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Photo Gallery: 2012 Los Angeles Marathon

It was surprisingly sunny as more than 23,000 people made their way from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica.

A 20-year-old Ethiopian woman was the first runner to cross the finish line of the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon in 2:25:39 under blue skies on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

Wearing red, Fatuma Sado kneeled down to kiss the ground after completing the She captured a $100,000 bonus for beating the fastest man in the so-called Challenge Race, Simon Njoroge, 31, of Kenya.

Forecasters . But the course was dry and temperatures were in the mid-40s. Race organizers described the weather as "near perfect."

Steady winds of up about 15 mph picked up about 11 a.m. in Santa Monica, flapping the orange and blue Mylar blankets that cloaked finishers and whipping up sand. The National Weather Service recorded gusts upward of 30 mph.

"The race was good," Sado said, speaking softly through an interpreter at a news conference. "The weather was cold when I started, and at the end it was windy—that is why I did not get so good of a time."

Sado was initially projected to shatter marathon records. With an injury to her left leg, she limped slightly in the beginning and final stretches.

As she rolled downhill toward the ocean, nearing the finish line at California Avenue, about a half mile from the , Sado looked over her shoulder to find the elite men competitors at least four minutes behind.

"Doesn't she just look great?" Marathon Press Officer Rich Perelman said.

With the fatest time overall, Njoroge finished today's race in 2:12:12, with a pace of 5 miles and 2 second per mile. Last year—in spite of heavy rain—Markos Geneti ran the fastest marathon ever in Los Angeles with a time of 2 hours, 6 minutes and 35 seconds.  

Sado and Njoroge each received $25,000 and a 2012 Honda CR-V, valued at $29,795. In total, Sado's prizes were valued at $149,795.

She notched the fifth best women's time in the race's 27-year history, just shy of the fourth-place record of 2:25:38 set in 2010 by Edna Kiplagat. Sado hasn't placed lower than second in the four marathons she has completed since 2011.

The elite women's field got a 17-minute, 31-second head start, based on a formula involving the lifetime bests of the elite male and female runners. The bonus has been won by male runners four times and women runners four times, City News Service reported.

Weldon Kirui, also of Kenya, was second overall in 2:13:40. "From the first kilometer, we tried to push the pace up to try to catch the girls' leader," Njoroge said. "When I knew that I could not catch her, I tried to go with Weldon. We worked back and fourth until the 22-mile mark when I went for the win because we could not catch the ladies."

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Clouds loomed, but it was dry at dawn as more than 20,000 runners massed outside Dodger Stadium for start of what is traditionally one of the most grueling athletic events known to man. The starter's gun for the main pack fired about 7:25 a.m.

The clouds parted at the 10th mile. But the elite runners said that's when temperatures dropped and the wind picked up, hurting their times in the final stretch through Santa Monica.

Along the race route, families waved colorful signs, bands played and friends clapped and cheered as they handed out pretzels and orange slices to energize participants.

Traffic was snarled as many thoroughfares were scheduled to be closed until into the afternoon, frustrating some .

After completing the taxing race, two women were met at the finish line by boyfriends with diamond rings and marriage proposals.

The race was "fantastic," said West Hollywood resident Doug Albano, who ran in support of a Los Angeles-based drug and alcohol treatment center, Beit T'Shuvaha.

He clutched a photo of the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel, good humouredly asking fellow runners for directions along the way. Reflecting on the experience and of being more than four years sober himself, he said "anything is possible."

Many runners said there were thankful to see the sun. Among the most popular post-race plans? Drinking a beer.

. Today, race organizers were equipped with about 5,000 plastic trash bags to keep racers warm and dry at the start. Some 23,000 Mylar blankets were also on hand to help runners guard against hypothermia, according to marathon Chief Operating Officer Nick Curl.

The race has been held annually since 1986. For the third year in a row, the race will be run on the "Stadium to the Sea" course, billed by organizers as having a landmark every mile.

From Dodger Stadium, the course heads toward downtown, passing Chinatown, Olvera Street, City Hall, Little Tokyo, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. After the downtown leg, the course heads west through Echo Park and Silver Lake into Hollywood, passing the Hollywood & Highland Center, home of the Academy Awards, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The field then heads south onto Sunset Boulevard, entering West Hollywood, then Beverly Hills, where the runners swarmed Rodeo Drive. The latter parts of the race, officially known as the Honda LA Marathon, include Century City, the Veterans Administration grounds and Brentwood's broad San Vicente Boulevard, concluding near the Santa Monica Pier.

Race organizers believe runners can raise $4 million for charitable causes, breaking last year's record. Since Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt purchased the operating rights to the race in 2008, the amount of money raised for charity has gone from just over $1.25 million in 2009 to $1.95 million in 2010 to just under $3 million in 2011, according to race officials.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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