Chicago was blessed with perfect race conditions on Sunday, which yielded a pair of Kenyan victories in the men’s and women’s elite races and ambitious pursuits of fast times across the board. Ruth Chepngetich kept spectators and fans on the edge of their seats as she gave the world record a massive scare. Benson Kipruto added another World Marathon Major victory with a late breakaway to clock the fourth-fastest time in Chicago’s 44-year history. It was a strong day for American athletes, as well: Emily Sisson took 43 seconds off the less-than-a-year-old American record with her runner-up performance and Conner Mantz proved the marathon may be his strong suit with the second-fastest U.S. debut over 26.2, finishing 7th overall.
Here are a few of the key moments and takeaways from yesterday’s race:
– Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich wasted no time putting fans on world record watch as she opened up with a 4:47 and 4:56 first and second miles. It was quite the scene in the early running as she ran alongside – and briefly ahead of – former NCAA cross country champion Patrick Tiernan, who was targeting 2:10 for his marathon debut. (He ended up running 2:11:02.)
Chepngetich split 15:12 for her first 5K, which is 2:08:15 pace and 16 seconds faster than Brigid Kosgei’s opening 5K split during her 2:14 world record run in 2019. Kosgei split 66:59 for the first half of her world record, and Chepngetich bettered that checkpoint, as well, by more than a minute with a 65:44 split – the fastest opening half in women’s marathon history. Only one of her male pacers made it that far and even he was working hard to keep ahead. The former world champion stayed under world record pace through 40K but was visibly hanging on as best as she could over the final two kilometers. She crossed the finish line in 2:14:18 to become the second-fastest woman of all time.
Chicago re-asserted its claim as the place to run fast as it’s now the site of 3 of the top 10 women’s marathons. Similarly, Chepngetich now has 3 spots on the top 10 list as well with the #2, #7, and T-#9 marks on the list.
– Unfortunately, the NBC television coverage did not show much of Emily Sisson’s race, despite her coming into the weekend having voiced her goal of running under 2:20 and possibly taking a swing at Keira D’Amato’s 2:19:12 American record. From the start, Sisson and her two pacers’ intentions were clear: she went out around 2:19 pace and midway through the race caught the chase pack that was cruising at sub-2:18 pace for some early stages. Sisson ended up negative-splitting the race with a 69:26 opening half before coming back in 69:03. She broke away from the chase pack with about 10K remaining in the race and crossed the finish line in 2:18:29 to become the first American woman to go under 2:19:00. Her 25K split and 30K split also set U.S. all-time bests in the process.
Sisson now owns the American records in both the marathon and half marathon. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise — she’s been among the top U.S. distance runners over the past decade. After putting together one of the best races of the Olympic Trials in the 10,000m, she decided to skip the 2022 track season to focus on this marathon. Her previous personal best was 2:23:08 from the 2019 London Marathon – which is the fastest debut by an American woman on a record-eligible course. We’ve seen the signs that Sisson will make a great marathoner someday and Sunday validated everything.
American women’s marathoning is at a whole new level right now – even though it feels like we say that after every World Major. In the last three years, Sisson, D’Amato, Sara Hall and Emma Bates have added their names to the top 10 all-time U.S. women’s marathoning list. Plus, you have the likes of Molly Seidel, Dakotah Lindwurm, Susanna Sullivan, Nell Rojas and Annie Frisbie in their respective primes. (Plus: 1500m great Jenny Simpson is moving to the roads with a possible marathon in her future!)
Just last week, the Paris 2024 organizers revealed their marathon course and it’s going to be hilly, yet scenic. We still do not know from USATF where the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials will be held or what the selection process will look like but it’s not too early to get excited, start those “Who ya got?” bar debates, and ponder the upside of another possible medal contender like Sisson.
It’s also worth showing some love to Sisson’s coach, longtime Providence College legend Ray Treacy. Not only has Treacy produced a long list of collegiate stars over the years, but he’s also overseen the careers of three of the all-time great road runners: Sisson, Molly Huddle, and Kim Smith. If Smith and Huddle’s careers are any indication, his system is great for professional longevity which is a good sign for Sisson’s trajectory in years to come.
