CHICAGO (AP) Near-perfect conditions are expected to give elite entries in Sunday's Chicago Marathon an opportunity for record-setting runs.
The forecast is for 40 degree temperatures for the beginning of the race and the 26.2-mile course is relative flat.
''If it's a nice day those guys up front could threaten the world record,'' said Bobby Curtis, who owns a 2 hour, 13-minute and 24-second best time as he runs Chicago for the first time. ''I wouldn't be surprised if they set a course record, I wouldn't be surprised if they come close to a world record.''
Leading the men's field are Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, renewing an 11-year rivalry from track and field days. Bekele and Kipchoge are the top men's entries with personal best times of 2:05.04 and 2:04.05, respectively.
Kenya's Dennis Kimetto holds the current men's world record of 2:02.57, set last month in Berlin. The 11-year-old women's standard of 2:15.25 was established in London in 2003 by England's Paula Radcliffe.
Chicago's 37th annual race includes a field of 108 elite men, women and wheelchair athletes. There are also 45,000 amateur runners registered and more than 1 million people are expected to watch along the way.
Chicago is fifth in his year's six-race World Marathon Majors, which concludes its latest two-year prize cycle with the Nov. 2 New York City Marathon. The series' top male and female runners will be awarded $500,000 apiece next month.
Kenyan Rita Jeptoo already leads the World Marathon rankings and is back to defend her 2013 championship.
''I'm here again to try my best and (run) my best time in Chicago,'' said the soft-spoken Jeptoo, a Boston Marathon champion this year and Chicago winner last year in 2:19.57. ''Everybody here, I think, is ready for a run on Sunday. . Everybody is ready to run fast.''
Kimetto sits atop the men's standings but is not entered this year in Chicago after his course record winning run of 2:03.45 in 2013.
That leaves Bekele and Kipchoge atop a speedy field of seven African runners who've clocked personal bests below 2:06. They've run against each other more than a dozen times since the 2003 IAAF World championships in the 5,000 meters.
''I'm looking forward to competing with Kenenisa on the road this time,'' said Kipchoge. ''This is my fourth (marathon) and that gives me confidence.''
Kipchoge's 2:04.05 in a second place finish in Berlin in Oct. 2013 is his career best. Bekele is three-time Olympic gold and 18-time world champion in long distance track and reigning world record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races. He's entered in just his second career marathon. In April, he won a Paris run in 2:05.04.
''In track I did everything,'' Bekele said. ''What's left is only the marathon.''
Three-time Chicago champion Tatyana McFadden tops the 12-woman wheelchair field. McFadden owns four Chicago titles and set a course record of 1:42:35 in 2013. She also branched out last winter and won a cross-country skiing gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.
Reigning men's champion Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa, tops a 27-men wheelchair field that includes five ex-Chicago champs.
Also Friday, officials announced a four-year sponsorship deal with Abbott, a suburban Chicago-based pharmaceutical company. Formerly known as Abbott Laboratories, the company's sponsorship of the World Marathon Majors begins with the Tokyo Marathon on Feb. 22, 2015.