The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is back. After 728 days, the Windy City celebrated its 43rd year of marathon running. With fast races on both the men’s and women’s elite sides, and spectacular American performances, Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski is smiling ear to ear. Pinkowski is a consumate race director, having built the race (with Mike Nishi and team) from a modest event into one of the top six Marathons in the world.
So, in no order, here are my five deep thoughts on the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Emma Bates, Ruth Chepn’getich, Sara Hall, photo by Chicago Marathon media / Kevin Morris
1. The women’s race was compelling, and highlighted the continued development of American women marathoners.
Ruth Chepn’getich, the 2019 World Champion in the marathon, went out like a proverbial bat out of hell, dropping her pace maker by 8.5 miles. Having passed 10k in 31:29, Ruth was two minutes ahead by the 10k. Running two minutes under World record pace, Ruth continued to fly on the streets of Chicago, hitting the halfway in 1:07.51, then, the deluge!
Winds, heat and humidity had her run her second half just about seven minutes slower, but. Ruth held on to win in 2:22.31. Running up through the field, Emma Bates, fourth in 2019, moved to second, running a PB of 2:24.20. Sara Hall ran 2:27.19 for third, Keira D’Amato ran 2:28.44, giving US 3 of the top five.
2. In Men’s race, new winner, but exciting battle to the finish.
Seifu Tura won his first big marathon. A small elite pack hit the halfway at 1:02.30, which was a little adventurous for the heat, humidity and wind. By 35k, the race had dwindled down to three players: Tura, Galen Rupp and Vincent Kiptanui. At about 38k, Siefu Tura dropped the bomb, a 4:40 mile that broke up the pack, having Rupp and Kiptanui fighting for second. Rupp dropped Kiptanui, but, try as he might, could not catch Seifu Tura, who won the race in 2:06.12. Galen Rupp took second in 2:06.35 and Vincent Kiptanui was third in 2:06.51.
3. Galen Rupp comes back from a tough 8th in Tokyo Olympics, just nine weeks ago.
Galen Rupp won Chicago in 2017. He dropped out at 23 mile in 2019, after surgery, and came back to win the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in a dominant fashion (2:09.20). The conditions in Tokyo, well Sapporo were monstrous, lets just say plus 90 degrees and 95 percent humidty. Rupp was running in a pack with Eliud Kipchoge at 30k, when Eliud just blew the race apart, running a 14:25 for the 5k split between 30-35k. If Galen had been completely healthy, he might have been able to hold on for another Olympic marathon medal but the heat, humidy, and a sore calf put that dream to rest. Rupp finished 8th in 2:11.41.
Prior to Chicago, his coach, Mike Smith gave Galen some sound advice. He had him run for a week at a pace that his grandmother could also achieve. That slow running was just what the doctor ordered. Five weeks after Tokyo, Galen took third at the Great North Run (1. Marc Scott, 1:01.22, 2. Ed Cheserek 1:01.35 3. Galen Rupp, 1:01.52), and continued training for Chicago.
Per Galen’s agent, Ricky Simms, we know that Galen Rupp wants to run the World Championship marathon in Eugene, Oregon next July 2022.
4. Chicago Marathon happened, after missing 2020.
2021 Bank of America Chicgo Marathon, photo by Chicago Marathon media / Kevin Morris
In my post event interview with Carey PInkowski, it was clear that coordinating an major city marathon, in a year of a pandemic, has to be, well, insane. In the best years, keeping Bank of America and Nike happy, and also the fine City of Chicago, would keep any marathon team busy. Add the pandemic needs, and all involved are working overtime to insure success!
The marathon was succesful, even with pandemic restrictions. The heat and humidity could have caused major issues, but the water and drink stops, the medical teams, the volunteer teams, all insured some success.
26,500 finishers, at least in Chicago. A big success!
That Chicago is back was the work of a huge team behind the the scenes, from sponsors, to race team, to city offices. Huge undertaking in big city marathons, most of us have no clue. That is the story, A huge success any time a big race comes back.
5. Shalane Flanagan finishes 3rd marathon in planned six in six weeks.
Three succesful races in #ProjectEclipse. Shalane Flanagan’s goal is to run all six Abbott World Marathon Majors in this fall weird time period. Six marathons, in six weeks and all under 3 hours, is the plan of Shalane Flanagan. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m ran 2:38.32 in Berlin, 2:35.04 in London, and now 2:46.39 in Chicago. 24 hours later, she ran faster in Boston.
This six week journey is pretty cool, check her out on Instagram.