The deep and formidable elite fields of 2018 can keep you, but when all is said and done, American Galen Rupp and Kenyan Brigid Kosgei should be the ones at the 41st Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
It will be exciting for sure. It will be up to Rupp and Kosgei to make the right moves as they speed north on Michigan, up the hill on Roosevelt and then to the finish on Columbus. The return of pacers, uncertain weather, strategy by others and the unknown variables of marathon running also come into play, but Rupp and Kosgei know what it takes to be ready.
Rupp won 2017’s unpaced Chicago race in a strategic but convincing 2:09:20. Then he showed he could run and win a paced race with a huge PR drop to 2:06:07 at Prague (Czech Republic) in early May. That came three weeks after he pulled out of Boston at 19 miles with asthma and hypothermia problems.
Rupp, a member of the Nike Oregon Project coached by Alberto Salazar, has a special blend of track speed, tempo, distance and work ethic that make him perfect for the sport. Not since Chicago favorite Khalid Khannouchi have we seen an American of this caliber. And included on the radar list for Rupp is Khannouchi’s U.S. record of 2:05:38, run at London in 2002. Rupp will need everything he’s got.
Suffice it to say the pack will be large and moving fast through at least 18 miles, probably more. Included will be 10 others who have run under 2:07, including Rupp’s good friend Mo Farah of Great Britain (2:06:21 PR). But many more runners are here with podium-worthy credentials. Three to watch are Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia who won in January on Dubai’s lightning-fast course in 2:04:00, Dickson Chumba of Kenya who won Chicago in 2014 with a 2:04:32, Abel Kiriu of Kenya who won here in 2015 and has run 2:05:04, Kenneth Kipkemoi of Kenya who won Rotterdam this year in 2:05:44 and Bedan Karoko of Kenya, a four-time winner of the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle.
How I see it: Rupp breaks from a final pack that includes Geremew, Farah, Kipkemoi and Karoko around 22 miles. It’s Rupp first, Geremew second and Karoko third, but it’s very close with others right on their heels. Farah could steal the show. That’s why they run the race.
On the women’s side, Kosgei of Kenya is primed for a triumphant day, but to do it, she needs to step up from a pair of second-places, last year at Chicago in 2:20:22 and this year at London in 2:20:13. She also needs to out-run a stellar field that includes Ethiopians Roza Dereje and Birhane Dibaba, both fresh off winter sub-2:20s, Dereje winning Dubai in 2:19:17 and Dibaba taking Tokyo in 2:19:51.
Don’t count out American Jordan Hasay of the Nike Oregon Project.* Hasay churned to a gutty third-place 2:20:57 PR last year, the fastest time ever run by an American woman in Chicago. She will be in the mix again, right to the end, and like Rupp, she was testing her mettle at the turbo-charged Copenhagen Half.
*This was written before Hasay’s withdrawal announcement.
Another fearless American is Amy Cragg who ran 2:21:42 for third at Tokyo this year. Cragg, of Nike’s Bowerman Track Club, knows how to compete. She won the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials and ended a 34-year U.S. medal drought at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, taking bronze.
Others with podium potential are Shure Demise of Ethiopia (2:20:59 PR) and two-time Chicago winner Florence Kiplagat. She won the 2015 and 2016 races, the latter coming after she was left off the Kenyan Olympic team.
How I see it: It’s a tall order for Kosgei, but her experience gives her an edge, She’ll hang with the lead pack, make a move after 23 miles and then keep moving for a statement victory. Dibaba, third here twice, will outkick Dejere down Columbus to take second.