There will be no world record
The Berlin Marathon has owned the world record on the men’s side for over a decade. But Chicago is a flat and fast course and has seen a record fall on two occasions, the last being back in 1999. There’s no chance we’ll see a world record on Sunday. The lead pack will not have pacers to help them, as organizers decided to do away with them in order to make the race more exciting. That’s a great move for spectators and online/TV viewers, but it also means it won’t be a lightning fast race. Prediction: the winner finishes in 2:06.
But the race will be more exciting
Because there will be no pacers, the top three or four stars on both the men’s and women’s side of the race won’t be able to distance themselves from the pack immediately without taking big risks. Chicago is going to resemble New York, Boston or an Olympic race, where it will all come down to the last couple of kilometres.
Rob Watson will have a breakthrough
Canada’s Rob Watson enters Chicago in great shape and focused, after taking a lot of risks in the last couple of years. He did wreck himself this summer, running a hot and humid Pan Am Games marathon, but he’s had time to reload. Watson desperately wants to be an Olympian, and this is perhaps his best chance to get a qualifying time. Chicago will also be the fastest course he’s ever properly raced (he paced Shalane Flanagan last year in Berlin), giving Watson a chance to get into a groove with other runners aiming to run around 2:09 – 2:12. The key will be patience, and we’ll see if Watson has matured into an Olympic calibre athlete on the streets of Chicago. We think he’s ready.
Deena Kastor will set a masters American record
The women’s 40+ world record is out of reach for the greatest North American women’s marathoner of all-time. But she should be able to challenge the American record, also set in Chicago by Colleen De Reuck back in 2008. De Reuck’s 2:28:40 will be a challenge, but Kastor is flourishing as a master. Last year she set the half-marathon masters world record (1:09:36) and ran 2:33:18 at the much tougher New York City Marathon.
Joan Benoit Samuelson will run another sub-3:00 marathon
The 58-year-old former world record holder plans on celebrating the 30th anniversary of her 1985 win in Chicago by coming within 30 minutes of that time (2:21:21). That will be a tall order, but she should fall somewhere between 2:50 – 3:00, a feat which is so impressive on its own. Samuelson’s post elite career is arguably as impressive and influential as when she won the first women’s Olympic marathon and won Boston and Chicago.
Florence Kiplagat will dominate
The Kenyan half-marathon world record holder is the clear favourite. She’s the only female runner in the field who could pull off a sub-2:20 marathon. She also knows how to win without pacers, having won the world cross-country championship and half-marathon championship titles. And if the race comes down to a sprint, she’s got great track finishing speed.
Kiplagat will not break the course record, which is an insane 2:17:18, but she will get under 2:20. If she wins and runs well, she’s been told she’d be guaranteed a spot on the Kenyan Olympic team. That’s a great motivator, but also a good one to keep her running wisely.
A new guy from Canada will run pretty fast
Chicago always attracts a good number of Canadians. This year, Sudbury, Ont. native Brandon Lord will debut and should run under 2:20. Lord has spent much of the last few years south of the border on a running scholarship with the University of Georgia. He’s been training for the marathon with Rob Watson and his brother/coach Pete in Virginia. He should crack the top ten on the Canadian depth chart with a solid debut.