Photo by the Bank of America Chicago Marathon
CHICAGO — In today’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, more than 37,000 runners crossed the finish line in Grant Park on a sun kissed day with strong winds out of the southwest. For the first time in more than two decades, pacesetters were not at the helm of the race, and in a strategic competition up front, the men’s race saw a Kenyan sweep with Dickson Chumba running away from the field in 2:09:25, Sammy Kitwara finishing as the runner-up for the second time in 2:09:50, and newcomer to the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM), Sammy Ndungu, sprinting down the homestretch for third in 2:10:06.
“I am proud of the running from our athletes today, and it was so satisfying to deliver compelling competition without pacers,” said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. “I must call out the record-breaking performances: Tatyana set a new wheelchair course record and Deena made running look effortless when she set a new Master’s record.”
Florence Kiplagat (KEN), the reigning half marathon world record holder, captured her third Abbott World Marathon Majors win after picking up a pair of wins at the 2011 and 2013 BMW BERLIN Marathon, breaking the tape first in 2:23:33. Yebrgual Melese (ETH) held on for second in 2:23:43, and Birhane Dibaba (ETH), secured a podium finish in 2:24:24, moving her into second place on the AWMM leader board.
After setting the world master’s half marathon record in 2014, American Deena Kastor continued her campaign by breaking Colleen De Reuck’s American Master’s marathon record, running 2:27:47 to also finish as the seventh overall female.
In the women’s wheelchair competition, Tatyana McFadden (USA) handily defended her title in a course record time, 1:41:10, taking home her fifth straight victory and her sixth win at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon since her 2009 debut. The men’s competition featured another thrilling finish with the top 11 men finishing within 13 seconds of each other. Kurt Fearnley (AUS) beat his competitors to the line in 1:30:46, earning his fifth career Chicago Marathon victory. In a photo finish for second place, Marcel Hug (SUI) held off 2014 champion Joshua George (Champaign, Ill.), both clocking 1:30:48.
The Men’s Race
Without the use of pacesetters (“rabbits”), the men’s race moved out at a pedestrian pace with 11 men bunched into a tight pack through the first five kilometers. American Elkanah Kibet bravely surged ahead and opened a 15 second gap on the chase pack, but the eight men behind him reeled him in before 15K. All nine contenders hit the half in 1:05:13, and the group remained huddled together through 30K.
As the group neared the 20-mile mark, the field seemed content to wait for someone to make the first move. Dickson Chumba, Sammy Kitwara and Abera Kuma (ETH) answered the call, hitting the gas pedal at mile 20, and breaking the pack with a 4:35 mile.
With Kuma fading to seventh place, Chumba, the third place finisher in 2014, continued to push ahead, and by mile 24, he had opened a 20 second gap on Kitwara. Chumba hit the tape first, earning his second AWMM career victory with a 2:09:25 finish. Kitwara finished as the runner-up for the second time in 2:09:50, and Sammy Ndungu edged Girmay Birhanu Gebru at the line to claim third in 2:10:06.
American Luke Puskedra (Eugene, Ore.) experienced a breakthrough race, subtracting five minutes from his personal best to notch a top five finish in 2:10:24, the fastest time by an American in 2015. Americans Elkanah Kibet (Fayetteville, NC) and Fernando Cabada (Fresno, Calif.) finished seventh and tenth, respectively, the first time since 2007 that three American men have placed inside the top ten.
The Women’s Race
Unlike the men’s race, the women’s race started aggressively. Kayoko Fukushi (JPN), the 2011 Chicago Marathon runner-up, led a pack of six through the 5K on sub 2:20 pace. The women accelerated through seven miles, but slowed before the 15K as they turned into a strong headwind.
The same group of six hit the half way mark in 1:10:28 and remained together until two-time Berlin Marathon winner, Florence Kiplagat, and Yebrgual Melese, put some strides on the field at mile 22. Kiplagat finally pulled away from Melese around 40K. Kiplagat held on strong to finish first in 2:23:33, moving her to fourth place on the AWMM leaderboard with 26 points. Melese finished ten seconds back in 2:23:43, and Dibaba held off Fukushi by one second to claim third place in 2:24:24.
On the tenth anniversary of her victory in Chicago, Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lake, Calif.) finished in seventh place in 2:27:47, breaking the American Master’s Record, 2:28:40, set by Colleen De Reuck at the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Kastor now owns the second (2:21:25), fourth (2:26:53) and seventh fastest times run by an American woman on the Chicago Marathon course. American Sara Hall (Redding, Calif.) lopped 17 minutes off of her debut her time to finish tenth in 2:31:14.
The Professional Wheelchair Race – Course Record and U.S. Paralympic Trials
Tatyana McFadden continued to rewrite the record books by taking a minute and twenty-five seconds off of the course record she set in 2013, finishing this year in 1:41:10. Her decisive victory – her fifth consecutive in Chicago – marked her 15th World Marathon Majors win, and it sets her up for a third straight grand slam if she wins New York (in 2013 and 2014, she won four majors in the same year: Boston, London, Chicago and New York). For the third straight year, Manuela Schaer (SUI) finished second to McFadden; she also finished under the previous course record (1:42:35), clocking 1:41:56.
Kurt Fearnley (AUS), the Chicago Marathon 2014 runner-up, finished ahead of one of the most competitive wheelchair races in event history. Eleven men made the turn from Roosevelt Road onto Columbus Drive within seconds of each other. Fearnley, who owns nine medals – two gold – from the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games, charged ahead of the group to break the tape first. Chicago Marathon newcomer, Marcel Hug, lived up to his nickname – the “silver bullet” – as he edged 2014 Chicago Marathon champion, Joshua George, for second place in a photo finish.
The 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon also served as the U.S. Paralympic Trials. The top two American male and female finishers punched their tickets to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Joining Tatyana McFadden on the road to Rio is third place finisher, Chelsea McClammer (Benton City, Wash.). Joshua George and seventh place finisher, Aaron Pike (Champaign, Ill.), will represent the U.S. on the men’s side.