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2013 Chicago Marathon Preview: The world converges on our city

Second place finisher RitJeptoo left first place winner Atsede Baysright cross finish line during Bank AmericChicago MarathChicago Ill. Sunday October

Second place finisher Rita Jeptoo, left, and the first place winner Atsede Baysa, right, cross the finish line during the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in Chicago, Ill., on Sunday, October 7, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Who: 45,000 marathoners registered; nearly 40,000 will run in front of a crowd predicted to be 1.7 million.

When: Elite runners begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Race officially ends six and a half hours after the last runner crosses the start, roughly 3 p.m.

Course: 26.2 miles winding through 29 neighborhoods, beginning at Monroe and Columbus and continuing as far north as Addison, as far west as ­Damen and as far south as 35th, finishing in Grant Park at Columbus.

Television/radio: Ch. 5, WSCR-AM (670).

Bank of America Chicago Marathon Health & Fitness Expo: McCormick Place North, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday;
9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.

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Updated: December 10, 2013 3:29AM

Henry Kozlowski carried on an animated conversation in Polish with a media member Thursday after the kickoff for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon at the Hilton Chicago.

Seems apt enough.

The 36th Chicago Marathon on Sunday will truly be an international event.

‘‘We bring the world to Chicago,’’ mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

This year the greatest contingent of foreign runners — 10,264 out of 45,000 — were registered. Race staff expect to top the record of 37,475 finishers last year.

Executive race director Carey Pinkowski credits the fifth year of Chicago being in the World Marathon Majors in part for the international growth.

‘‘That gives us an international profile, and Chicago is a world-class city and a destination,’’ he said.

Weather looks decent to good for runners, spectators and possibly a course record.

Well, at the least the course record for the men. Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede set the men’s record of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 38 seconds last year.

The 26.2-mile course winds through 29 neighborhoods, beginning at Monroe and Columbus, going as far north as Addison, as far west as Damen, as far south as 35th, and finishing in Grant Park on Columbus.

But marathons always have their surprises.

‘‘You never know what young Kenyan will jump out of the valley and surprise everyone,’’ said Hal Higdon, who has trained some half million marathoners through his books, especially Marathon: The ­Ultimate Training Guide, and training programs.

Weather is always a factor.

‘‘Weather looks as good as it has every been, but never trust the weather in Chicago,’’ Higdon said.

As to whether the rabbits setting the pace for the elite men will push a record pace, Pinkowski said, ‘‘We will wait a day for the weather and we will talk about pace [on Saturday].’’

As of Thursday, the weather forecast for the start at 7:30 a.m. Sunday for the elite runners was in the upper 40s, reaching a high of 67, long after the elites finish.

‘‘If warm, there will not be a ­record,’’ Kozlowski said. ‘‘But if starting in the high 40s or low 50s, there could have a record. If it rains, it is bad.’’

Kozlowski, 63, of Wilmette, is one of the ‘‘Crazy Eight’’ men who will attempt to run their 36th consecutive Chicago Marathon. He hopes to finish in five hours.

Kozlowski pointed out elite ­runners like it cooler, while “old geezers like himself’’ want it warmer to keep from cramping, so Sunday might be ideal on both counts.

‘‘It would be great to get under 2:04,’’ Pinkowski said. ‘‘But it takes a lot of things to pull together.’’

Even though the top two finishers on the women’s side — Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa and Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo — will be back after the closest finish in race history (a one-second victory in 2:22:03 by Baysa), the women’s course record (2:17:18) is not expected to be challenged. Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe set that mark in 2002.

The mayor was thinking more than records. He advised that when running through the 29 neighborhoods traversed by the course, ‘‘Look up, look around. . . . You will see the most American of cities, a city of immigrants.’’

But Chicago is also very much a city of the world, and the bombing at the Boston Marathon this spring is in the mind of all — Pinkowski said everyone was ‘‘profoundly affected by what took place in Boston’’ — and security (always high in Chicago) has been tightened, especially around the start and finish.

The mayor ended his remarks Thursday with a defiant come-to-Jesus speech, “We will not be deterred.’’

‘‘There is no perfect barricade,’’ Higdon said. “Hopefully the race will go off as expected.’’

‘‘If a crazy guy wants to kill himself, there is nothing you are ­going to do to stop him,’’ Kozlowski said. ‘‘It ticks me off. In a way, we are ­giving in to the terrorists. Ultimately, citizens have to look for suspicious activity.’’

It seems an evil irony that an event so tied into charity has to grapple with security concerns. Tim Maloney, Illinois president of Bank of America, cited the $100 million earned for charity since 2002. Last year, 10,000 runners raised a record $15.3 million for worthy causes.

NOTES: In his 20-plus years as race director, Carey Pinkowski never had a year like this for elite athletes. As of Thursday, no elites had withdrawn because of injuries and only one — Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegay — was dicey because of a visa issue.

◆ The wheelchair field nearly doubled from 30 last year to 59.

◆ The blossoming of white tents, for the charity runners and post-race parties, and thousands of blue portable toilets is underway all over downtown.

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