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26.2 miles of grimaces and smiles to the finish

Updated: November 9, 2012 6:16AM



Like extras in a zombie movie, thousands of bent over, hobbling runners — some dragging one leg or the other — shuffled through Grant Park Sunday after finishing the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Grimaces and smiles alternated across the faces of 37,455 finishers — a new record. And the number of starters, 38,535 also was a record.

“I’m a little scared to take off my shoe,” said Anne Fuchs, 32, in a post-race interview.

“I’m down to eight and a half toenails…One of them was surgically removed, so it’s quite painful,” added Fuchs, of Uptown, who had run three previous marathons and was ecstatic about beating her goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Perhaps the biggest smile of all belonged to Tsegaye Kebede, the 110 pound Ethiopian who set a course record of 2:04:38. The previous course record was set last year by Kenyan Moses Mosop, who ran a 2:05:37.

Atsede Baysa, also from Ethiopia, won the women’s division in 2:22:03 in a photo finish. Both took home a $100,000 prize.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the 26.2 mile route that passed through 29 neighborhoods.

And in a sport that provides safe harbor to the eccentric and self-described insane both were well represented.

A random sampling: a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart impersonator. A man dressed as a spotted cow with an udder who drew many “moos” from the crowd. The guy who runs and juggles at the same time ran again this year.

In hopes of attracting an employer, would-be music promoter Mike Castellucci, 23, of Haldon, New Jersey, ran with an oversized replica of his resume on his back.

The antics, however, weren’t limited to the racecourse.

A group of husbands from Indianapolis waved a flag pole with a gigantic pair of red satin underpants — a sort of undergarment lighthouse to grab the attention of their wives, who were running together.

One snafu in an otherwise seemingly smooth day occurred when officials ran out of medals, leaving about 1,300 late finishers without the cherished memento.

“We are in the process of contacting these individuals in order to provide them with their [medals] as soon as possible and we are currently working on it,” said race spokesman Jeremy Borling.

Ten runners were hospitalized, including a 47-year-old man who went into cardiac arrest in the 21st mile. The man gained consciousness after medical personnel performed CPR and shocked the man twice with a defibrillator. He was taken to Mercy Hospital where he was alert and speaking with doctors, said race director Carey Pinkowski. The number of runners hospitalized was about 50 to 60 percent fewer than in recent years.

Cool temperatures ranging in the 40s and 50s were ideal conditions for many runners and a welcome change from last year’s race day temps that neared 80 degrees.

Carlos Jaramillo, who captained the aid station in the heart of Pilsen near the 19-mile marker, said the chillier weather meant runners were on the whole a lot less thirsty.

“Last year, many runners grabbed two cups at a time. This year, usually just one,” Jaramillo said.

Layers of extra clothes, especially gloves, littered parts of the race course. The discarded apparel will be collected and donated to the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission.

Tom McShane was running in support of a sick friend, Brian Egan, who has cancer. McShane, 58, of Oak Park, has run 19 marathons and describes himself as just “a little insane” to keep running such long races.

“My run was slow but great,” he said. “I’m getting older, I’m getting heavier and I’m still running against the wind.”

McShane says he does a lot of his training on Sundays with his buddies, taking breaks at various churches along the way.

“If we hit five churches, that’s one mass,” he joked.

The race filled to capacity of 45,000 registered runners in a record of six days, drawing participants from 50 states and 115 countries. It took 35 weeks for the race to fill up as recently as 2003.

Contributing: Dale Bowman



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