Defending champion Florence Kiplagat did a half-turn dance after her dominating victory Sunday in the 39th Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
She had good reason, finishing in two hours, 21 minutes, 32 seconds, more than two minutes faster than her 2:23:33 in 2015. It is the third fastest women’s marathon in 2016.
The men’s side was another matter. They looked like guys learning to dance with wildly fluctuating mile splits before fellow Kenyans, Abel Kirui and defending champion Dickson Chumba, pulled away in the final three miles.
Give Kirui this, when he won in 2:11:23, he did a presentable dance–“That was my dance”–after breaking the ribbon.
But that time. It was the slowest men’s winning time since Brazilian Luíz Antonio dos Santos won in 1993 with 2:13:15. It suited Kirui, noted for doing well in tactical races, read slower races. This year there were no pacesetters in Chicago.
“The women came and ran hard, just a great race,’’ executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. “The contrast was on the men’s side. I thought it was interesting . . . and a lot of gamesmanship. Both spirited races and great competition.’’
Pinkowski was noncommittal about rabbits next year, saying like most parts of the marathon, everything is examined after the race. He said the race, even without rabbits, would have been pushed early if Kenyan Dennis Kimetto, out with an injury, was there.
With that tactical race, Kirui made the most of it.
“I needed to win one time a race in the U.S.,’’ he said. “This kind of championship run is not a problem for me. I was controlling myself.’’
Around mile 20, three Kenyans–Kirui, Chumba and Gideon Kipketer–separated. Then Kirui and Chumba pulled away. Kirui established himself on the slight uphill before the final turn for the finish on Columbus. Chumba could not close the distance.
“I saw him very close, then going down [to finish] was very easy,’’ said Kirui, won by a few strides and three seconds.
Italian coach Renato Canova trained both Kirui and Kiplagat and said, “First time I had both winners.’’
“I just wanted to win Chicago two years in a row,’’ Kiplagat said. “That was my goal. It was not easy, but I was confident.’’
She made it look easy, pulling away at 30K and winning by nearly two minutes over unrelated Edna Kiplagat (2:23:28).
“I decided to change the speed,’’ Florence Kiplagat said. “I tried to control for myself. I was controlling the pace.
Conditions started near perfect: 52 degrees and nearly calm. But more of a lake breeze built than expected.
“Overpasses or bridges, the wind was pretty tough,’’ said Diego Estrada, top American finisher in eighth (2:13:56). “I could see the wind kind of pushing Luke sideways.’’
That would be 6-5 American Luke Puskedra, who finished fifth last year but 19th this year.