KIPTUM SHATTERS 2:01 BARRIER AT CHICAGO MARATHON
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission

CHICAGO (08-Oct) — The possibility of a sub-two-hour marathon achieved under standard race conditions came one step closer today when Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum smoked the famously flat course of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon here this morning in a pending World Athletics record of 2:00:35.  Kiptum, just 23 and running in only his third marathon, cut 34 seconds off of compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s ratified world record of 2:01:09 set in Berlin in 2022.

“The record has sat in Berlin for a long time,” said executive race director Carey Pinkowski, who last saw a world record at his race in 1999 when Khalid Khannouchi ran 2:05:42.  “It was time to bring it back to Chicago.”

Kelvin Kiptum, the man and his record! photo by Kevin Morris

Remarkably, Kiptum’s mark was just one of today’s four-course records.  In the women’s contest, two-time Olympic gold medalist Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands –who had only six weeks to prepare for today’s race after competing in three events in the World Athletics Championships in Budapest– ran away from defending champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya in the second half to win in 2:13:44, the second fastest time in history.  Moreover, wheelchair champions Marcel Hug and Catherine Debrunner of Switzerland both set course records of 1:22:37 and 1:38:44, respectively.  All four race champions earned $50,000 course record bonuses in addition to their prize money.

KIPTUM IN A RUNAWAY

Kiptum, who won last April’s TCS London Marathon at 2:01:25, didn’t come to Chicago for a world record.  Instead, he had his eyes on Dennis Kimetto’s course record of 2:03:45 set ten years ago.  He said that he had prepared well despite missing some training at the beginning of his build-up due to a groin injury.

“I think I have trained good,” Kiptum told reporters on Friday. “It was a little bit less [mileage], but I’m fit for the race.”

At the 5-K mark, Kiptum was part of a lead pack of seven (plus four pacemakers) who ran 14:26, just a little bit faster than 2:02 pace.  Benson Kipruto, the race’s 2022 champion, was in the pack, and another Kenyan, Daniel Mateiko, who was making his half-marathon debut.

Kelvin Kiptum flies through the streets of Chicago, photo by Kevin Morris

“I feel quite controlled,” said Kiptum as he reflected on the early pace.

But by the 10 km point (28:42), that pack had been shattered.  Only Kiptum and Mateiko were in the lead now.  Their gap to the chase group was 30 seconds and would only grow as they continued to run.  Still, Kiptum was not thinking about the world record.

“My main objective was to run course record,” Kiptum said.  “I was not confident to break, but I was in good shape to run a fast race.”

Kiptum and Mateiko, helped by pacemaker Ronald Kirui, got to halfway at 1:00:48.  Kiptum stayed calm.  He thought about his success in London when he broke away late in the race.  That was also his plan today.

“It was from 30 kilometers,” he said, thinking back to London.  “Then I make a move.”

Kiptum ran 13:51 from 30 to 35 kilometers.  He left Mateiko behind, and, not looking the least bit fatigued, he pressed forward, only looking back a few times.  That was hardly necessary as nobody was even close.

Kelvin Kiptum, photo by Kevin Morris

“That’s my strategy,” Kiptum said.  “Nineteen miles, 20.  I made a move.”

His next 5-kilometer segment was a little slower (14:01), but he was already on sub-2:01 pace.  He would win by three and one-half minutes over Kipruto.  Mateiko was relegated to a footnote of history; he dropped out between 35 and 40 kilometers.

Third place went to Belgium’s Bashir Abdi 2:04:32, while Kenya’s John Korir (2:05:09) and Ethiopia’s Seifu Tura (2:05:29) rounded out the top five.  Tura was the race’s 2021 champion.

It was also a good day for the USA men.  Training partners Conner Mantz and Clayton Young finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in personal bests of 2:07:47 and 2:08:00, making the Paris 2024 Olympic qualifying standard of 2:08:10 (the first American men to do so).  Two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp ran 2:08:48 in eighth place a good result for the two-time Olympic medalist after dropping out of the TCS New York City Marathon last year– and Sam Chelanga was ninth in 2:08:50, a personal best.

