The World Marathon Majors’ penultimate race occurred Sunday in Chicago and, sticking with tradition, finishing times were fast and the competition was fierce. Some of the world’s best runners joined the crowd of 45,000 participants for the annual 26.2 mile journey through downtown Chicago.
As we reported previously in our World Marathon Major preview, the main story behind this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon was the showdown between former Olympic track stars Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge. With over a decade of competition against one another on ovals around the world, seeing the two running 26.2 miles on city streets certainly warranted the attention.
As in many of the Bekele vs. Kipchoge showdowns of the past, the majority of the race was run with the two tightly bunched up among some of the world’s other great runners. In this case, Sammy Kitwara and Dickson Chumba joined Kenenisa and Eliud for the first 20 miles at 2:04 marathon pace. While Dennis Kimetto’s world record may have been out of reach at that point, Bekele’s past heroics led one to believe that with a fast finish, the course record could still be in jeopardy. However, Bekele’s near invincibility on the track did not transfer over to the road this time and Kipchoge ended up getting the better of his rival, finishing at 2:04:11 in winning time. Kitwara and Chumba also got the better of Bekele with their finishing times of 2:04:28 and 2:04:32 respectively. Chumba’s time was the best third place finishing time ever in a marathon. Bekele held on for fourth place and his second sub 2:06 with a time of 2:05:51.
While most of the media’s attention was given the men’s race, the women’s group had its star power on display as well. Rita Jeptoo came to Chicago with a target on her back and still dominated the event. Her defense of last year’s title was her fourth Marathon Major win in a row, a streak few have ever achieved, and secured her the World Marathon Major title and the $500,000 prize (on top of the $100,000 purse she earned by winning the race). While her time of 2:24:35 is significantly slower than her personal best of 2:18:57 (Boston Marathon, 2014), she showed that she could stay dominant no matter what the racing style is. Her previous wins came in fast races, and to maintain her composure in a tactical race and finish a minute ahead of the rest of the pack shows that has the potential to keep this streak going for a while.
The final stop on the World Marathon Major tour is the TCS New York City Marathon on November 2, 2014. Dennis Kimetto may have taken the World Record from Wilson Kipsang, but a win in New York would assure Kipsang the World Marathon Major title, surely $500,000 is a nice silver lining after losing the record.