The Bank of America Chicago Marathon was held, for the 40th time on October 8, 2017. It was one of the best races in Chicago in some years, as the race has, with less media exposure, modest fields and no pace makers, had less of a global presense. That changed in 2017 with two very different elite races, and with fine performances by top American and Ethiopian athletes.
2017 shook up things a bit. From the win by American Galen Rupp, the fast race by Tirunesh Dibaba and the fastest ever by an American women in North America marathon performance by Jordan Hasay.
One point of note, prior to my deep thoughts on five lessons from Chicago. In the 1980s, Chicago’s Bob Bright and NYC’ Fred Lebow added color and excitement to the two major fall races. As Chicago produced a series of strong performances, NYC, not always the fastest course, will rise to the occassion and add more excitement to the fall marathon world.
1. Galen Rupp continues to evolve into an elite global marathoner. Now in his fourth marathon, Galen Rupp dropped a 14:25 5k from 35k to 40k, and won a race that has been challenged, since the departure of pacemakers, to find a posiiton in the marathon world. Rupp is first American citizen to win the Chicago marathon in fifteen years. Rupp has developed from a very good high school runner, to one of the world’s finest 10,000 meter runners, and now, is developing his racing skills in major marathons. Will he run fast times? Of course.
2. Tirunesh Dibaba should challenge the WR for the marathon. Running a 2:18:30 as a near time trial, Tirunesh Dibaba battled windy Mother Nature and ran one of the fastest women’s times of all times. The greatest women distance runner of her generation, Dibaba continues to improve and her stride, her endurance base, and her speed make her a difficult athlete to beat. Mark my word, Tirunesh does not like to loose. No, she really does not like to loose, and she will be a dominant fixture in the marathon world as long as she desires. Tirunesh Dibaba is that good.
3. Chicago Marathon is back in the elite world, but where does it go from here? The Chicago marathon is blessed with fine sponsors, a great course, and a superb volunteer and marathon management group. The World Marathon Majors are very competitive with each other, but with this race, Chicago has to decide how to build its reputation and its stature in the world of marathoning. Carey Pinkowski orchestrated a strong field this year, but elite fields that race is one thing, showcasing the event globally is a big part of the challenge.
4. Great story with Paula Radcliffe, Jordan Hasay and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Jordan Hasay, along with Amy Cragg, Shalane Flanagan and Desi Linden are the cream of the current marathon crop (should never discount Kara Goucher). Jordan’s gutty race in Chicago showed several things. Hasay had trained well. Hasay had focused her energies well. Hasay is fearless. Under her current development, I suspect Jordan Hasay will be in the medal hunt in 2020.
5. Citizen runners love Chicago Marathon. I speak to runners all week long. I introduct myself and ask if we can talk marathon. When I had my media badge on, people would just come up to me and told me how much they love the marathon. One women in particular told me that while she did not run a personal best, she had a great experience. She complemented the cooling stations, and the water. She loved the expo. It is one thing that I hear often, how the race takes care of its fields. Most years, Chicago is such a welcomng place with great fall weather, Italian food everywhere, and a continuing to grow fanbase on the course. As Mayor Rahm Emmanuel proudly noted in the presser, Chicago is a world class city and would deliver on a safe marathon.