The Chicago Marathon - 2007 Preview
By Sharon Ekstrom
First and Foremost: Chicago Is Fast
Celebrating its thirtieth year, the 2007 Chicago Marathon boasts one of the fastest marathon courses in the world. We could go on and on with statistics demonstrating the speed at Chicago: Eight of the fastest twenty marathons ever run have been run at Chicago. Four of the fastest twenty women's marathon times were clocked in Chicago. Runners at the Chicago Marathon have set world records four times: Steve Jones in 1984 (2:08:55), Khalid Khannouchi in 1999 (2:05:42), Catherine Ndereba in 2001 (2:18:47) and Paula Radcliffe in 2002 (2:17:18). With ninety-three sub-2:08 performances, Chicago ranks second only to the London Marathon for the quantity of ultra-fast finishes. Similarly, the winning time at Chicago has been sub 2:08 in nine of the ten last years - with the second fastest average winning finish time of any marathon in the world: 2:06:50 (second only to Berlin's 2:06:35).
Who's who of the Men
Headlining the 2007 Chicago Marathon field is defending champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot who has won the last three marathons he has run - Boston, Chicago and Boston. That record must put Kipkoech Cheruiyot as the favorite, although his competition is stiff. Also returning to Chicago from the class of 2006 are Daniel Njenga (2006 runner-up - 2:07:40), Jimmy Muindi (2006 3rd place - 2:07:51) and Benjamin Maiyo (2006, 8th place - 2:11:53). Njenga, the tenth fastest marathoner in the world, has run Chicago each year from 2002-2006, always finishing in the top three and with a slowest finish time of 2:07:44. In 2006, Njenga lost to Kipkoech Cheruiyot by just five seconds and is always a threat. Muindi has four Chicago Marathons under his belt, but lacks the consistency of Njenga. Maiyo, who was second to Kipkoech Cheruiyot in Boston in 2006, had a difficult Chicago in 2006,and was affected by missing a key water station. Presumably that mistake will not happen again.
Other Chicago Marathon veterans will be returning, including Felix Limo, the 2005 champion in 2:07:02. Evans Rutto, the 2003 champion in 2:05:50 and 2004 champion in 2:06:16. Patrick Ivuti ran a 2:07:46 at the 2005 Chicago Marathon, which in that year was only good enough for a fifth place finish. Going from fast to faster, Limo is the 7th fastest man in the world with his 2004 Rotterdam Marathon win in 2:06:14 - and his third place finish in warm conditions at the 2007 London Marathon (2:07:47) proves that he remains strong. The man with the best time in the field is Rutto, the fifth fastest male marathoner in the world - a mark he set at Chicago in 2003. Rutto currently holds three of the top 20 fastest marathon finishes of all-time, but his successes are not as recent as the others in the field and he has not raced a marathon since April 2006 London Marathon when he finished in a disappointing tenth place in a time of 2:09:35.
Beyond the above athletes, are two men who will be runnning Chicago for the first time. Jaouad Gharib and Bong-Ju Lee. Gharib is a two-time world champion, winning the 2003 and 2005 World Championships. Gharib has remained strong, finishing fourth earlier in the year at the 2007 London Marathon in 2:07:54, his fifth sub-2:08 finish. Bong-Ju Lee has the longest career in the group, having won the Silver Medal at the 1996 Olympics, and participated in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics as well. At thirty-six, many might have written off Lee, but his recent 2:08:04 finish at the Seoul International Marathon in March 2007 shows that he should still be competitive in the field.
The Chicago Marathon is usually a showcase for American runners as well, but that will not be the case for 2007, with the top American talent preparing for the Olympic Trials to be held one month later. We enjoyed the 2006 race where Abdi Abdirahman set a PR of 2:08:56 and Brian Sell set his PR of 2:10:47. In the absence of these top American men, there will be a handful of men racing to best the 2:22 trials qualifying time as the Chicago Marathon falls on the final day of setting a qualifying time for the trials.
The Women's Field
For 2007, the New York City Marathon appears to have taken the vast majority of female elite athletes and left few for the other major world marathons. The field for the 2007 Chicago Marathon will not be deep with the second Galina Bogomolova), fourth (Madai Perez) snd fifth (Constantina Tomescu-Dita) finishers from 2006 marathon running the New York City Marathon for 2007.
We expect the competition to be between three women at Chicago: defending champion, Berhane Adere, Benita Johnson - third in 2006, and Nuta Olaru who finished sixth in 2006. Berhane Adere should be the favorite, but we'll note that Benita Johnson has been getting stronger and stronger at the marathon distance.
The prize money at Chicago is among the most attractive in marathoning:
Prize money (USD$)
| || || || |
|Men|| || ||Women|| |
|sub 2:12:00||$3,500 || ||sub 2:28:00||$3,500 |
|sub 2:11:00||$4,500 || ||sub 2:27:00||$4,500 |
|sub 2:10:00||$5,000 || ||sub 2:26:00||$5,000 |
|sub 2:09:00||$10,000 || ||sub 2:24:45||$10,000 |
|sub 2:08:00||$15,000 || ||sub 2:23:30||$15,000 |
|sub 2:07:00||$40,000 || ||sub 2:22:15||$40,000 |
|sub 2:06.30||$45,000 || ||sub 2:21:00||$45,000 |
|sub 2:06:00||$75,000 || ||sub 2:20:00||$75,000 |
|sub 2:05:42 (CR)||$125,000 || ||sub 2:17:18 (CR)||$125,000 |
|sub 2:04:26 (WR)||$200,000 || ||sub 2:15:25 (WR)||$200,000 |