restroom and after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing.
Runners among the record field of 27,150 from all 50 states and a record 78 nations who entered the race were asked by Public Health to not participate if they felt sick even with mild illness.
Public Health also recommend runners wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before the start of the race, not to shake hands with other participants or the public along the course, not to share water or food with other runners and frequently use hand sanitizer provided along the course.
Race organizers increased the number of hand sanitizer stations at the starting line at Dodger Stadium, along the 26.2-mile, 385-yard course and the finish festival in Santa Monica.
Public Health is not recommending the suspension of any large public events, including the marathon, director Barbara Ferrer said. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said “There’s no reason to cancel it.”
Entries from runners with a mailing address in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy, South Korea and Iran were deferred to the 2021 race, about 0.06% of the field, according to Murphy Reinschreiber, chief operating officer of the McCourt Foundation, which organizes the race.
The U.S. State Department has issued a “do not travel to” advisory to those nations.
More than 25,000 people were expected to run Sunday, according to Dan Cruz, the marathon’s head of communications.
There is traditionally about a 10% dropoff from the number of entrants to the number of runners, Cruz told City News Service. The entrants include 131 runners who have competed in all 34 previous editions of the race.
From Dodger Stadium, runners headed through downtown Los Angeles, Echo Park, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, Brentwood and Santa Monica. The previous record for entries was 26,054 in 2010, the first year of the “stadium to the sea” course. That race also had the most finishers, 22,580.
There were 25,500 entrants and 20,608 finishers in 2019. The race has had the fourth-largest field among U.S. marathons each year from 2016-19.
The previous high for nations with runners entered is 66, set last year.
The men’s professional field included Elisha Barno, the 2017 and 2019 champion, and fellow Kenyan, Weldon Kirui, the 2016 and 2018 winner. The men’s race has been won by a Kenyan every year since 1999, except for 2011 and 2014, when it was won by Ethiopians.
A U.S. runner last won in 1994.
Kenyan Antonina Kwambai has the fastest personal best in the women’s professional field, two hours, 27 minutes, 43 seconds.
Kwambai’s expected key challengers were expected to be fellow Kenyans Jane Kibll, the 2019 California International Marathon winner, and Margaret Muriuki, who won the 2019 Honolulu Marathon in December in her debut at the distance.
African women have won eight of the last 10 races, with runners from the former Soviet Union winning the other two times. A U.S. runner last won the women’s race in 1994.
The race has a purse of $100,000, with equal prize money for men and women.
The top five male and female finishers will receive prize money.
The winners will each receive $23,000, the runners-up $12,000 and third-place finishers $7,000. The top American man and woman will each receive a $2,000 bonus.
A separate prize purse of $9,000 is offered for the wheelchair competitors, with the men’s and women’s wheelchair winners each receiving $2,500.