Sunny skies and warm weather met runners and cheerleaders who descended on the Loop Sunday morning for the 40th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon, which saw few problems under heightened security in the wake of the recent massacre in Las Vegas.
Well-wishers lined downtown streets, holding signs and ringing cowbells as they tracked the progress of family and friends taking part in the race.
Don Booty, of Naperville, waited near the finish line for his wife, Jo, who was running her third Chicago Marathon. Despite being exhausted after following his wife along the course, Booty called the race “one of the great experiences you can have, whether you’re a runner or supporting a runner.”
Other husbands also clamored near the finish line, including Chris Clous, who lives in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Clous was at the marathon supporting his wife, Sandy, with whom he was celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary Sunday.
Clous, who had seen his wife run the marathon a handful of times, called the event his favorite spectator sport.
“It’s a blast,” he said, holding a sign that read “At least running isn’t taxed.”
Meanwhile, many runners used the marathon to raise money and awareness for various causes and charities.
Dave Becker, of DeKalb, who was running his first marathon in a decade, said he initially chose to support the American Red Cross because he’s a frequent blood donor.
“At the time, I didn’t anticipate all of the things that were gonna be happening recently, where Red Cross has been just so present in, [like] the hurricanes, as well as the flooding that we had in northern Illinois,” Becket said. “So I feel really good about supporting the Red Cross.”
First-time marathoner Krista Ross raised about $2,500 for Lurie Children’s Hospital. Ross, who lives in Chicago, has a 3-year-old daughter, Samantha, who was born prematurely. She said Lurie “does a lot for even their tiniest patients,” noting that Samantha is now “doing very well.”
As runners made their way through the course, an increased police presence blanketed the area.
After reports that Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had booked a room at a Chicago hotel during this summer’s Lollapalooza music festival, police announced Thursday that there would be substantially more officers on duty during the marathon.
“Well over 1,000 officers have been added to the existing deployment,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Nevertheless, Chicago Police Chief Anthony Riccio said there wouldn’t be any changes for spectators during a news conference.
“That said, we learn from every event, every tragedy . . . we learned from Vegas as well. So one of the things that we’re doing is we’re putting [in place] a significantly larger number of undercover officers,” Riccio said.
Increased security protocols will remain in place at large scale events for the “foreseeable future,” Riccio said. That includes Monday’s National League Division Series playoff game at Wrigley Field, and the Bears’ Monday Night Football game at Soldier Field.
Asif Hameed, who traveled from London for the marathon, said he was worried about his first trip to the United States in about 20 years based on news coverage about the country.
“All you hear about America, really, is what you see in the news: a lot of gun crime, gun attacks, muggings, the worst things you can think of,” Hameed said, donning a Superman costume as he prepared for his third major marathon. “So what you’ve gotta do, you’ve gotta believe in humanity, you’ve gotta believe that people are good, so that takes your fears away.”
“What I’m finding coming here is, it’s been lovely, people have been really friendly and it’s been great,” Hameed added.
Other visiting attendees echoed Hameed’s sentiment. Jean Wellman, who lives outside Lima, Ohio, said she never felt unsafe during the marathon, crediting the “nice” workers and volunteers at the event.
Wellman was in town to cheer on her daughter, Chelsea, but said she was supporting everyone in the race by banging her cowbell.
“The motivation these guys give is incredible,” she said.
No arrests were made during the marathon, and 50 people were transported from the race for medical treatment, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications and Chicago Marathon spokeswoman Cindy Hamilton.
Olympic medalist Galen Rupp, of Oregon, posted the best time, finishing the 26.2-mile race in just over 2 hours and 9 minutes. Rupp’s father, Greg Rupp, grew up in Maywood and Oak Park.
During a press conference after the race, Rupp said he spent most family vacations in the city, going to Cubs games and spending time with family, many of whom still live in the area.
“I love this city,” he said.
Tirunesh Dibaba, of Ethiopia, scored the best finish for a woman, finishing the course in just over 2 hours and 18 minutes. The three-time Olympic gold medalist, who holds the world record for 5,000 meters on an outdoor track, held off Kenyan Florence Kiplagat, who was trying to win her third consecutive Chicago marathon.