Manuela Schär and Daniel Romanchuk defend their titles in the elite wheelchair competition
CHICAGO — In today’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, a record number of 45,786* runners crossed the finish line in Grant Park. Beneath a sun-splashed sky and ideal race temperatures hovering in the 40s, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon welcomed a diverse field of runners from 140 countries, all 50 states and all 50 Chicago wards. With a pre-race narrative filled with talk of a potential world record, Brigid Kosgei (KEN) delivered, shattering Paula Radcliffe’s world record (set 16 years ago), 2:15:25, to rewrite history with a jaw-dropping time of 2:14:04.** She also swept away Chicago’s long-standing course record, 2:17:18, on its 17th anniversary (October 13, 2002).
“Kosgei’s record follows a great tradition in Chicago started by Steve Jones in 1984 when he set the first world record here,” said Carey Pinkowski, Bank of America Chicago Marathon executive race director, celebrating his 30th anniversary at the helm of the race. “This is the fifth world record we’ve had in Chicago and the fourth that I’ve been a part of. It’s extremely exciting, and it hasn’t quite sunken in yet. This just reinforces how fast athletes can run right here in Chicago.”
The elite competition
With the Bank of America Chicago Marathon kicking off Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XIII, expert race commentator Tim Hutchings on the NBC Chicago broadcast foreshadowed history when he professed at the start, “This is a world record course.”
Prior to the race, Kosgei announced her ambition to dismantle Radcliffe’s course record, but when she barreled out of the start on 2:11 pace, it seemed clear that the world record – not just the course record – was in play. Almost immediately, the women’s race emerged as an epic duel between Kosgei and the clock. Tucked behind two pacers, she eased into 2:14 pace, splitting the first half in 1:06:59. In spite of the wind picking up over the second half, she maintained her composure – even running a 4:46 mile at mile 24 – to split the second half in 1:07:05. After the race, she said spectators energized her by cheering, “You are running the world record!” She crossed the finish on Columbus Drive as the fastest woman the world has ever seen.
Kosgei explained that compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s recent 1:59:40 marathon performance inspired her to dream bigger: “I kept saying, ‘tomorrow is my day.’ I wanted to be the second Kipchoge – the Kipchoge for women. I focused on that.”
Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) and three-time Olympian Gelete Burka (ETH) finished nearly seven minutes behind Kosgei, crossing the line in 2:20:51 and 2:20:55, respectively. Yeshaneh ran a personal best by almost four minutes, and Burka posted her second fastest time ever. The top three women ran the first, eleventh and twelfth fastest times in Chicago’s history. American Emma Bates ran a three-minute personal best, 2:25:27, to finish fourth. Adding to an already extraordinary race, Bates ran the fourth fastest time on Chicago’s course by an American woman, and she became the twelfth fastest woman in U.S. history. Five American women placed inside of the top 10 and four of them broke the 2:30 barrier.
In stark contrast to the women’s race, the men’s race bolted out on 2:04 pace with a tightly bunched pack of nine runners, including past Chicago Marathon champions Mo Farah (GBR), Galen Rupp (USA) and Dickson Chumba (KEN). Several minutes back, a dozen American runners embarked on an ambitious campaign of their own to finish around 2:10.
In an unexpected twist, both Farah and Rupp rolled off the back of the pack around mile eight. They never regained contact and Rupp eventually dropped out at mile 23; Farah hung on to finish eighth in 2:09:58, a disappointing result for the European record holder and the defending Chicago Marathon champion. Meanwhile, the race up front remained steady until Bedan Karoki (KEN) attempted to shake things up shortly after the 30K. He went to the lead for several strides before settling back into the pack, but the quick spurt forced Chumba to retire his hopes of a victory. He was on his own by 35K.
The pack of five dwindled down to the final four by mile 23 when Seifu Tura (ETH) became the race’s next casualty. 2019 Boston Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono (KEN), Karoki, Dejene Debela (ETH) and Asefa Mengstu (ETH) ran shoulder to shoulder around the final turn, igniting a dramatic sprint to the finish that produced the seventh, eighth and ninth fastest times ever run on Chicago’s course. In the end, Cherono took the crown by one second, running 2:05:45. Debela finished second in 2:05:46, Mengstu arrived in third in 2:05:48 and Karoki settled for fourth in 2:05:53. The top three runners posted the closest top three finishes in Chicago’s history with just three seconds separating them.
American Jacob Riley entered the finish as the first American in ninth in a personal best, 2:10:36. Jock Merrell (USA), in a spectacular debut, finished a step behind in 10th in 2:10:37. Parker Stinson (USA) and Andrew Bumbalough (USA) topped off an incredible day for U.S. distance running by finishing in 2:10:53 and 2:10:56, respectively. In total, 10 Americans broke 2:12.
Wheelchair competition – U.S. Paralympic Marathon Team Trials
In the women’s wheelchair competition, current world record holder and reigning Chicago Marathon champion, Manuela Schär (SUI), beat a competitive field by more than four minutes to finish in 1:41:08. Eight-time Chicago Marathon champion, Tatyana McFadden (USA), battled her University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign teammates to the line to finish second in 1:45:22. Three-time champion Amanda McGrory (USA) finished on the podium in third in 1:45:29 while Susannah Scaroni (USA) finished in an identical time for fourth. Both McFadden and Scaroni punched their tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics by meeting the qualifying standards set forth by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
The men’s competition saw an invincible Daniel Romanchuk (USA), the reigning champion of the New York, Boston and London marathons, retain his Chicago title with time to spare. In spite of an early pack of 22 men at the 15K mark, Romanchuk sped up around the half and, taking a page from Kosgei’s playbook, battled the clock to the finish line. He turned in a time of 1:30:26 while earning his spot on the 2020 U.S. Paralympic team. David Weir (GBR) and 2013 Chicago Marathon champion Ernst Van Dyk (RSA) fought to the finish with Weir edging Van Dyk at the line, 1:33:31 to 1:33:31, respectively.
Schär and Romanchuk picked up bonus points in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Bonus Point Competition by crossing the half marathon mark first.
Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K
The fourth annual Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K took place on Saturday, October 12. The Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K offers runners the unique opportunity to start at Daley Plaza, home of the original Bank of America Chicago Marathon start line, and to take over the streets of downtown Chicago. Sebastian Castro broke the tape first in 16:42 and Danielle Nimmock won for the women in 17:21. In addition to the competition up front, several participants from the second annual Elite Athlete Mentor Program took part in the 5K. The Elite Athlete Mentor Program highlights elite-level wheelchair athletics, recognizes the legacy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wheelchair sports program and hopes to pass the baton to the next generation of wheelchair athletes. The Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K welcomed its largest finisher field with 6,842 participants.
About the Bank of America Chicago Marathon
In its 42nd year on Sunday, October 13, 2019, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon welcomed thousands of runners from more than 100 countries and all 50 states, including a world-class elite field, top regional and Masters runners, race veterans, debut marathoners and charity runners. The race’s iconic course took runners through 29 vibrant neighborhoods on an architectural and cultural tour of Chicago. Annually, an estimated 1.7 million spectators line the streets cheering on more than 40,000 runners from the start line to the final stretch down Columbus Drive. As a result of the race’s national and international draw, the Chicago Marathon assists in raising millions of dollars for a variety of charitable causes while generating $338 million in annual economic impact to its host city. For more information about the event and how to get involved, go to chicagomarathon.com.
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*Unofficial as of October 13 at 4:30 p.m.
**World record pending ratification.