Chicago Marathon – always the bridesmaid?

Just a fortnight after the excitement of Berlin, it’s already time for the fifth World Marathon Major of the year, Chicago. After our 2019 Tokyo, Boston, London and Berlin Marathon previews earlier in the year, it’s now time to look ahead to the event that perhaps has an unfair reputation as the third most important marathon in the USA – always the bridesmaid, but never the bride?

Taking place on Sunday 13th October, the 2019 Chicago Marathon will be the 42nd edition of what would undoubtedly be the most important marathon in the USA were it not for Boston and New York.  The other two get the most fanfare (Boston because of its long history, New York because it’s in New York!), but Chicago is well worth attention in its own right. Previous world records have been set, amazing sprint finish showdowns have happened, and the race frequently attracts many of the world’s top runners. Around 45,000 people are all set to enjoy this spectacular event this weekend.

The course

The course is known as a fast one. Not only is it flat, but the route is characterised by long straights with ninety degree turns thanks to the city’s grid layout. This means there are very few hairpin turns to slow runners down. Highlights include:

  • 1.7 million spectators,
  • 29 neighbourhoods,
  • Start and finish in Grant Park,
  • Passing 4 of Chicago’s professional sports stadia,
  • Running downtown, then heading North past the lake.

The elite races

Mo Farah (picture courtesy of the Chicago Marathon)

A few years ago, Chicago was the place to go to try and set a world record. In recent years, Berlin has taken that crown. It could be argued, however, that Berlin has done that by having just one or two of the very best elite marathoners in attendance each year and providing them with the pacemakers and the conditions to run fast. Chicago, on the other hand, appears to have adopted the policy of inviting lots of fast runners and encouraging them to race each other hard. Certainly, that looks to be the case this year.

There is an added level of intrigue this year, though, as three of the elite runners are associated with the American coach, Alberto Salazar, who has just received a 4 year ban from the sport for doping violations. Those runners are Mo Farah, who was coached by Salazar from 2011 to 2017, and Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay who continued to be coached by Salazar right up until he was banned.

Mo Farah is the defending Chicago Marathon champion and faces tough competition to retain his title. The men’s elite field (with their nationality and personal bests) includes:

  • Mo Farah (Great Britain, 2:05’11) – defending champion, and world and olympic champion over 5,000 and 10,000m;
  • Galen Rupp (USA, 2:06’07) – third in the 2016 Olympic marathon;
  • Lawrence Cherono (Kenya, 2:04’06) – winner of the Seville, Prague, Honolulu, Amsterdam and Boston marathons;
  • Dickson Chumba (Kenya, 2:04’32) – winner of the Rome, Eindhoven, Tokyo and Chicago marathons;
  • Seifu Tura (Ethiopia, 2:04’44) – winner of the Milan and Shanghai marathons.

The elite women’s field includes:

  • Brigid Kosgei (Kenya, 2:18’20) – defending Chicago champion and London Marathon winner;
  • Jordan Hasay (USA, 2:20’57) – placed third in Boston 2017, Chicago 2017 and Boston 2019;
  • Betsy Saina (Kenya, 2:22’56) – has won the Paris marathon;
  • Madai Perez (Mexico, 2:22’59) – has represented Mexico at the Olympics;
  • Lisa Weightman (Australia, 2:25’15) – bronze and silver medallist at the Commonwealth Games.

The top wheelchair racers in the world are always well represented at Chicago. The elite men’s wheelchair race includes:

  • David Weir (Great Britain & NI, 1:26’17) – 2012 Paralympic Champion and 8 times London Marathon winner;
  • Ernst van Dyk (South Africa, 1:18’23) – multiple marathon winner;
  • Josh Cassidy (Canada, 1:18’25) – won more than 75 international medals;
  • Simon Lawson (Great Britain & NI, 1:25’06) – Bronze medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and fastest ever Brit.
  • Aaron Pike (USA, 1:20’59) – represented the USA in both the summer and winter Paralympics in different sports.

And in the women’s elite wheelchair race:

  • Madison de Rozario (Australia, 1:39’22) – 2018 London Marathon champion;
  • Manuela Schar (Switzerland, 1:28’17) – winner of 2018 Berlin, Chicago, New York and Tokyo Marathons;
  • Sandra Graf (Switzerland, 1:35’44) – former London Marathon champion and veteran of the sport;
  • Susannah Scaroni (USA, 1:30’24) – two time Paralympian;
  • Tatyana McFadden (USA, 1:31’30) – the winner of 17 Paralympic medals.
Susannah Scaroni (courtesy of the Chicago Marathon)

Who will win? In the men’s elite race, Farah has a big task ahead of him if he is to beat any of the 4 runners with faster PBs than his.

Brigid Kosgei has more than enough quality to win the women’s race, but anything can happen over 26.2 miles.

The wheelchair events are always difficult to call. Chicago lends itself to fast times, so it could be the case that form and speed wins over tactics. In which case, Susannah Scaroni and Josh Cassidy may come out on top.

Regardless of who wins, everyone who takes part in the Chicago Marathon, no matter what level they are competing at – Olympians or first-timers – can be immensely proud of their achievement.

Running Chicago

If this has gotten you excited and you feel like running Chicago in 2020, how can you get in?

As with all the top marathons, being quick will help. Chicago guarantees entry to runners who have hit particular time targets that correspond to their age. For example, a man aged 16-29 needs to have run under 3:05 in another marathon, whereas a man aged 80 and over needs to have broken 5:25. For women, the standards start at 3:35 for women aged 16-29, and step down to a time quicker than 6:10 for women aged 80 and over.

You can also get guaranteed entry if you have finished Chicago 5 times or more in the past 10 years.

Charities that are part of the official Chicago Marathon Charity Program [sic] have a limited number of places available to people who pledge to raise money for them. Typical minimum fundraising targets start at $1,250.

Official tour operators have places available to international runners, but you will usually have to sign up to that operator’s hotel or travel package, too.

Finally, you can chance your luck in the ballot. Like all the top marathons, this is always over-subscribed, so your chances are slim, but if all else fails, it’s worth a go.

Check out the official website for news of any changes, plus details of the entry criteria for disabled athletes.

Goats in Chicago

If you’ve run Chicago in previous years, are running it this year, or will be there to cheer on the runners, be sure to let us know in the Lonely Goat Running Club Facebook Chat Group, or by using the #lonelygoatrc and #lonelygoatrunningclub hashtags on Instagram. We’d love to know how you get on and wish every Chicago-bound Goat the best of luck.

Enjoy yourself and have a great day!

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