SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - Despite a wide assortment of events that nearly span the week, the Lake Tahoe Marathon is still missing something.
The marquee event, which turns 10 on Saturday, has yet to produce an exciting finish.
"That's what we're looking for," said Les Wright, the only race director the event has ever known.
Wright may get his wish on Saturday. Two Kenyans are expected to compete and 2005 San Francisco Marathon winner Tony Torres also is in the running.
However, there is some doubt whether two-time defending champion John Weru of Mountain View, Calif., will participate. The Kenyan has been nursing a calf injury and his status probably won't be known until race day.
Weru left little suspense in last year's marathon, winning by 20 minutes. His time of 2 hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds was nearly an hour ahead of women's winner Sonya Drottar of Santa Cruz, Calif., (3:23:04) in the Lake Tahoe Marathon's unique battle of the sexes.
Wright gives the elite women's marathoners close to a 30-minute head start (the difference between the men's and women's world records) and the first to cross the finish line at Pope Beach receives $1,000. The other winner earns $500.
If Weru is unable to go, Samuel Githinji of Kenya could be the odds-on favorite to win the 26.2-mile race that starts in Tahoe City and culminates at Pope Beach on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe. Githinji trains in high altitude in New Mexico and reportedly is capable of running a 2-hour, 25-minute marathon at altitude. He finished 10th in the 2005 Chips 'N Salsa Half Marathon in Albuquerque with a blazing time of 1:08:24.
Torres of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., can't be counted out either. His triumph in the San Francisco Marathon on July 31 came in only his second marathon. He welcomes the competition that could come from Weru.
"I haven't seen him in person. If he's gonna be there, that's a good challenge for me," Torres said. "We have similar times, so it's gonna be interesting if he's going to be there."
The former Madera High cross country star has blossomed at the marathon distance after returning from a five-year absence from competitive running.
"I've been running 80 to 90 miles per week for six months," he said. "I feel good and I'm ready, but you never know what is going to happen."
Although Torres hasn't raced at elevation, he has been training almost exclusively in Big Bear, Calif., for the past month.
"I've been training at 6,700 feet, so hopefully that helps," he said.
Taking Torres' winning time in San Francisco (2:31:57) and adding 6 minutes for the difference in elevation, that would put him 31 seconds behind Weru's winning time from last year.
That elusive close race could finally happen.
Wright was hoping to add a few additional elite women to strengthen the field. Journal Jog winner Kristi Arthur of Reno is favored to win the $500 first prize.
Runners will also compete in a half marathon, 20-mile power walk/run, 10K, relays and the final leg of the arduous Tahoe Triple on Saturday.
Registration will be allowed on race day at the Horizon Casino Resort or for the marathon at the start line at Commons Beach in Tahoe City. Elite marathon women begin at 8:30 a.m. and elite men start at 9 a.m.
On Sunday, a 5K and a free kids run for toddlers to 12-year-olds are planned at Valhalla Historical Estates.
For more information, visit laketahoemarathon.com