The 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Some Comments by Larry Eder

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Many changes in the thirty first edition of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. With two new sponsors, Bank of America and Nike, Carey Pinkowski would be allowed some leeway for nerves, etc. However, the Executive Director handled the entire weekend with aplomb, and gave the media and assembled masses an example of an man who has survived adversity.....with class and dignity...

Some comments on the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

The daggers came out pretty quick on the afternoon of the 2007 Chicago Marathon. Carey Pinkowski was the focus of every problem that happened on the hot and humid race course, that became a visual battleground due to extreme heat, extreme humidity and numbers of new runners, and extreme situations that would have overwhelmed any road race management team.

But, as the late U.S. president Harry Truman noted, " the buck stops here." The leader of an event, who has, in years of plenty, large amounts of praise, learns how fleeting praise truly is, in a bad year.

I recall emails from runners who eviscerated me for complementing Mr. PInkowski for not loosing his head in 2007. Pinkowski was blamed for water mishaps, lack of preparation for the heat, and in time, he would have been blamed for global warming. Thank God, the attacks stopped short of that responsibility. However, Mr. Pinkowski was blamed for just about everything last year.

On the most recent Saturday evening, Carey showed up at the Bank of America/ Running Network Race Director/ Running Industry Reception in the Normandie Room at the Chicago Hilton. Resplendent in his red Bank of America polo shirt, Mr. Pinkowski was relaxed, poised and in a fine mood, quite peculiar for a man who faced a second hot and humid marathon in two years. One would have thought that perhaps Mr. Pinkowski and his partner, Mike Nishi, would have been better served with a large animal sacrifice to the gods of running: perhaps a large musk oxen. But, alas, Mr. Pinkowski would have none of it. He smiled, and asked to speak to the 150 assembled race directors.

" My coach, Jumbo Elliot said that a man learns about himself only after he has faced adversity." PInkowski stopped speaking, smiled and spent a few minutes chatting with friends. He had a zen moment. Carey had learnt that, to truly face the demons that can attach themselves to a race director; bad weather, are not under one's control. Once one can grasp the futility of worrying, one can focus on preparing for the worst, and convincing the populace that while it may be hot, the race management has the answers, or at least plans to alleviate if not make the heat go away.

Later that evening, Carey was sitting down, chatting with Jeremy Borling, former Chicago Athlete associate editor, and a stalwart in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon media department. Carey was relaxed because his team was in control.
All was good on Saturday night.

We did not see Mike Nishi. God knows what last minute crisis happened, but whatever they were, Mr. Nishi and Mr. Pinkowski had a team in place who could deal with them and did.

Sunday morning loomed bright and early. As I walked to the start, I noted that it was 65 degrees and seventy percent humidity. I knew that was not bad conditions for 10,000 meters, but nearly suicidal for an elite marathon.

The good news is that the weather had scared the unprepared away. Of the 45,000 approved applicants, 37,000 showed up to get their race numbers and timing chips. 35,000 started, and miracle of miracle, 31,500 finished.

Now, there were amazing races upfront. Surviving a suicidal, near world record pace through the half marathon, Evans Cheruiyot, in his second marathon, drove to the finish, improving his best by over three minutes in his win! Lidiya Grigoryeva, of Russia, charged into the lead at just past 30 kilometers and did not relent, going on to win the 2008 Bank of America Chicago marathon.

The Bank of America provided some changes in local marketing, as did the Nike company. 16,000 square feet of booth did not overwhelm as other booths had spacious room and the B of A Chicago marathon won the award for best expo, period.

Nike kept the marketing from a fever pitch. The clothing was selling like the proverbial hot cakes in the expo. Sales at local specialty footwear stores was also at a fever pitch. The new Fleet Feet store had runners waiting outside before the ten in the morning opening on Saturday.

The media room, which featured British 5,000 meter Olympian Tim Hutchings, who kept the commentary fast-paced and accurate, should be applauded. Not only that, but Mr. Hutchings also survived the surprisingly few rantings of one well-known Chicago sports columnist with out a bruise on Mr. Hutchings or the esteemed writer.
In a media room, the journalist require few things-good electrical outlets, wireless that works ( it did), and accurate and timely updates on the elite races. That was done, as well as the interviews of elite athletes.

The complicated needs of a major race can not be overstated. It is the little things that damn one to road race hell. The 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was without major mistakes--Carey spoke to the fifth estate, assembled in the media room, with confidence. Confidence in a system redone since the 2007 race. His confidence belied any chance of the race getting out of hand-Pinkowski made it known that the a) temperature was 84 degrees, and the humidity was just under forty percent, however, they had plans in place, water on the course and ALL WAS IN CONTROL. And it was... and that was good.

It is late on Monday night now. This writer did a nice seven mile walk around Chicago streets and all was back to normal. Hopefully, Mr. Pinkowski and Mr. Nishi and their team and their families are safely ensconced in their homes, resting with their families after hosting 35,000 runners from around the world on the streets of the Windy City.

It is time to prepare for 2009. But, for tonight, rest, relax and savor the good things that happened on Sunday, October 12, 2008 in the city of Chicago.


Runblogrun.com encourages you to check out the sites of Shooting Star Media, inc. (www.shootingstarmediainc.com): American Track & Field (www.american-trackandfield.com), Athletes Only (www.atf-athlete.com), California Track & Running News (www.caltrack.com), MIssouri Runner & Triathlete (www.morunandtri.com), Latinos Corriendo(www.latinoscorriendo.com), Coaching
Athletics Quarterly (www.coachingathleticsq.com), and USATF Fast Forward (www.usatf.org). All of the above magazine websites can be found at RunningNetwork.com (www.runningnetwork.com).

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