“I was very convinced I could run under 2:07 today, but the last 4-K was brutal,” said Mantz in the post-race press conference.  He added: “It was really a good run.  I’m really excited about it.”

HASSAN UPSETS CHEPNGETICH

It is rare to describe any victory by Sifan Hassan as an upset, but that was true today.  Ruth Chepngetich won here the last two years in a row and, unlike Hassan, who had a long track season, was coming into the race fresh.  Indeed, it was Chepngetich who ran in the lead most of the first half, splitting halfway in 1:05:42.  Hassan was six seconds behind in 1:05:48, a time which was only 33 seconds slower than her half-marathon personal best.  The Dutchwoman wasn’t feeling very comfortable and was in uncharted territory.

“I’m a terrible starter,” Hassan admitted, adding that conditions were a little cold for her liking.

Sifan Hassan sets ER 2:13.44, photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly, used with permission.

It looked like Chepngetich might drop Hassan, but the 2019 world 1500m and 10,000m world champion had other ideas.  Between 25 and 30 kilometers, Hassan built a 10-second lead on Chepngetich, which grew to 29 seconds by 35-K.  The world record wasn’t possible, but she had a very good shot at Brigid Kosgei’s 2019 course record of 2:14:04, formerly the world record.  Grimacing in pain, she pushed ahead.

“The last five kilometers was really hard,” she told reporters.  She added: “It was so painful, the last seven kilometers.”

Hassan got to enjoy the finish straight alone, beating Chepngetich by about two minutes (the Kenyan ran 2:15:37).  She fell to the pavement immediately after breaking the tape, then lay on her back for a few moments before eventually rising to her feet.

“It was amazing,” said Hassan, who now has two marathon victories in two starts.  “I’m grateful that I won.”

Two more women broke 2:18, Ethiopia’s Megertu Alemu (2:17:09) and Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei (2:17:23).  Emily Sisson, who ran an American record here last year, was the top USA finisher in seventh place in 2:22:09 followed by Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel in eighth place in a personal best 2:23:07.  Sara Vaughn, a full-time realtor from Colorado with four children, finished tenth in 2:23:24, also a personal best.  In all, seven USA women ran under the Paris 2024 qualifying standard of 2:26:50 (two, Sisson and Emma Bates, had already achieved that standard).

Emily Sisson, photo by Kevin Morris

“I felt actually pretty good until mile 18 in the race,” said Sisson, who explained that she was battling a side stitch for the last third of the race.  She continued: “I was proud to gut it out the last 8 miles.”

Des Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, won the masters (40+) competition in 2:27:35, breaking Deena Kastor’s national masters record by 12 seconds.  Hers was just one of several age-group records set here today including Jenny Hitchings’s 2:49:43 for women 60 to 64.

“Every time you chase a Deena Kastor record, that’s something to get really excited about,” said Linden, who last ran this race in 2010.

WHEELCHAIR ATHLETES FLY

Marcel Hug continued his dominance of global wheelchair racing here.  He took the lead from the gun and was never challenged.  His time of 1:22:37 put him almost nine minutes ahead of second-place Daniel Romanchuk.

“For me it was also a really great race today,” Hug said.  “I was feeling great this morning, and I decided to go for the course record.  I didn’t look back.”

Marcel Hug, Chicago Marathon 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Debrunner, who set a world record at the BMW Berlin Marathon last month, had to fight off a strong challenge from Boston Marathon champion Susannah Scaroni in the final kilometer of the race.  The two were together as they started to climb “Roosevelt Mountain,” the short but steep hill which precedes the finish straight in Grant Park.  Debrunner managed to push away from Scaroni effectively neutralizing the American’s powerful sprint.  She won by two seconds and was totally exhausted.

“Today, definitely, I could not go faster,” said Debrunner, who was quick to praise Scaroni for her strong challenge today.  “I felt empty at the finish.”

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Nearly 49,000 runners registered for today’s race, the 45th edition of America’s second-largest marathon (actual finishers won’t be known until tomorrow).  Race director Pinkowski was thrilled to have his race back at full size after the pandemic.

“It was difficult, but this is such a great sports city,” Pinkowski said.  “We’re used to coming back from things.  We’re used to coming back from setbacks.”

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