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Marathon: In Favor of the Draft

Outside magazine, June 1995

Marathon: In Favor of the Draft
By Todd Balf (with Martin Dugard and Alison Osius)

By recruiting the best American men's marathon field likely to be seen anywhere this year, race president Bill Burke hoped to inspire the fastest times in Los Angeles Marathon history. He figured that a sub-2:10 performance by Bob Kempainen, current holder of the American best, or former world champion Mark Plaatjes might go a long way toward earning true world-class status for the event, dubbed by runners "the people's race." Unfortunately, any chance for a record time was sabotaged early on, when race rabbit and last year's surprise winner Paul Pilkington turned an ankle in a pothole. After Pilkington dropped out, the pace languished and the usual midrace slowdown ensued. Kempainen eventually took charge and by mile 20 had dropped everyone exept Ecuadoran Rolando Vera. But Vera, who drafted behind Kempainen for more than six miles, surged at the 23.5-mile mark. He opened a 50-yard gap on Kempainen, and that was the way it stayed till the finish. Vera's time was 2:11:39, a minute and 40 seconds shy of a course record.

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