Men's Race Writeup | Women's Race Writeup | Complete Searchable Results
2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon - Men's Race
After years of fast times and records, the Chicago Marathon's times were surpassed by all of the "Marathon Majors" races and a number of others. That changed in 2012, when Tsegay Kebede ran 2:04:38 to knock nearly a minute off of the previous course record - putting Chicago back on the map of the world's fastest races.
With the recent success at a fast finish, the Chicago organizers seemed intent on putting together an elite field that could bring the times down again. The field that was gathered for the 2013 race included four men who had run faster than 2:05. In addition, three other men had run sub 59 minutes for the half marathon - meaning that they had the engines necessary to run among the very best marathoners, if they could finally figure out how to extend to the marathon distance.
Talking with the athletes before the race, we learned that the men were planning to run through the first half of the marathon in 61:45...that would mean that a world record attempt...bettering the 2:03:23 run by Wilson Kipsang two weekes earlier was in the minds and plans of the runners. Obviously, a world record attempt is a tough task - something that can either end in great success or more likely great failure. We were skeptical when we heard the pace the runners would start at - could some finish, or would all collapse? A famous example of the field going too fast was the 2008 Chicago Marathon when the field went out for a 2:06 pace, but few in the field could handle that and at the end the winner managed 2:06:25, runner-up 2:07:37 but all others in the main field dropped out or struggled in with the result that third place was two minutes behind second place; fourth place two minutes behind that and only four men in total managed to finish under 2:15. We wondered - for 2013 - whether a world record starting pace (61:45 for the half = 4:43/mile) was possible for this field - would the runners manage it and/or might the runners opt for a slower pace on race morning.
The race began with the pacers taking it out as expected. Jason Hartmann was tapped to lead the field out for the first 5K and at first it seemed as if he was running far in front of the field - as if the competitors had decided to keep a slower pace and not follow the lead of the pacer. But by the mile mark (in a "slow" 4:48), the runners were back with the pacer and 13 competitors (and 6 pacers) went through the 5K mark in 14:45 (4:45/mile average). Just behind the lead group was Dathan Ritzenhein - who had run a personal best 2:07:47 the year before and was hoping for a 2:06. Ritzenhein knew he could or should not start with the frantic pace of the other runners and would run his own race - expecting that many of the front runners would drop out and he might reach the top three or five and set a personal best if all went well.
photo: Sean Hartnett
The four leaders mid-race
By the halfway mark, nine competitors (and 3 rabbits) had improved their pace and crossed the mark in 61:50 - at the pace we were expecting and well in striking distance for a new world record if they could keep up the pace. It was certain that not all could continue at the 4:43/mile average they were running - but it would be a game of attrition and we all hoped that at least one could continue on to a record...we all like to see records... Race organizers tend to assign bib numbers in order of past (or sometimes expected) performance and it was interesting to note that the race was shaping up as the bib order would predict. Of the assigned numbers through bib 10, all were in the lead pack at halfway except Dathan Ritzenhein (bib 7) who was running his own race.
By 30K in 1:28:01 (4:43/mi average projects to a 2:03:48 finish), the pacers had finished their job and eight runners remained on pace to challenge the record. Of these, seven were Kenyan (Dennis Kimetto, Emmanuel Mutai, Sammy Kitwara, Micah Kogo, Moses Mosop, Mike Kigen) and one was Ethiopian (Ayele Abshero). All of the men who had previously run sub 2:05 were in the mix and the race was certainly going to be something special - world record or not - never before had this many men run through 30K at this pace in the same race.
photo: Sean Hartnett
Kimetto, Mutai, Kitwara
Soon after 30K, Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai began to pull away from the others (running a 4:33 mile, the fastest of the race) with Sammy Kitwara and Micah Kogo just behind. Kitwara caught the leaders first and Kogo would come close then fall back but would eventually be with the leaders as the four Kenyans would click off the miles on pace.
Passing the 22 mile mark in 1:43:50 (4:43/mi average projects to a 2:03:45 finish), Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai had moved past the others and were running step for step. The 23rd mile of the race, at 4:34, was the second fastest of the race - and the two men looked strong. Mutai had the most to prove - after a number of 2:06 marathon finishes beginning in 2007, Mutai had a breakthrough 2:04:40 to win the 2011 London Marathaon and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the 2011 New York City Marathon. But 2012 was a poor year for Mutai, beginning with a 2:08:01 7th place finish at the London Marathon and a 2:14:49 finish at the Olympic Games. Mutai was injured and had not run another marathon since the Olympics and many had written him off - Mutai told us after that this race was his chance to redeem himself.
Through mile 25, the two men were together and if they wanted to break the world record, they would need to average 4:31/mi for the final 1.2 miles - something difficult, but possible. Kimetto, the stronger of the two, pushed hard - but later told us he wasn't thinking of the record, just pushing hard for the win. The 26th mile for Kimetto was 4:36, the third fastest mile of the race and enough to break Mutai.
photo: Sean Hartnett
Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai running step for step
At the end, both Kimetto and Mutai would break the 2:04 barrier: Kimetto winning in 2:03:45, the fourth fastest marathon of all time; and Mutai finishing runner-up in 2:03:52, the first fastest marathon of all time - and both under the previous world record. Sammy Kitwara held on to finish in third place in 2:05:16 - he would tell us he was disappointed because he was hoping for 2:04, but he was also happy having knocked nearly 40 seconds off his personal best. Micah Kogo slowed substantially, but took third place in 2:06:56 with no one near him - and a significant improvement on his only other marathon race (2:10:27 for 2nd at the 2013 Boston Marathon). Dathan Ritzenhein, having run through the first half in 1:03:02 (17th place at the time), began to slow after the 18 mile mark and finished in 2:09:45 - he was terribly disappoinged and even the fact that he had advanced to fifth place was not enough to salve the wound of failing to keep his pace and his failure to better his performance of the previous year.
For the Chicago Marathon organizers, the race was a great victory. For years, the Chicago Marathon finisher times had lagged behind many that of many others. Now, Chicago seemed to be behind only Berlin on the list of the world's fastest courses. Was asked the race director post-race whether he thought the stakes had been raised and that there would have to be a world record attempt in 2014 - the answer was yes. We will look forward to that 2014 race on the Chicago Marathon course that has now been confirmed as one of the very fastest in the world.
photo: Sean Hartnett
Dathan Ritzenhein - Top American
photo: Sean Hartnett
The top 10 finishers:
1. Dennis Kimetto (KEN) 2:03:45 - $100,000 + $75,000
2. Emannuel Mutai (KEN) 2:03:52 - $50,000 + $55,000
3. Sammy Kitwara (KEN) 2:05:16 - $25,000 + $40,000
4. Micah Kogo (KEN) 2:06:56 - $15,000 + $10,000
5. Dathan Ritzenhein (USA) 2:09:45 - $10,000 + $10,000 + $2,500
6. Ayele Abshero (ETH) 2:10:10
7. Hiroaki Sano (JPN) 2:10:29
8. Moses Mosop (KEN) 2:11:19
9. Yoshinori Oda (JPN) 2:11:29
10. Matt Tegenkamp (USA) 2:12:28 - $7,500 + $2,500Other Top Americans (Trials Qualifiers)
13. Craig Leon (USA) 2:13:53 - $5,000 + $2,500
16. Mike Morgan (USA) 2:15:01 - $2,500 + $2,500
17. Fidele Jefferson (USA) 2:15:19 - $1,000 + $2,500
19. Jared Ward (USA) 2:16:18 - $2,500
22. Sean Quigley (USA) 2:17:46 - $2,500