LOS ANGELES -- No American elite runner has won the Los Angeles Marathon since a sweep in 1994.
Local runners Deena Kastor and Nick Arciniaga hope to change that.
Kastor, from nearby Agoura Hills, has the fastest time among the elite runners for the 28th running on Sunday.
The best time posted by Arciniaga of Fountain Valley is about two minutes slower than the best by defending champion Simon Njoroge of Kenya, but he said Friday that he hopes to "make that next jump" from 2 hours, 11 minutes to 2:09.
Kenyan men and Russian women have dominated this race. Since Americans Paul Pilkington and Olga Appell won their respective races 19 years ago, Kenyans have won 13 times, including 12 consecutive times between 1999 and 2010. Russian women have won seven times, although not since 2009.
Kastor holds the American record at 2:19:36, which she ran in London. But that was seven years ago, and now at age 40, she's past her prime.
But what a prime that was: an Olympic bronze medal in Athens and five American records, including the marathon, half-marathon and three road races.
"I'm not sure how much longer I'll be doing this," she said, "but as long as the goals keep presenting themselves, I'll keep chasing them."
Although this will be her first L.A. Marathon, it's still special to her. She said she watched the inaugural race with her father when she was "a clumsy goofy uncoordinated soccer player."
Last year as a media member, she interviewed runners along the route. Hearing the announcer through her earpiece commenting on whether the male runners were going to catch the female runners and win a bonus for finishing first made her want to compete.
This year, the first person to cross the finish line will earn a $50,000 bonus, down from $100,000 last year. The women will get an 18:35 head start.
"The challenge is right up my alley," Kastor said. "It's how we train. I start, and a few minutes later, the guys go off, so I'm running scared. Don't be surprised if I turn my shoulder and give my same refrain, 'Catch me if you can."'
Arciniaga said the bonus is "eye-catching but these guys in the race, we're going to be more concerned about winning the men's race than catching the women."
Besides, there's still that 2:09 barrier that he wants to overcome. He might get it done if he can keep up with Njoroge (who won last year in 2:12:12) and fellow Kenyan Nicholas Chelimo, whose 2:07:38 at Eindhoven in 2010 is the fastest marathon in the field.
Women's defending champion Fatuma Sado is not in the field. Her winning time of 2:25:39 last year would have made her the favorite.