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2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon - Men's Race
by John Elliott and Sharon Ekstrom
After the success and speed of the 2009 Chicago Marathon, the pressure was on for 2010 to top the year prior. Sammy Wanjiru, who set the course record in 2009 and ran the fastest time ever run in North America was returning to defend his title and many believe that Wanjiru is capable of breaking the world record. Wanjiru had dropped out of the 2010 London Marathon and Tsegay Kebede who had bested Wanjiru that day was in the Chicago field. To add to the excitement, Wanjiru and Kebede were tied in number of points for the World Marathon Majors series - whichever of the two men crossed the finish line in Chicago first would receive a $500,000 bonus check. Added to the field were men who had done the impossible: Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot had smashed the Boston Marathon record, bettering times run by many of the best of all-time who had run Boston. Feyisa Lilesa, at 20, was the youngest man ever to break 2:06. And while the win might go to any of those, Wesley Korir, a past Chicago Marathon champion; Deriba Merga, a past Boston Marathon champion; and Vincent Kipruto could also legitimately vie for the title.
photo: Scott Winnier for MarathonGuide.com
The Full Pack of men
The 2009 race that produced the course record, was run a cold day - probably too cold. But the 2010 race was being held on a warm day - not "hot," but warm enough that the course record would be a difficult feat. Sammy Wanjiru stated before the race that he wasn't going to try to break the record, but of course he would plan for the win. Tsegay Kebede stated that he thought he might try to set a personal best - if that were to be the case, then there would be a course record. Nonetheless, the athletes and organizers agreed that the pacesetters would help the lead pack out to a half marathon time of 1:02:40 (a pace of 4:48 per mile) - which, in fact, would put the runners ahead of the course record if they could maintain that pace.
Through the first 20K (59:17), Half (1:02:36) and 25K (1:14:28), the three pacers led eight men along at the expected pace. The pack included seven who were most expected to be among the leaders: Tsegay Kebede, Feyisa Lilesa, Deriba Merga, Vincent Kipruto, Sammy Wanjru, Wesley Korir and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot; as well as Laban Moiben a talented Kenyan with a 2:09:44 personal best - not good enough to contend for the win, but perhaps worthy of being in the top eight.
With the first two pacers having finished their alotted duties by 25K, Shadrack Kosgei was left with the leader's duties but the pace slowed between 25K and 30K with the slowest miles of the day.
Just before mile 18, Tsegay Kebede put in a surge and pushed the pace. Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot falls off the back of the pack as the leaders go through the 30K in 1:29:36 and the last pacesetter steps aside and Laban Moiben is next to fall behind the leaders. Kebede and Wanjiru push the pace and mile 19 is the fastest of the day at 4:40. Deriba Merga runs right behind Wanjiru as six remain in the leading pack, but at 1:34 into the race, Merga stops dead and is out. The pack continues to break apart with Wesley Korir the next to lose the pace; as Wanjiru, Kebede and Lilesa run through the following miles in 4:43, 4:42 and 4:41 (miles 20, 21 and 22 respectively). Feyisa Lilesa fell back at 35K, but catches back up - there are only three in the race.
photo: Scott Winnier for MarathonGuide.com
Tsegay Kebede, Robert K Cheruiyot and Feyisa Lilesa in the lead pack
After 22 miles, Kebede really begins to surge and he looks strong. With just over 5K remaining, we note that Kebede is the fastest 5K runner in the field - would that help? Lilesa falls back first and Wanjiru falls back as well and Lilesa catches Wanjiru, but the two battle forward and catch Kebede again. Kebede surges, is caught, surges, is caught, surges.... But by 24 miles, Lilesa is out of the running and the race is down to two.
Into the final waterstation, Kebede and Wanjiru both take water. As Kebede is drinking, Wanjiru holds his cup and watches Kebede to assess his competition and tries to pass Kebede as he is drinking, but it does not work. Kebede surges ahead, again... With just under one mile remaining, Wanjiru catches and passes Kebede - it's clear that he is hoping that if he can speed past Kebede he will break Kebede's spirit. But Kebede responds and surges away - it looks like Wanjiru will be left in the dust.
If this wasn't one of the most exciting marathon finishes in memory, we're not sure what is. Wanjiru reaches deep and catches Kebede and sits behind him for a minute, trying to decide whether, with 700 meters to go to start his sprint or wait until the last 100 meters...
The decision is made and with 2:04:40 on our watches, Wanjiru makes a strong surge and the two are in an all out sprint. With the World Marathon Majors bonus and the first versus second place prize differential, the man crossing the finish line would be $525,000 richer than the man finishing second. Kebede stays with Wanjiru, but then by 2:05:20, Kebede has nothing left. Wanjiru continues running all out - looking like he is running for his life and Kebede is done...
Wanjiru runs through the finish line with a huge smile on his face, winning in 2:06:24. Kebede, spent, crosses the finish line in 2:06:43 - the 19 second differential that will appear in the history books will obscure the actual closeness of the finish. The race played out exactly to script - with the defending champion successful and with the two men who stood to race for the incredible money bonus being equally matched and fighting to the finish.
Lilesa takes third place in 2:08:10, having run a full 1-1/2 minutes slower than Wanjiru for the final 1-1/2 miles. The remainder of the top seven finshers consistsed of the men who had made up the leaders from the start of the race, with the exception of Deriba Merga who had dropped out...
The top 10 finishers:
1. Wanjiru, Sammy (KEN) - 2:06:24
2. Kebede, Tsegaye (ETH) - 2:06:43
3. Lilesa, Feyisa (ETH) - 2:08:10
4. Korir, Wesley (KEN) - 2:08:44
5. Kipruto, Vincent (ETH) - 2:09:08
6. Cheruiyot, Robert Kiprono (KEN) - 2:09:28
7. Moiben, Laban (KEN) - 2:10:48
8. Hartmann, Jason (USA) - 2:11:06
9. Harroufi, Ridouane (MAR) - 2:13:01
10. Sayenko, Mike (USA) - 2:14:27
Additional USA Finishers beating Olympic Trials Qualifier Standard
11. Morgan, Mike (USA) - 2:14:55
12. Humphrey, Luke (USA) - 2:15:49
13. Rizzo, Patrick (USA) - 2:16:12
15. Arciniaga, Nick (USA) - 2:18:12