Americans Luke Puskedra, Elkanah Kibet & Diego Estrada Talk About Their Chicago Marathon Buildups

October 5, 2016

We have published a 4,000 + word preview on the elite men’s race at hte 2016 Bank of American Chicago Marathon field which you can read here in its entirety: 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Men’s Preview: Dickson Chumba Goes for the Repeat as Americans Luke Puskedra, Elkanah Kibet & Diego Estrada Do Battle.

However, we’re realists and know not all of you have the time to read that so we’ve put what we’ve said about the leading American elites below.

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What: 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

When: Sunday, October 9, 8:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. local time)

Where: Chicago, Illinois

How to watch: For Chicago-area residents, the race will be shown live on NBC 5 starting at 7 a.m. local time. For everyone else, you can stream the race live online at starting at 8 a.m. ET or watch it live on NBC Sports Network at 8 a.m. ET. It also will be on the NBCSN app.

Men’s elite field

Name Country PB Comment
Dickson Chumba Kenya 2:04:32 Defending champ was 3rd in Tokyo in February
Tsegaye Kebede Ethiopia 2:04:38 2012 champ was one of world’s best from ’08-’14 but last good marathon was in April ’14
Abel Kirui Kenya 2:05:04 2-time world champ was 5th in Tokyo in February
Abayneh Ayele Ethiopia 2:06:45 Barely edged out by Mo Farah for World Half bronze in March
Micah Kogo Kenya 2:06:56 4th in Paris in April; ’08 Oly. bronze in 10k
Paul Lonyangata Kenya 2:07:14 Won Shanghai in Nov., then 5th in Boston
Gideon Kipketer Kenya 2:08:14 Won Mumbai in January after starting race as a pacer
Koji Gokaya Japan 2:09:21 Ran PR in Tokyo last year but only 47th in 2:21 there in Feb.
Takuya Fukatsu Japan 2:09:31 Coming off 2+ minute PR at Lake Biwa in March
Luke Puskedra USA 2:10:24 5th last year, 4th at Olympic Trials
Scott Overall Great Britain 2:10:55 2012 Olympian dropped out of London in April
Elkanah Kibet USA 2:11:31 7th last year in debut, but struggled at Trials (19th in 2:20)
Kazuya Ishida Japan 2:11:57 PR dates from his 1st marathon finish in 2012 but did run 2:12:25 in February.
Ryoichi Matsuo Japan 2:12:11  25-yr old ran pb in 2014.
Tim Young USA 2:14:40 14th in ’14; 11th at Olympic Trials
David Nilsson Sweden 2:17:19  Ran 29:24 indoor 10k in March.
Jose Madera USA 2:17:25  Ran 29:07 in 2015 for Univ of San Francisco.
Tony Migliozzi USA 2:17:44  Only 23 and he’s got 11 marathon finishes on including 3 this year.
Jonathan Mott USA 2:18:12  47th at Olympic Trials.
Kevin Havel USA 2:21:57  Ran 28:56 for Stanford in 2011.
Dustin Emerick USA 2:22:16  28:33.35 10k pb; was 26th at Olympic Trials.
Andrew Epperson USA 2:22:20  29:26 10k pb; was 27th at Olympic Trials.
Diego Estrada USA N/A 2015 US Half Marathon champ (60:51) DNF’d marathon debut at Oly. Trials
Stephen Sambu Kenya debut Former Arizona star won NYC Half in March, ran 26:58 10k in May
Tom Anderson Great Britain debut  Former Butler runner has run 14:10 and 29:14.
Connor McMillan USA debut  13:53/29:13 for BYU. 16th at NCAA 10k this year.
Kiya Dandena USA debut  64:16 half marathon pb, 11th at US 10k in New Haven a few weeks ago.
Daniel Wallis New Zealand debut  14:06/29:45/65:34.


The Americans

Before we get to the Americans, we should mention that there are four Japanese pros in the field, two of whom (Koji Gokaya and Takuya Fukatsu) have run faster than any of the Americans entered in Chicago. While Gokaya (2:09:21 pb) and Fukatsu (2:09:31 pb at Lake Biwa in March) are both strong top-10 threats (perhaps even top five on a great day), neither has a realistic shot to win the race.

