Andrew A. Nelles/AP

Florence Kiplagat returns to the Chicago Marathon seeking victory after a runner-up finish in 2015.

By Chris Chavez
October 09, 2015

This year’s Chicago Marathon should feature strong international competition, as a field deep with contenders from East Africa—and with few American standouts—will battle over the 26.2-mile distance in the second World Marathon Major of the fall.

The race is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. CT).

Here is a look at the elite women’s field:

Favorite: Florence Kiplagat, Kenya (Personal Best: 2:19:44, 2011 Berlin Marathon)

Kiplagat is the only woman in the field to have run under 2:20 in the last five years, having won the 2011 Berlin Marathon in 2:19:44. Kiplagat crossed the finish line in 2:25:57 for third place in Chicago last year, but was later upgraded to second after winner Rita Jeptoo tested positive for EPO and was stripped of her title. In Kiplagat’s most recent marathon, she finished fifth at London in April, in 2:24:15. Two months before that race, she had set the half-marathon world record of 1:05:09. In the lead-up to Chicago, Kiplagat struggled to a 1:09:20 half-marathon in early September, which is the only blemish on her recent record. One of Kiplagat’s concerns could be the lack of pacers to help guide her to a fast time.

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Budding star: Birhane Dibaba, Ethiopia (2:22:30, 2014 Tokyo Marathon)

Dibaba is only 22 years old but already has eight marathons under her belt. She won February’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:23:15 to improve upon her runner-up finish in 2014. Dibaba is the second-fastest returner from last year’s race, having finished fourth behind Kiplagat in 2:27:02. She has set a personal best each year since her first marathon in 2011 and has yet to turn the trick in 2015. If she runs a personal best, a win could come along with the time.

American hopeful: Sarah Crouch, U.S. (2:32:44, 2014 Chicago Marathon)

Crouch surprised herself with a personal best by 12 minutes with her sixth-place finish at Chicago last year. She is the top U.S. returner for this year’s Chicago.

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American record chase: Deena Kastor, U.S. (2:19:36, 2006 London Marathon)

Many of the top Americans have chosen to bypass the fall marathon season to continue training for the 2016 Olympic marathon trials in February. Kastor is racing the Chicago Marathon looking to break the U.S. masters record of 2:28:40. On paper, Kastor has the fastest personal best of all the women set to race on Sunday, with her U.S. record of 2:19:36 set in 2006. Since the 2012 Olympic Trials, Kastor’s fastest marathon performance was a 2:32:39 performance at the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon. She is coming off a 15:48 5K on the roads on Sept. 26. If she can run the new masters record, she would be in conversation for the top American spot.

Blake Russell won the USA Marathon Champs in March at the L.A. Marathon in 2:34:57 in her return to the distance for the first time since 2008. While Chicago organizers have hyped Kastor’s record chase, Russell could also come close.

Still trudging: Joan Benoit Samuelson, U.S. (Personal best - 2:21:21, 1985 Chicago Marathon)

The 1985 champion initially said her goal was to run within 30 minutes of her personal best and winning time from 1985, but due to a stomach virus has decided to abandon that goal. Samuelson says that she will make a game-time decision before choosing whether or not to run on Sunday.

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