What We Learned in Chicago on Thursday: Chicago Cares Deeply About What LetsRun Visitors Think, A Superstar Pulls Out, Joan Benoit’s 30th Anniversary Run May Not Happen and The Secret To Running A Marathon Every Year for Nearly 40 Years

by Robert Johnson
October 8, 2015

CHICAGO – What did I learn this morning at the kickoff press conference for the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon? Plenty.

  1. Tokyo Marathon champ Endeshaw Negesse is out as he didn’t get his visa
    When the list of elites for the race were first announced, the men’s field featured four sub-2:05 guys. Now that number is down to two. A few weeks ago, Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia pulled out with an injury. Today, LetsRun.com learned that 2015 Tokyo champ Endeshaw Negesse of Ethiopia is out as he was unable to get a visa.I know what you are thinking, ‘How in the world does that happen?’ That’s what I wondered too, so I asked David Monti, who does elite recruitment for the New York Road Runners. Monti said that pro runners compete in the US on a P-2 visa. These visas are for performers, whether it be musicians or runners, and are great as they can be extended for a number of years. Monti said if you apply properly, it still takes three to six months to get one of these visas. They can be expedited for a fee – something in the neighborhood of $2,000 – but it still takes a few weeks even if you expedite. So it’s not a simple process. Monti said in the pre-9/11 days, races like New York and Chicago would know people in the embassies in Africa who could get things done quickly in the case of emergency but things don’t work like that anymore. Apparently Negesse changed agents late this summer so that may have played a role in him not having the paperwork.
  2. Joan Benoit Samuelson’s attempt to run within 30 minutes of her American Record winning time of 2:21:21 from Chicago 30 years ago is off
    Joan Benoit Samuelson and Tim Malone

    Joan Benoit Samuelson and Tim Maloney

    Samuelson, who along with longtime race director Carey Pinkowksi and Tim Maloney, Bank of America Illinois President, was one of the featured guests this morning. Pinkowski introduced her this morning as “probably the most iconic athlete and champion” and for good reason.Thirty years ago, Chicago produced great drama as the Olympic champ Samuelson battled the world record holder Ingrid Kristiansen (who had set the record in London that year) in the Windy City. The duo went out at 69:33 for halfway and in the end Samuelson won in 2:21:21 (Kristiansen faded to 2:23:05). In many ways, that was the last great race for Samuelson as she’d only break 2:30 once again in her career (2:26:54 in Boston in 1991).

    Earlier this year at the Boston Marathon, Pinkoswki went up to Samuelson and told her he wanted her to come back to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that race.

    She said, “Ok, I’m going to run then.” Samuelson was hoping to run within 30 minutes of her 2:21:51 and that was far from a pipe dream as she ran 2:54:03 in Boston in April. However, today she announced that the Slow Down One Minute Per Year Attempt is off as she’s suffered recently from a stomach virus and lost a lot of strength. Samuelson said she was unable to keep down food for quite some time.

    The good news is she seems to be improving. After the press conference, I was lucky enough to have lunch with her and she was eating solid foods. Regardless, Samuelson, who looked so visibly thin today that another journalist wondered if Samuelson weighed less now than she did 30 years ago, said that it will be a “game-time decision” if she runs and if she does she said it will be “a celebratory run, not a competitive effort.”

    She added to David Monti, “As all marathoners walk or run a fine line, I was on that fine line three weeks ago, and started to fall apart a little bit.  We’ll see if I’m well enough to cover the distance.  That’s not my style, but it’s the 30th anniversary and it’s a big deal for me.  I’ve worked hard.”

    Samuelson also admitted today that she’s surprised she’s still involved in the sport. “When I crossed the finish line 30 years ago, I never thought I’d be in the game this long,” said Samuelson. She added that back at the end of her career (1991) Nike had an ad campaign titled “There is no finish line” and she had no idea what that meant, but it turned out she is living that motto. Samuelson said she loves the marathon as it’s a great metaphor for life.

    Free coaching advice from Joanie: You gotta be in a good spot personally to run well.
    At lunch, Samuelson talked about how she knew Ben True wouldn’t excel at the Oregon Track Club and how altitude training isn’t good for everyone. Her rationale? You need to be somewhere that fits you. Yes, there are physiological reasons to go to altitude but being in an environment that you love is more important. True, who like Samuelson is from Maine, seems to only thrive when he’s in New England.

    More from Samuelson: RRW: Joan Benoit Samuelson Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Record Run In Chicago.

  3. Doper Liza Hunter-Galvan Won’t Be Getting Any Prize Money – Thanks in Part to a LetsRun.com Poster?On the messageboard, astute visitors to LetsRun.com had noticed that 46-year-old EPO cheat Liza Hunter-Galvan, who angered a lot of people by earning $10,000 as the top master in Boston this year, was entered as a master in this year’s Chicago Marathon (MB: Liza Hunter-Galvan running Chicago Marathon). One of them took the time to email the Chicago organizers. That email had an impact. Chicago organizers today wanted to make it clear to LetsRun.com that they did not invite Hunter-Galvan to the race. She entered on her own based on her past times. After being notified of her entry by the LRC poster, race director Carey Pinkowski has called Hunter-Galvan repeatedly to try to speak to her and let her know that she is ineligible for prize money. It’s the Abbott World Marathon Major policy that no convicted dopers are eligible for their $500,000 prize and it’s clear from talking to several people today that the races will soon be updating their entry forms to make it clear that the policy also applies to individual prize money as well. The Boston entry form has already been updated.
  4. A Chicago History Lesson and Free Advice On How To Run A Marathon Every Year For 40 Years Straight – Don’t Train Too Much
    Chicago was first run in 1977. Its name? The Mayor Daley Marathon. Yes, that’s how powerful the Chicago political machine was back then. However, this year’s race will only be the 38th marathon, not 39th, as in 1987 the race didn’t have a sponsor and thus was reduced to 13.1 miles. Regardless, there are seven men who have run all of the marathons and they were some of the stars of today’s press conference. I got a chance to talk to two of them and it was pretty interesting to learn about their running history.
    The Chicago 7 - These men have run every single Chicago Marathon

    The Chicago 7 – These men have run every single Chicago Marathon

    Henry Kozlowski, 65, has run 37 Chicago Marathons and says he has a 3:50 pb (his only sub-4). When I asked him what his goal was for Sunday he said, “any marathon you walk away from is a good one.” When I asked him how much he was training in his prime, his reply was very interesting and might shock the hard-core audience that frequents LetsRun.com. Nine miles. Nine miles is the longest he ever ran in training but he said he did a lot of seven- and eight-milers.

    What motivates him to run 26.2 each year? He said it’s changed a lot over the years. The first year he was 27 and just wanted to do it to prove he could finish a marathon (he ran over five hours). Then he wanted to improve and possibly achieve a pipe dream of qualifying for Boston (he quipped if he can just not slow down too much, he’ll make it when he’s 80). Now his main reason for training is to get off his butt and make sure he doesn’t turn into a “couch potato” and it also helps him not “eat too much.”

    75-year-old Joel Antonini has run as fast as 3:36 and as slow as 10+ hours (he had a ruptured meniscus). He admitted he’s not your typical marathoner as he’s never run another marathon besides Chicago. He said he was a former soccer player who trained initially by refereeing soccer games and then running between six and 10 miles on the weekends.

    We’ve gotta give the “Chicago 7” credit. They may not be experts but in some ways they know more about running than LetsRun.com coaching genius John Kellogg. Kellogg, now in his 50s, no longer runs at all (he’s a cyclist) as he destroyed his body by banging out high mileage while injured.

More: 14 Things We Learned in Chicago from Friday

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