Luke Puskedra — USA, 26 years old, 2:10:24 pb (2015 Chicago), 61:29 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 
6th 2015 Grandma’s (2:15:27), 5th 2015 Chicago (2:10:24), 4th 2016 Olympic Trials (2:14:12)
Prep race: 
60:14 for 10th at US 20K Champs on September 5

Puskedra is the top American returner (and the #2 returner overall) at Chicago and is the top American running any marathon this fall. He lost to both Elkanah Kibet and Diego Estrada (both of whom are running Chicago) at the US 20K Champs last month but he says he feels his fitness is close to what it was at this point last year. Puskedra’s track record in the marathon is not extensive, but after struggling with the Nike Oregon Project, he seems to have found a system that fits him in Eugene, where he mostly dictates his own training (though he takes advisement from Andy Powell). For the full scoop on Puskedra and his buildup, check out our feature on him: The Comeback: How Luke Puskedra Bounced Back from 4th Place at the Olympic Trials and His Daughter’s Cancer Diagnosis to Prepare for Sunday’s Chicago Marathon.

Kibet leading Chicago last year

Kibet leading Chicago last year

Elkanah Kibet — USA, 33 years old, 2:11:31 pb (2015 Chicago), 64:01 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 
7th 2015 Chicago (2:11:31), 19th 2016 Olympic Trials (2:20:10)
Prep race: 
59:25 for 4th at US 20K Champs on September 5

Kibet surprised everyone at Chicago last year by leading for five miles early in the race and hanging on to run 2:11:31 in his debut marathon. After relocating to Colorado Springs to train in the Army’s WCAP program under Scott Simmons, he won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time around.

Kibet followed up Chicago by running the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, where he said he felt really good until mile 19, at which point his body could no longer respond to the moves that were being made and he faded to 19th. Analyzing his training log afterwards, Kibet felt he didn’t do enough long efforts in his buildup and has remedied that by adding more 20+ mile runs this time around. Kibet was very encouraged by his result at the 20K Champs on September 5, as he ran with the leaders almost the entire way before being outsprinted by training partners Leonard Korir and Sam Chelanga.

Kibet said that, unlike last year, he’ll be content to run with the leaders in Chicago on Sunday, even if the pace is slow as it was last year.

“Focus, stay with the guys, don’t get dropped, hang on as much as you can and see where you are at mile 23. You never know what will happen right there,” Kibet told

One of Kibet’s main goals will be to run a time to put him on the team at next year’s World Championships in London. What will that require? Well, USATF picks the team based on the three athletes with the fastest times on an IAAF-approved course from January 1, 2016 to April 24, 2017 (the day after next year’s London Marathon). Here’s what the list looks like right now:

  1. Galen Rupp, 2:10:05        2016 Olympics
  2. Jared Ward, 2:11:30         2016 Olympics
  3. Meb Keflezighi, 2:12:30  2016 Olympic Trials
  4. Luke Puskedra, 2:14:12   2016 Olympic Trials
  5. Tyler Pennel, 2:14:57       2016 Olympic Trials

This list will change between now and April 24, and there’s a strong chance that several of these guys won’t want to run at Worlds next year. Alberto Salazar has already said Rupp is going back to the track next year, Ward may want to get paid after his stellar 2016 and run a race with appearance fees and Meb will almost certainly run Boston and New York. If Kibet can replicate his 2015 performance (2:11:31), he’ll almost certainly have booked his ticket to Worlds, though he may only need to run 2:12 or 2:13.

For more on Kibet, check out our profile of him from last year: LRC For The Love Of Running: How Elkanah Kibet Went From A Deployment In Iraq To 2:11:31 At The Chicago Marathon In Less Than A Year

Diego Estrada wins the 2015 USA Half-Marathon Championships in Houston in 1:00:51 in his debut at the distance (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Estrada won the 2015 USA Half-Marathon Championships in Houston in 1:00:51 in his debut at the distance (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Diego Estrada — USA, 26 years old, 60:51 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 
DNF 2016 Olympic Trials
Prep race: 59:44 for 6th at US 20K Champs on September 5

Transitioning to the marathon is about more than just running more miles and lengthening your long run. It requires a different mindset, and that’s something Diego Estrada learned the hard way at the Olympic Trials in February. After ripping off a 60:51 victory at last year’s US Half Marathon Championships in Houston, Estrada decided to make his marathon debut at the Trials, but was unprepared for the long, slow burn of the marathon.

