Kenyans sweep Chicago Marathon titles, U.S. Olympic picture shaken
CHICAGO – Kenyans swept the 2015 Chicago Marathon titles for the second time in three years as Dickson Chumba won the men’s race in 2:09:25 and Florence Kiplagat claimed the women’s crown in 2:23:23.
Luke Puskedra was the top American man in fifth place with a personal best of 2:10:24. Deena Kastor was the top American woman as she broke Olympian Colleen De Rueck’s masters record of 2:28:40 with her 2:27:47 run for seventh place.
Here’s a look at how things unfolded in each respective race:
Race organizers eliminated the use of pace setting runners that have helped guide the last three champions to winning times under 2:05. This year’s race looked to build dramatics with tactical competition until the final miles. Mission accomplished for race director Carey Pinkowski.
Elkhana Kibet, making his marathon debut, charged to the front of the Chicago Marathon in a singlet that read U.S. Army and maintained his lead for the early miles as the other elites waited on their moment to pounce on the lead target. Kibet held on for the first nine miles of the race before being reeled in.
A lead pack of 10 runners crossed through the half-marathon marker in 1:05:11, which just puts them at 2:10:22 pace. The biggest move of the race came after 19 miles, when the elite men injected a 4:32 mile to the slow pace and the lead pack diminished to just three runners. Chumba pulled away from 2014 runner-up Sammy Kitwara and Ethiopia’s Abel Kuma for his second Abbot World Marathon Majors victory.
Chumba has made the podium in his last four marathons, which were highlighted by a 2014 Tokyo Marathon victory before Sunday’s win. After the race, Chumba told reporters that with pacers, he believes the winning time could have been anywhere between 2:04 to 2:05.
Throughout the race, it was tough to lose sight of the 6’4” American behind the short East Africans. Puskedra is formerly a member of the Nike Oregon Project coached by three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar but was dropped by the sponsor after a disappointing marathon debut in New York City. Puskedra rebounded from his 2:28:54 to run 2:15:27 at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. in June.
Puskedra’s performance on Sunday netted him $10,000 for his fifth place finish and another $10,000 for being the top American runner. About $145,000 in time bonuses were awarded in 2014, according to David Monti of Race Results Weekly. No time bonus prize money was awarded to men in 2015.
Puskedra will run at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. His finish in Chicago solidifies him as a strong contender for one of thee U.S. Olympic team spots. His time is the fastest by an American in 2015 and the third fastest since the 2012 Summer Olympics behind Meb Keflezighi’s 2:08:37 Boston Marathon victory in 2014 and Dathan Ritzenhein’s 2:07:47 at the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
Kibet, a U.S. Army sergeant that has served in the Persian Gulf region, was the second American across the finish line in 2:11:31. The time was just 11 seconds slower than last year’s top American in Bobby Curtis and puts Kibet as the 7th fastest American since the 2012 Summer Olympics. Kibet could also be considered as a contender for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Watch the race highlights below:
The women’s race saw less pace changes and dropped runners as Florence Kiplagat and Birhane Dibaba led a pack of seven women through 35 kilometers on pace for a fast finish in windy conditions.
Last year’s race was won by Rita Jeptoo in 2:24:35 before she was later stripped of her title following a positive test for EPO was revealed in late October. Kiplagat was upgraded to a runner-up finish in the results and returned looking to be atop the podium.
Kiplagat asserted herself at the front of the race as a lead pack of seven women crossed the half-marathon in 1:10:28. Ethiopians Yebrugal Melese and Birhane Dibaba were the last to hang onto Kiplagat’s race, but faded in the final kilometers.
As she crossed the finish line, Kiplagat let out a quick jump for joy but quickly fell to the ground. She rolled over before lifting her head and arm to toss up a thumbs up and smile to the stands. She dedicated the leap to her two daughters.
“I was jumping for them because it has been a long time [since] winning,” Kiplagat said. “They said ‘Mom, do something because it has been a long time.’”
Kiplagat's last marathon victory came at the 2013 Berlin Marathon before runner-up finishes at the 2014 London and Chicago Marathons.
Melese took second in 2:23:43 as Dibaba rounded out the podium in 2:24:43.
Deena Kastor, 42, ran her fastest marathon in six years to set a new American masters record in the marathon with her 2:27:47 finish. Much like Puskedra, Kastor enters the mix for a 2016 U.S. Olympic team spot.
Kastor has yet to declare whether or not she will race next February in Los Angeles.
“For the Olympic Marathon Trials, I really want to commit to helping my teammates right now and I feel confident that I can be in some good fitness come February but I need to have that flame and passion burning,” Kastor said. “And so if that comes to me in the coming months, I’ll definitely be on that starting line.”
U.S. national marathon champion Blake Russell, 40, dropped out of the race at 12 kilometers with hamstring tightness. Sara Hall, wife to 2012 Olympian Ryan Hall, was the second American woman across the finish line in a personal best of 2:31:14.
Watch race highlights below:
Results for the 2015 Chicago Marathon elites:
1. Dickson Chumba, Kenya - 2:09:25
2. Sammy Kitwara, Kenya - 2:09:50
3. Sammy Ndguru, Kenya - 2:10:06
4. Girmay Burhanu Gebru, Ethiopia - 2:10:07
5. Luke Puskedra, United States - 2:10:24
6. Wesley Korir, Kenya - 2:10:29
7. Elkanah Kibet, United States - 2:11:31
8. Lucas Rotich, Kenya - 2:13:39
9. Abera Kuma, Ethiopia - 2:13:44
10. Fernando Cabada, United States - 2:15:36
1. Florence Kiplagat, Kenya - 2:23:33
2. Yebrgual Melese, Ethiopia - 2:23:43
3. Birhane Dibaba, Ethiopia - 2:24:24
4. Kayoko Fukushi, Japan - 2:24:25
5. Mulu Seboka, Ethiopia - 2:24:40
6. Meskerem Assefa, Ethiopia - 2:25:11
7. Deena Kastor, United States - 2:27:47
8. Diane Nukuri, Burundi - 2:29:13
9. Jessica Draskau Petersson, Denmark - 2:30:07
10. Sara Hall, United States - 2:31:14