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Chicago Marathon crowd cheers on runners

Matt Johnson was up bright and early Sunday to head downtown, leaving his Arlington Heights home at 5 a.m. to watch his fiancee run her third Chicago Marathon.

This was a special one for the family. For the first time, Johnson brought his son, who has Asperger’s syndrome, to watch his bride-to-be traverse the route.

Johnson’s fiancee, Carlee Penning, a nurse at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital who suffers from pancreatitis, hadn’t run in the Chicago Marathon since 2007.

“We’ve got challenges,” Johnson said. “But we’re trying to kick some ass.”

Clad in a Cubs jacket and hat, Johnson stood at Hubbard and Wells, periodically checking Penning’s progress on his phone as Brown Line trains rumbled overhead.

“She’s trying to qualify for Boston,” he said.

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A man running in the marathon was revived by a paramedic after suffering an apparent heart attack.

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the man in his 60s fell to the ground about 9:40 a.m. Sunday at Lake Shore Drive and Melrose Street on the city’s North Side.

Langford said a fire department paramedic used an automatic external defibrillator to restore the man’s heart rhythm to normal. He was treated by a paramedic and later hospitalized.

While Johnson had a close connection to one of the runners, some who lined the route were there to offer support to each and every participant.

Without a particular target for their support, Valparaiso-area residents Chuck and Anne LaMotte offered kind words to dozens of runners who passed them at Ohio and Wells.

In years past, Chuck had Anne — a former marathoner in her own right — to aim his support at.

“She ran. I watched,” he said.

Even though he didn’t know any of the runners, Chuck read their nametags to offer as much personal encouragement as possible.

“I don’t know if it does anything for them, but it’s great for me,” he said.

To the LaMottes, the more than 50-mile drive was a small price to pay to help inspire confidence in runners.

“Considering they expel all this energy, you can expel some cheering them on,” Chuck said.

Matt Johnson waits for his fiance to run by near Hubbard and Wells.

Matt Johnson waits for his fiancee to run by near Hubbard and Wells during the Chicago Marathon. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Contributing: AP