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Tirunesh Dibaba dominates, Galen Rupp ends drought at Chicago Marathon

Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba controlled a fast-paced women's race while Galen Rupp won a slow and tactical Chicago Marathon on Sunday morning

Chicago Marathon

Galen Rupp became the first American man to win the Chicago Marathon since 2002 on Sunday morning in a tactical affair. The 31-year-old ran 2:09:20, a PB, followed by defending champion and Kenyan Abel Kirui in 2:09:48.

In a race contested in an entirely different manner, fast from the gun, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, a three-time Olympic champion and the women’s 5,000m world record holder, won in 2:18:31. It was Dibaba’s first career marathon win despite being the third-fastest woman in history, having run 2:17:56 at the 2017 London Marathon. American Jordan Hasay set a PB finishing third overall, matching her placing-performance from Boston, running 2:20:57. Her sub-2:21 clocking is a course record for Americans.

Only Paula Radcliffe has run faster than 2:19 twice in the same season, a feat Dibaba accomplished on Sunday.


Without the use of pacemakers – athletes who are paid to lead portions of the race in hopes of encouraging fast times – the opening splits of the men’s race were slow, 2:11 pace to be exact through the first few kilometres. The women pushed it from the gun, splitting 2:16-2:17 projected pace through the downtown core of Chicago. In fact, the first 5K split was the fastest of any opening 5K split ever run by a woman at the Chicago Marathon, including Paula Radcliffe’s splits when she ran a then-world record of 2:17:18 in 2002.



Through 5K in the men’s race, there were 26 runners in a lead pack, headed by American Aaron Braun, with all the favourites content on the slow pace, which continued through 10K, projected for a 2:12:30 finish. The slow pace was not that unusual as in 2016 the winning time (2:11:23) was the slowest since 1993.

Meanwhile, the women were on course-record pace through 10K, clocking 32:28, including Dibaba, Hasay and Florence Kiplagat, the two-time defending champion. Hasay, who had a 2:23:00 marathon PB entering the race, was running 2:17 pace through the quarter-mark of Chicago, her second-ever marathon after finishing third in Boston in April 2017.

The men split 1:05:49 through the halfway point while the women were not far back in 1:08:48. Shortly after 21.1K, Dennis Kimetto, the men’s world record holder, stepped off the course limping with an apparent injury, continuing his recent struggles that have plagued him for the past two years. Stanley Biwott, a 2:03:51 marathoner and winner of New York City in 2015, dropped out shortly after.

Around 25K, Hasay began fading from the lead women – Dibaba and Brigid Kosgei – by approximately 20 seconds but was still on sub-2:19 pace, under the American women’s marathon record of 2:19:36, running alongside Kiplagat.

By 35K in both races, the lead packs had dwindled. Dibaba was out in front on her own, having gapped Kosgei, while Kirui, Rupp and Ethiopian Sisay Lemma were in contention duking out who would finish where on the men’s podium. Then, suddenly, and somewhat expectedly, Rupp, who has broke 27:00 for 10,000m, made a move that decided the race. Chicago was Rupp’s fourth marathon and he has never finished worse than third in a 42.2K with a victory at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, a second-place finish at the 2017 Boston Marathon and bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics.

As Dibaba had more than a minute lead at the 40K mark, she was never in danger of finishing outside of the winner’s circle.

With Rupp and Kirui taking the top two spots, Bernard Kipyego of Kenya finished third in the men’s race in 2:10:23. Kosgei of Kenya finished second in the women’s race, lowering her personal best by four minutes clocking 2:20:22. Winners take home US$100,000.


Stay tuned for top Canadian results from the 2017 Chicago Marathon.