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The stars of the sport will be a harder get for this year’s Chicago Marathon

Marathons normally held in the spring are being pushed to the fall this year because of the pandemic, creating more competition to land top runners.

Runners race down LaSalle Street near Wacker Drive during the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015.
The Chicago Marathon faces more competition this year to attract elite runners because of the pandemic.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Don’t expect the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to have a wide array of the world’s best runners this year.

Competition to sign them up will be fierce because the world’s six major marathons, which are normally spread across the spring and fall months, are all being scrunched into an eight-week window in September, October and November because of the pandemic.

The Boston Marathon, for instance, a race that’s traditionally held on the third Monday in April, will take place Oct. 11, the day after Chicago’s marathon.

“I’m not going to say it’s not a challenge, but it gives us an opportunity to go a little deeper and find athletes who may have not had a chance in the last year or two and have them here where they may do something memorable,” said Carey Pinkowski, the longtime director of the Chicago Marathon who built the race into a world-class event.

Pinkowski said he expected top athletes, many who run one marathon in the spring and one in the fall, to start deciding next month what races they’ll run.

“We’ve had some nice discussions with managers and coaches,” he said.

“You never know, we may see one of the stars we’ve seen in the past,” he said, noting the unpredictability of the pandemic that caused Chicago, along with many other cities, to cancel its marathon last year.

“This year is a transitional year, so we’ll just have to get through it,” he said. “We hope to be back to normal in 2022.”

Marathon organizers anticipate the number of non-elite runners this year to be in line with previous years.

In 2019, the last year the marathon took place in Chicago, a record 45,786 runners crossed the finish line in Grant Park.

Pinkowski cited positive developments with vaccinations taking place around the country and said there was “a great deal of optimism” for this year’s race.