Monday, October 12, 2009

Fast Times at Chicago Marathon; Wanjiru Wins

The 32nd running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon had its fair share of stories from the start line to the finish line and all along the course. While I'm still trying to figure out how to recap the race from my point of view on the course--and am crunched for time at the moment to be able to sit down and really write something--I had news from a press release that recaps the elite and wheelchair race. So without further ado, here's how the front of the pack fared per the press release with a few comments from me...

Today's Bank of America Chicago Marathon witnessed 34,792 participants at the start and 33,419 official finishers, a men’s course record, a new female champion, a three-time wheelchair champion and a sprint finish in the women’s wheelchair competition. Exciting, but shocking that once again the race was capped at 45,000 runners and more than 10,000 registrants didn't toe the line. Amazing though that not even 1,400 runners who started the race couldn't finish.

With a chilly start line temperature of 33 degrees and calm, 4 mph winds coming out of the northwest, the men’s and women’s elite fields took off in drastically different fashion. The men shot out of the start on world record pace with 2008 Olympic gold medalist Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya following closely behind four pacers. Hanging off Wanjiru’s shoulder until shortly after the 35K were fellow countrymen Vincent Kipruto and Charles Munyeki. Just as Wanjiru picked up his cadence, Kipruto and Munyeki were chased down by Morocco’s Abderrahim Goumri. Goumri held on to finish second and outkick Kipruto, 2:06:04 to 2:06:08, respectively. And if I can find some online video coverage I'll post it here because those guys run incredibly fast.

The storyline of the day, however, belonged to 22-year-old Wanjiru. Rounding the final turn onto Columbus Drive, Wanjiru eclipsed Khalid Khannouchi’s 1999 course record of 2:05:42 by one second to finish officially in 2:05:41. Wanjiru claimed the $75,000 prize purse for overall winner and took home an additional $100,000 for breaking the course record. Wanjiru’s time is the fastest time recorded on American soil. At the age of 22 years 335 days, Wanjiru is the youngest runner with three World Marathon Major victories. And as I learned on Friday at the marathon's elite athlete press conference, this is Wanjiru's first time running on American soil--talk about a memorable experience not just for the runners and spectators to say they were on the course during a record run or watched a record run, but for Wanjiru.

Unlike the blistering pace of the men’s race, the women’s race went out at a much slower pace with the women’s field content to follow American Tera Moody (read more about Tera in the September '09 issue of Runner's World) through the first 10K. On a day ripe for the record books, the women’s field ran well off Paula Radcliffe’s 2002 course record of 2:17:18; it took Ethiopian Teyba Erkesso’s bold move shortly before the half to wake up the women’s field. After Erkesso charged to the front, the women’s pace dropped to sub 2:30.

While Erkesso demanded a race from the field, it was Russian Liliya Shobukhova, running in just her second marathon, who took home first place. Shobukhova finished in 2:25:56, with Germany’s Irina Mikitenko second in 2:26:31 and 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS) third in 2:26:47. Erkesso hung on for fourth while American record holder, Deena Kastor, finished sixth in 2:28:50.

The men’s wheelchair competition welcomed Australia’s Kurt Fearnley back to the podium for the third time. Fearnley finished a little over a minute outside of his course record in 1:29:09. On the women’s side, newcomer Tatyana McFadden (USA) beat two-time champ Amanda McGrory (USA) in one of the closet wheelchair finishes in Chicago Marathon history. The top five women finished within three seconds of each other, with McFadden capturing the victory in 1:50:47. Fearnley has a really unique story that I heard the other day and have to make sense of to be able to share; and although McGrory finished second to McFadden, she wished McFadden the best at Friday's press conference, and the two are teammates at the University of Illinois.

In the debut Nike Northside/Southside Challenge, a high school invitational held on the final 2.6 miles of the marathon race course, Lincoln Way Central runner Kyle Counter beat a field of 71 competitors to finish 52 seconds ahead of second place in 13:35. The women’s champion from Luther North, Stephanie Simpson, won in 16:01, 19 seconds ahead of second place. Fifty seven high school girls competed in today’s race.

More marathon info to come but apologies in advance if it takes a few days. Posted by Kate

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