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Rabbits, rain (?), Rupp and things to watch: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Galen Rupp of the United States wins the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday. It is the first time since 2002 an American has won the men's race. | Paul Beaty/AP

“Snow is not that bad, as long as it doesn’t make you slip,” Henry Kozlowski said Thursday.

Kozlowski is one of five men who ran the first 40 Chicago marathons and will line up Sunday for the 41st Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The last race day with snow was Oct. 31, 1993. Snow is not something we will see Sunday, but there are other things to watch.

* On the men’s side, the biggest change is the return of rabbits (pace-setters).

`Talking to some of the athletes, they said they want to get going, this is a fast course,” executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. “We will have two strong gentlemen up front.”

* American Galen Rupp, back to defend his title, said, “I am so happy there are pacesetters.”

Rupp, who said training was going great the last five or six weeks, is coming off his PR (2:06:07) in Prague this year.

“I always believed I was capable of running a time like that,” he said.

* Don’t expect any world records from the elite field of men and women. If a world-record pace happens Sunday, it would be the surprise.

Though Pinkowski did say at the kickoff news conference on Thursday, “I would love to see the world record back in Chicago.”

Afterward he clarified that he meant at some point, but did not expect it this year.

* Of the elite men, Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew has the best PR (2:04), short of the Chicago record (2:03:45, Dennis Kimetto, Kenya, Oct. 13, 2013) and world record (2:01:39, Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, Sept. 16, 2018, Berlin Marathon).

* Don’t expect any women’s records either, but interesting side bars are in place. Ethiopian Roza Dereje has the top PR of 2:19:17, well short of the Chicago best (2:17:18, Paula Radcliffe, Great Britain, Oct. 13, 2002) and world record (2:15:25, Radcliffe, April 13, 2003, London Marathon).

But a late entry to watch is Kenyan Florence Kiplagat (PR of 2:91:44), who won in Chicago in ’15 and ’16. Maybe the most intriguing story on the women’s side is American Gwen Jorgensen, running her second marathon after talking gold in the triathlon in Rio.

* If a record comes, look to the wheelchair races, generally furiously competitive. Australian Kurt Fearnley, who won five of the nine wheelchair marathons he entered in Chicago, lost the other four by a total of five seconds.

“I love this course,” he said. “The final 400 has been good to me.”

The corners and slight uphill in the closing yards separate wheelers and runners alike.

* Another possible record could come from Joan Benoit Samuelson. She is aiming to break the age-group record for 60-64-year-olds of 3:01:30.

* Weather forecasts fluctuated all week, but there is at least a possibility of rain.

“Rain is bad, your shoes get wet, then you get blisters,” said Kozlowski, who hopes to finish in about six hours. The last rain on race day was Oct. 22, 2006.

* For the first time in years, there’s no overlap with the Cubs in the playoffs. If the Cubs had won the wild-card game, they would have been hosting the Brewers Sunday night in a possible deciding game

“I will tell you why I am sad the Cubs are not playing, Galen Rupp, our defending champion, is a huge Cubs fan and his father grew up in Maywood just west of here and is a huge Cubs fan,” Pinkowski said. “It would have been great for Galen to come here and defend his title, then go up and watch the Cubs.”

Last year, Rupp celebrated his title by taking in a Cubs game Sunday night, then the Bears on Monday night. The Bears are in a bye week.

Pinkowski said the Bears are very cooperative with scheduling away games or byes the Sunday of the marathon.