Chicago Marathon organisers are talking about course records, or better yet, a men’s world record and, to fulfil those lofty ambitions, the race has signed up seven men with personal bests of 2:05 or better to be on the start line tomorrow.
The organisers have also enrolled five women who have or could dip under the 2:20 mark.
Looking to break Dennis Kimetto’s 2:03:45 course record set last year, or his still-warm 2:02:57 world record, are Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, Tadese Tola, Feyisa Lilesa, Bernard Koech, Sammy Kitwara and Dickson Chumba.
The most decorated of the contenders is three-time Olympic gold medallist, and current 5000m and 10,000m world record holder, Kenenisa Bekele.
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, a fairly recent track-to-road convert, has three impressive marathons under his belt— between 2:05:30 and 2:04:05—and the fastest personal best of the field.
Bekele made his highly anticipated transition from track to roads at this year’s Paris Marathon in April, winning in a course record time of 2:05:03. When the racing breaks out on Chicago’s historically fast course, the result of Bekele’s ramped up long runs may become devastatingly clear.
Though Bekele emerged on top more often in their many track duels, Kipchoge has so far been very successful in translating his sub-12:50 5000m speed to the 42km distance and might be considered the slight favourite in a direct head-to-head on the road.
Two recent entries, Ethiopians Tadese Tola (a best of 2:04:49) and Feyisa Lilesa (2:04:52), guarantee add to the impressive depth of the Chicago elite field.
Tola has a run two good marathons this year – finishing second in Tokyo in 2:05:57 in February 2014 and then winning the Warsaw Marathon in 2:06:54 just two months later, but has apparently taken time since then to train hard, so he could be a real threat.
Lilesa was a part of the dream field the London Marathon in April, went with the suicidal pace and but ended up in 2:08:26. However, his best was clocked in Chicago and with prudent pacing, his talent may shine again.
Kenya’s d Koech bested his training partner, Kipchoge, in the 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego half marathon in 58:41, the fourth-fastest clocking in history. With careful pacing and company throughout the 42km, an improvement on his 2:04:53 personal best seems certainly possible.
Road specialist Sammy Kitwara has course knowledge on his side as this will be his third appearance in Chicago and his best at the marathon was set at the 2013 Chicago Marathon with 2:05:16.
A prolific marathoner, Kenyan Dickson Chumba is somewhat inconsistent but has run under 2:06 twice since 2012, most recently winning the Tokyo Marathon in February in a course record time of 2:05:42.
Two of the four world record performances on the Chicago Marathon course were set by women. In 2001, Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba lowered the then world mark to 2:18:47, which was smashed the following year by England’s Paula Radcliffe, who clocked a stunning 2:17:18.
Still the course record, Radcliffe’s time might appear unassailable, but this year’s field has at least three women who could make a legitimate run at it.
Defending champion Rita Jeptoo has course knowledge and the momentum of two recent sub-2:20 performances to her credit: (2:19:57) last year at Chicago and a course record (2:18:5) at the Boston Marathon this past April.
The 33-year-old Kenyan will be pushed by her training partner, Jemima Sumgong, whose marathon has improved by eight minutes since 2011.
In December 2011, Sumgong won the Castellon Marathon in 2:28:32, again taking the top spot at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2013 in 2:23:27. In the autumn, she ran with Jeptoo in Chicago until 35hm, posting a huge personal best of 2:20:27. The dangerous Florence Kiplagat is the world half marathon record holder, having crushed the previous record earlier this year with 1:05:12.
Two months later, she came a close second at the London Marathon in 2:20:24 so her stated goal of improving on her 2:19:44 best seems rather conservative.
Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba’s late entry may scuttle a Kenyan clean sweep of the podium. This past January, the 24-year-old won the Xiamen International Marathon in 2:21:36, running alone from start to finish.
She feels Chicago’s competitive field and fast course is the ticket to improving her 2:19:52 personal best, set in Dubai in 2012. Though she’s only 20 years old, Ethiopian Birhane Dibaba has a best of 2:22:30 set this past February in Tokyo. Credibly, she’s announced dual intentions of going for the win and running 2:20 or faster.
Courtesy of the-star.co.ke