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Friday, October 11, 2013

Chicago Marathon To Feature Strong Field, High Security

Runners start the 2012 Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (Paul Beaty/AP)

Runners start the 2012 Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (Paul Beaty/AP)

This is a huge weekend for marathons across the country: the 26.2-mile race will be run in Baltimore and Boise and dozens of other cities. The biggest race this weekend is the Chicago Marathon. There will be more than 40,000 runners and an estimated 1 million spectators. And there will be increased security because of the Boston Marathon bombings in April. Here & Now speaks with John Keilman of the Chicago Tribune, and Here & Now producer and director Alex Ashlock shares these thoughts:

Sunday’s marathon in Chicago is really the first major big city marathon in the U.S. since the bombings at the race in Boston six months ago. There will be increased security and restrictions for the thousands of runners participating in the race.

If you’re registered for the race in Chicago, you have to pick up your race packet in person. In the past, runners could send a friend or a family member to fetch their bib numbers, but no more. The other new rules for Chicago this year include the use of clear plastic bags for storing runners’ gear during the race. They will also have to pass through one of four designated security gates and bag screening checkpoints to get to the starting line, which is in Grant Park.

So what about the actual race? The flat, fast course has produced fast times in the past. Last year, Tsegaye Kebede won in a personal best time of 2:04:38. Kebede won’t defend his title in Chicago because he ran and won the London Marathon earlier this year and he’s scheduled to run New York November 3.

But there is a strong field set for the windy city race Sunday, led by Kenyans Moses Mosop, Emmanuel Mutai and Dennis Kimeto. Kimeto won the Tokyo Marathon earlier this year. Mosop won Chicago in 2011 and ran the second-fastest marathon ever in Boston that year (2:03:06). The top American is Dathan Ritzenhein, who ran 2:07:47 in Chicago last October.

While the runners are pounding the pavement in Chicago, more than 7,000 people will be running the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon here in Boston. The man who won the 2013 Boston Marathon, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, returns to see if he can add the half-marathon title to his trophy case. This summer, when he was in Boston for another race, he gave his Boston Marathon winner’s medal to the City of Boston as a symbol of his support for the victims of the bombings back in April. Also in the Boston field for Sunday’s 13.1-mile race is Geb Gebremariam, who finished third in the Boston Marathon this year. On the women’s side, Kim Smith, an Olympian and a former star at Providence College, will try to defend her title.

By the way, lots of attention is being paid to the effects of the government shutdown, and they extend to the running community. This weekend’s Towpath Marathon, which is staged in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, has been postponed. It’s now scheduled to be run on November 3. That’s the same day the New City York Marathon is scheduled to be run. That race starts at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, an area maintained by the National Park Service. If the government shutdown continues, having to relocate the start for more than 40,000 runners would be a logistical nightmare.

Last year’s New York City Marathon was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.

Alex Ashlock is a producer for Here & Now and director of the show. He’s also an avid runner. He tweets @aashlock.


  • John Keilman, general assignment reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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