Chicago Marathon race organizers ditched the pace setters in recent years in an effort to make the race more strategical and dramatic. The 2016 edition delivered.
In the men’s race, it was a battle between 2015 Chicago champion Dickson Chumba and two-time world marathon champion (2009, 2011) Abel Kirui. That battle came right down to the finish. In the women’s race, Florence Kiplagat, the women’s half-marathon world record holder, had a one-minute lead at the 35K mark and did not require any late-race surges to take the win.
Kirui has been off the radar for a few years since winning the world marathon titles in 2009 and 2011. Interestingly, the Kenyan raced at the 2015 Blue Nose half-marathon in Nova Scotia. On Sunday, Kirui ran 2:11:23 to defeat Chumba by three seconds.
1. Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:11:23
2. Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:11:26
3. Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:12:20
Kiplagat, who completed the Kenyan sweep, is a training teammate of Kirui and defended her Chicago Marathon title on Sunday. She dominated in the middle stages of the race to build up a nearly two-minute lead to comfortably win in 2:21:32.
Kiplagat is the fastest-ever woman in the half-marathon (1:05:09) but was left off the Kenyan Olympic team in Rio. After the race, she noted that she wanted to show that it was a mistake on the committee’s part to leave her off the Olympic team and pulled through with a clutch performance on Sunday.
The 29-year-old took off around 30K and made the break that ultimately decided the race.
1. Florence Kiplagat 2:21:32
2. Edna Kiplagat 2:23:28
3. Valentine Kipketer 2:23:41
— Boston Marathon JH (@jhboston26) October 9, 2016
Both races were without pace setters, athletes hired for the purpose of setting a fast tempo in the early parts of a race before dropping out, which resulted in slower finish times. On the men’s side, for example, the Berlin Marathon two weeks ago was won in 2:03.
For much of the men’s race, there was a pack of 10-plus runners as they went through the halfway point in almost 67 minutes, which is well within many of the athletes’ range. The Kenyans began upping the tempo in the latter stages as three athletes were clear after the 35K mark of the race. From there on, Chumba and Kirui continually surged to break the competition.
Following his win, Kirui says he wants to do the London Marathon next and go up against marathon greats Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, two of the three fastest men in history.
"It was a matter of life and death," Abel Kirui says regarding the #ChicagoMarathon win.
— Justin Lagat (@Kenyanathlete) October 9, 2016
The Chicago Marathon is one of the world’s most popular road races. More than 41,000 participants took part in the marathon in the “Windy City” in the event that is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Conditions were warm and dry for runners making for fast conditions.
— CanadianRunning (@CanadianRunning) October 9, 2016