AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 “Just the physical ability to be able to do it is awesome,” said Minette Brown, 33, a nurse from Woodland Hills. “It kind of makes me realize that you can do anything that you set your mind on doing.” Brown, who was running in her second marathon, wore a sign on her back that read “If Found Crawling Pls Kick …” She scored a personal best time of about 4:10:00. Sunday’s event set Los Angeles Marathon records in the men’s, women’s and men’s wheelchair divisions. But for Brown and the other runners, the marathon was also about personal achievement. Even actor/comedian Tom Arnold, who appeared in the TV show “Roseanne” and the movie “True Lies,” was inspired enough before the race to join his first marathon – or at least encourage the runners. “Maybe I’ll hand out some water, because I want to help people,” Arnold said. “Then I’ll go to the end and meet the Kenyans. Because those guys seem to have different bodies than me, I don’t know what it is.” More than 25,000 runners, some with eager smiles and others with fierce stares, set off from downtown Sunday at the outset of the Los Angeles Marathon – and most triumphantly crossed the finish line to the warm embraces of family and friends. A hush came over the crowd moments before Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fired the starting gun to kick off the city’s 21st annual race – which counted a record 25,256 participants, but also suffered a pair of tragedies. Retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy James Leone, 60, and Los Angeles police Officer Paul Reyna, 53, both died from heart attacks while competing in the 26-mile-plus contest. Prior to Sunday, there had only been one fatal heart attack in the 21-year history of the marathon, fire officials said. As the elite men raced ahead after the starting gun, a scrappy cavalcade of runners ditching plastic ponchos, hoisting homemade signs and plugging in iPod earphones followed close behind – for a while. It was more than 12 years since the last time a runner died of a heart attack in the Los Angeles Marathon. In a statement, organizers expressed condolences and sympathy to the families of the two men who died in Sunday’s race. Sunday’s race put the women back at the top of the leader board in the 3-year-old Los Angeles Marathon experiment that gives the elite women runners a head start on the men. A woman also crossed the finish line first in the 2004 marathon, but last year a man took first overall. The Russian Lidiya Grigoryeva, 32, dashed ahead of her closest female competitor the last leg of Sunday’s race. She finished with a time of 2:25:10, claiming first place and a total prize of $155,000, plus a Honda Accord. Benson Cherono, 21, of Kenya was close enough to Grigoryeva to keep the battle of the sexes in play until the last moments of the race, but finished 16 seconds behind her despite a time of 2:08:40. Cherono won $60,000 and a Honda Accord. Cherono had some ideas of what he could do with the money. “You know in Kenya, it’s a very poor country … and I think I have to assist all my brothers and sisters who are in Kenya,” he said. “So I think that’s my project, I have to think about them.” For the runners who did not take home any prize money, just being in the race was enough. “I love this marathon,” said television writer Nick Stanton, 26, of Sherman Oaks, after finishing his fourth marathon. “You get to go through every neighborhood, every neighborhood kind of does their own thing – they have bands and skits and everything like that. It’s the one time a year where the city just all comes together; it’s a very cool thing.” Outside the 7th Street Metro station, a busy crossing point before the race, a woman carried water bottles on a strap fastened like a bandoleer on her arm, as athletes in wheelchairs rolled along nearby wearing bright track suits. Before the race, wheelchair race competitors John Keith, 38, and Dustin Tuller, 30, both Iraq war veterans, waited between staggered starts for their chance to get going. For Keith, who lost a leg in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Baghdad, marathons are a way to get back into life. “After my injury I just sat there and I was just like, my life is over … I felt sorry for myself,” said Keith, a Washington, D.C., resident who still works for the military handling acquisitions. “And then I just got up.” Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!