– Susanna Sullivan, a full-time teacher with no professional sponsorship contract, took fifth in a personal best of 2:25:14. That’s the second marathon personal best notched by her this year after running 2:26:56 at Grandma’s Marathon this summer.
– Sara Vaughn, the mother of four and Boulder real estate agent, managed to bounce back from a bummer in Boston with a seventh-place finish and personal best in 2:26:23.
– Roots Running Project’s Maggie Montoya took 61 seconds off her personal best to finish 8th in 2:28:07.
– Makena Morley, the former Colorado Buffalo standout now sponsored by Asics, finished 10th in her debut in 2:30:28. She wrote on Instagram: “Was on pace feeling amazing for sub 2:25 until mile 19.5, then bonk city lol – something I worked on some but not enough, looking back, was fueling and figuring out how many calories I would need at each aid station – I definitely didn’t realize the importance of that until yesterdays [sic] last 6 miles! The urge to walk and pass out has never been so great 😂 but taking away all the positives from this, and now have lots to work on before my next one!”
– We didn’t have anyone run away with this one from the gun. Instead, there were about a dozen competitors in the mix through the half in 62:24. Benson Kipruto, whose training partner is 2022 London Marathon champion Amos Kipruto (no relation), covered a big move by his compatriot Bernard Koech with about 10K remaining and bided his time before pulling away in the final two miles. He won in a personal best of 2:04:24 — the fastest anyone’s run in Chicago since Eliud Kipchoge won this race in 2014. It’s funny how Kipchoge’s managed to find his way into every marathon recap we’ve had this fall.
– 2021 champion Seifu Tura ended up finishing second in 2:04:49. John Korir, the brother of 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir, rounded out the podium in a 2:05:01 personal best. Not too shabby for a World Marathon Major debut.
– There was plenty of excitement around two-time NCAA cross country champion Conner Mantz’s marathon debut, especially after he said he was going for sub-2:08 on The CITIUS MAG Podcast last week. He fought hard until he tied up at mile 25.2 and finished seventh overall in 2:08:16 – the top American on the day. His time is now second to Leonard Korir’s 2:07:56 for the fastest marathon debut by an American.
It was fun to have Mantz’s coach Ed Eyestone on the broadcast providing expert insight and commentary. We should get more coaches in the booth!
– In our preview, we speculated on the prospects of Americans getting the standard for Budapest. While only two got the standard of 2:09:40, we ended up seeing four American men break 2:10. Zach Panning of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project had the race of his life to finish 11th in 2:09:28. He entered the race with a personal best of 2:15:04 from last year’s Chicago Marathon. It’s even cooler to think that for a team that’s been around for more than two decades and has yielded Olympians and countless U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers, he now has the club record. This was a culmination of a strong 2022 campaign for Panning, who ran personal bests of 13:37.13 for 5000m and 28:08.44 for 10,000m on the track this summer.
– The Boston Athletic Association’s Matt McDonald continues to trend upward in the marathon. He ran 2:10:35 and finished 14th in Boston so this 12th place finish in 2:09:49 is his best-ever performance on a Major stage.
– Nico Montanez of the Asics Mammoth Track Club had a great day as well. He was just six seconds behind McDonald for a 2:09:55 personal best. He’s a hard worker who got some shine earlier in the year when he won the USATF 15K Championships. David Melly had him on the Run Your Mouth Podcast in March if you want to hear more of his story.
– Major props and kudos to Roots Running and Altra’s Frank Lara for going with Mantz. It was a huge swing for the fences by going out in 63:45. He ultimately paid the price and finished in 2:15:57. Afterward, he told his team: “I regret nothing.”
– While U.S. men not named Galen Rupp haven’t been able to produce as many medal contenders as the women in recent years, it’s exciting to see how many top distance runners are tackling the distance earlier. McDonald and Montanez have been running marathons for years and are only 29; Lara is 27 and Mantz is 25. As this generation of runners enters their marathoning prime, the chances of a new global star emerging are better than ever.
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