“I was thinking more like a track race,” Estrada told “I kept asking my agent that if, with a mile to go, many guys would be in it and how fast would I have to close and he kept telling me that by mile 20, it would all be decided. I learned that the marathon is so much different han even a half marathon in the sense that the pace doesn’t have to be hard enough, but just the distance itself wears some competitors out. I mean the conditions were very tough, but even a simple surge like the one Tyler [Pennel] put in [at mile 16] can just blow everybody up.”

Estrada ran with the leaders through 15 miles but dropped out less than five miles later. After the race, his hamstrings cramped up badly and he felt a pop in his sacrum. Estrada continued racing this summer but said the hamstring bothered him until mid-August.

Estrada admits that “I’m not a complete marathoner yet,” but he feels he’s closer to being one than he was eight months ago. After finishing his track season at the Olympic Trials (he dropped out of the 10k and finished 11th in the 5k), Estrada’s coach, Joe Vigil, elected to give him a lighter training load heading into Chicago, not wanting to overdo it. Estrada didn’t top 90 miles per week until September, and then he caught a cold after taking sixth at the 20K Champs on Labor Day. The combination of low mileage and illness caused Estrada to doubt himself.

“I was panicking that I wasn’t in good shape,” Estrada said.

So he took a couple days off to recover from the cold and decided to stop stressing out about his training for the rest of the month. The result has been what Estrada calls the best mileage and the best long workouts of his life over the past four weeks. He’s been running 120 miles a week and two weeks ago averaged 5:00/mile for a 16-mile tempo at 3,000 feet. Estrada feels that he’s better served by only a few weeks of high mileage during his buildup rather than risk overdoing it as he prepares for his second marathon.

“I think that I’m undertrained,” Estrada said. “Mentally, I’m looking at this race more as a challenge. In training I’ve done 20 miles at 4:55 [pace] before. Now I feel like I’m in the same boat where I can run that 20-miler but I still haven’t run that 20-miler in training — I’m saving it for the race.”

Estrada is shooting for 2:10 on Sunday, and though he said he’d like to run with the lead pack if possible, he’s prepared to back off and run in no-man’s-land if possible — that’s what he did at the end of the 20K Champs, where he took sixth in 59:44. Estrada has the tools to become an elite marathoner, but he’s still very much a work in progress. His Chicago result will show whether he’s on the right path.

Tim Young — USA, 29 years old, 2:14:40 pb (2014 Chicago), 63:44 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 
6th 2015 Pan American Games (2:19:34), 11th 2016 Olympic Trials (2:17:10)

Young’s PR isn’t close to Puskedra’s or Kibet’s, and he’s far less accomplished at the shorter distances than Estrada (14:36/29:21 pbs). But he beat Kibet at the Olympic Trials in February and ran a half marathon pb of 63:44 to take sixth at the US Half Champs in April. Young has run Chicago twice before and he could better his best finish of 14th this year as Chicago no longer has rabbits and he’s done well in his last two marathons, both unrabbitted affairs.

LRC Unofficial Prediction: We’ll make our official predictions after talking to some more of the elites at the press conference on Friday. But on paper, we basically have to pick Dickson Chumba for the overall win as he’s the only one guy in the field who’s been running like a world-class marathoner over the past two years. Abel Kirui did make some progress earlier this year in Tokyo and may be a factor, but this race is up for grabs if Chumba falters; don’t be surprised if Puskedra or Kibet is still in the mix at 20 miles. We like Puskedra for top American honors. Even though he lost to Kibet and Estrada at the 20K Champs, he was doing more volume than either of them at the time. Tapered for Chicago, we’ll go with Puskedra, though expect a firm challenge from Kibet.

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More: Full Race Preview: 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Men’s Preview: Dickson Chumba Goes for the Repeat as Americans Luke Puskedra, Elkanah Kibet & Diego Estrada Do Battle.

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