Kenyans, first runners to cross Chicago Marathon finish line, smash course record
BY DALE BOWMAN For Sun-Times Media October 13, 2013 9:39AM
Updated: December 13, 2013 2:27AM
There was mystery of the missed water bottle Sunday and the mystery of the one-time Kenyan farmer who won the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in smashing style.
But there was no mystery that Dennis Kimetto smashed the course record in 2:03:45, the fourth fastest marathon ever run by a man and only 22 seconds off the world record.
For setting the course record, Kimetto, 29, added $75,000 to his $100,00 pay day.
“Conditions were very good,’’ said Kimetto, who only ran his first marathon in Berlin last year (second with 2:04:16). “I am happy.’’
As he should be, considering he was a farmer until he started running competitively in 2010 after an encounter with Geoffrey Mutai, now his training partner.
The mystery on race day was whether the pace was torrid enough to challenge the world record (2:03:23), set by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang on Sept. 29 at the Berlin Marathon.
From the beginning, there was little question the course record would go. That mark of 2:04:38 was set by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede last year.
The lead men ran the half in 1:01:50.
“Those guys raced each other,” executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. “I always felt great times come out of great competition. It was good racing. Our rabbits set a good even pace and they took it from there.”
Once the rabbits — pace-setters — were gone, Kimetto and fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai pushed each other.
The field was surprisingly competitive with eight men in the lead pack at 19 miles, where the field hit a head wind and slowed to a 4:50 pace.
In the 19th mile, Kenyans Sammy Kitwara and Mutai pushed the pack with a 4:33 mile. But Kimetto eventually stayed with them.
Mutai pushed to the lead in the 22nd mile, then Kimetto pushed abreast. In the 23rd, Kimetto led as they ran a blistering 4:32. A missed water bottle by Mutai late in the race, allowed Kimetto to build a lead.
“It was just going back and forth,” said Don Owino, who was called up to translate from Swahili for Kimetto. “With three miles left, he had to make his move. Once he got forward, he stayed.’’
Kimetto had no idea that Mutai missed his last water bottle, though he added strides when that happened.
“I am very happy with the way I fought through the last mile, missed the bottle,’’ Mutai said. “That is how he broke away.’’
But Mutai did not think that would have changed the outcome.
“Dennis was more stronger than me,’’ he said.
Mutai also ran what would have been a course record (2:03:52). Kenyans also held the next two spots: Kitwara (2:05:15) and Micah Kogo (2:06:56).
Conditions were nearly ideal for chasing records.
It was 53 degrees at the 7:30 a.m. elite start. There was a breeze of 5-10 mph from the northwest, different than the anticipated light breezes from the north-northeast.
The 26.2-mile course winds through 29 Chicago neighborhoods, beginning and ending in Grant Park, going as far north as Addison, as far west as Damen, and as far south as 35th.