This past Sunday, 45,000 runners from around the country and around the world competed in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Along with the New York and Boston marathons, it is one of the premier races in the United States, and one of the six World Marathon Majors that occur every year. Heading into the race, many exciting story lines were in place to stoke interest in this annual event.
Winner Dickson Chumba – Photo by David Banks/Getty Images
For at least the last 26 years, the Chicago Marathon had offered rabbits, or pace runners, to set the pace for the elite runners, leading to fast times but sometimes uninteresting races. In the face of lackluster results and speed the past few years, the rabbits were removed in a decision by race director Carey Pinkowski. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Pinkwoski said, “Without the rabbits, the leaders need a much greater level of concentration…that will allow us to see more tactics, strategy and competition throughout the race.”
The change produced the desired excitement, if not the desired faster times. The men’s leaders ran shoulder-to-shoulder for the first 23 miles, with a few men separating themselves from the pack and then being pulled back in throughout the morning, until eventual winner Dickson Chumba of Kenya pulled away. Despite attempts by fellow Kenyans Sammy Kitwara and Sammy Ndungu to keep up, Chumba’s gamble pulled off as he completed the course in 2:09:25, 25 seconds before his closest competitor. The first American to finish was Luke Psukedra, setting a five minute personal best of 2:10:24 while coming in fifth.
On the women’s side, Florence Kiplagat of Kenya, two time world record setter for the half marathon, finally performed to her potential and was the first female finisher with a time of 2:23:33 after finishing second last year. Deena Kastor was the first American female to finish the race with a time of 2:27:47. At 42 years old, Deena also set a new record for U.S. Master’s Women (female racers 40 or over).
If you’ve ever run a distance race, however, you are well aware that the elite runners are just one part of the story; the thousands of other competitors that show up looking for a personal best or just trying to finish the course make up the rest of the fun. In one of the more interesting stories from the race, two runners that had met a few years ago while training stopped in the middle of the marathon at mile 8 to exchange vows and get married. According to an NBCChicago.com article, the two chose mile 8 because they both joined a marathon training group and happened to meet in the 8:00 minute/mile pacing group. Surrounded by family, friends, and thousands of other runners the two said “I do” and proceeded to complete the remaining 18.2 miles of the race.
Aside from the elite athletes, there were some famous faces in the crowd as well. Celebrity finishers included Chicago Fire and The Vampire Diaries actor, Steven McQueen. The 27-year-old grandson of Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair star, Steve McQueen, completed the course in 4:16:39. Also on the course was Bill Rancic, first winner of The Apprentice and husband to entertainment television staple, Giuliana Rancic. His time of 4:29:03 bested his previous personal best of 4:31:31, set in the 2001 iteration of the Chicago Marathon. Despite their impressive times, the majority of runners were out there just to finish the Windy City race before the six and a half hour time limit. Do you think you could?