Cowbells clanged and onlookers clamored Sunday morning as racers turned from Roosevelt Road onto Michigan Avenue and moved into the final stretch of the 43rd Chicago Marathon, the first running of the race since the pandemic upended normal life.
Zachery Panning, 26, of the Detroit area, finished 11th among men in his first-ever marathon, completing the race less than nine minutes after the winner, Seifu Tura Abdiwak, of Ethiopia, had crossed the finish line.
Though Panning ran cross-country in both high school and college, he acknowledged after the race that training for a marathon required “a lot of learning.”
“I prepared myself as well as I could and then just tried to be as confident as I could through the day,” he said shortly after the marathon. “I was happy with it, really happy. Excited for more.”
But Panning’s stellar showing isn’t all he has to celebrate: He and his wife are now traveling to Hawaii for their delayed honeymoon — a trip that, he acknowledged, had been contingent on finishing his first marathon.
“I said I have to run a marathon before we can go,” Panning said. “I actually got married in 2020. … Had to wait a little bit, but I think it’s going to be worth it.”
Despite warnings of potentially hot and humid conditions, racers were instead met with mild temperatures, overcast skies and a strong breeze on their backs as they neared the finish line.
Not far from there, Chicagoan Erin Short’s loved ones donned matching T-shirts emblazoned with an image of Short running in a previous marathon. Her husband, Dan, explained Sunday’s race was her eighth, this year’s performance wasn’t about setting a new personal best.
“With COVID, she took all of last season off,” he said. “So she was just excited to be back in and running again.”
Short’s father, Don Lamb, added that the family was just happy to explore the city and to see her running again: “People are just generally in a good mood because we can just be together.”
Angel Vazquez, 30, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, placed 59th among the men in his second major marathon, improving on his previous performance two years ago in New York City. This was his first trip to Chicago, and Vazquez said he developed a deep fondness for the city as he snaked his way through the marathon course.
“I meet many people that come through Chicago and say, ‘The city is very fantastic and beautiful,’” he said. “Today, I see the city and they have their reason — it’s fantastic to see.”
Asked how he planned to celebrate his performance, Vazquez said he planned to have a cold beer while he tried one of the city’s great culinary contributions, a deep-dish pizza.
“I need the carbohydrates,” he said jokingly.