A record number of people crossed the Bank of America Chicago Marathon finish line on Sunday. While most of the field was less than half-way through the race, the elites were crossing the finish line to the roar of the crowd.
The 2014 winners came with vastly different levels of experience on a stage like this. On the women’s side, Rita Jeptoo (2:24:35) continued here complete dominance over the sport by winning her fourth straight World Marathon Major and repeating as the Chicago champion. The men’s winner, Eliud Kipchoge (2:04:11) was competing in only his fourth marathon ever and while he had won two of the three, this was his first ever WMM victory.
Kipchoge excitement could be seen well before he broke the tape. The Kenyan pulled away from the remaining two runners, eventual second and third place finishers Sammy Kitwara (2:04:28) and Dickson Chumba (2:04:32), over the final 2 miles. During his final stretch Kipchoge’s smile was spread across his face and while his speed never slowed he began looking around to both the scenery and the crowd.
While most of the other elites found the wind difficult, Kipchoge joked that he expected it from “the windy city” and said he made sure to enjoy the sights and sounds of Chicago after his victory was made clear. The 29-year-old said he used his short-distance running history to close out the victory.
Despite his joke, the wind clearly played a factor in any attempt to break a record or set a PR. Jeptoo said she struggled with the wind, but felt like the lead women’s pack was looking to her to set the tone. When she separated from the pack it was clear that her dominance would continue. At the press conference Jeptoo seemed disappointed at her time, but was happy with the victory. Following Jeptoo was Mare Dibaba (2:25:37) and Florence Kiplagat (2:25:57) in third.
Kenyans once again took the top spots in both the men’s and women’s race. On the men’s side 4 of the top 5 finishers were Kenyan with Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele coming in 4th. Jeptoo and Kiplagat made up the Kenyan contingent on the women’s side, while Dibaba and Birhane Dibaba (no relation) finished second and fourth from Ethiopia. Amy Hastings (2:27:03) was the first American and finished in 5th place amongst the women.
Hastings was the surprise throughout the race, even leading for a good portion of the first half. The Providence, Rhode Island native equaled her PR that she sent in 2011 and was one of 5 American women to finish in the top 10. This was the most U.S. women in that group since 2000 and the highest finish by an individual woman since Desiree Davila in 2010. Joining Hastings in the top 10 were her fellow Americans Clara Santucci (6th), Sarah Crouch (7th), Melissa White (9th) and Lauren Jimison (10th).
Bobby Curtis was the first American to cross the finish line overall. Curtis made a late push to get in the top ten and finish 9th overall with a time of 2:11:20.
The only person more dominant in marathons over the last few years than Jeptoo was Tatyana McFadden, Sunday’s women’s wheelchair champion. McFadden and men’s winner Joshua George made it a clean sweep not only for Americans, but for University of Illinois athletes. Despite her comments and praise for the field, McFadden won this year by a considerably larger margin than last year’s narrow victory. This was McFadden’s 5th consecutive Chicago championship and is well on her way to completing another WMM sweep. She is also coming off of a silver medal performance in the Sochi Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing.
George, who trained with McFadden not only while competing at U of I but also growing up in the Washington D.C. area, hung on to win by only a second. This was his fourth overall victory in Chicago, but his first since 2006.
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