By Robert Johnson
August 23, 2017
Last Wednesday, as most of the LRC crew was recovering after 10 straight days of work at Worlds, the international field for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was released.
It’s a good thing for the Chicago organizers that most of the LRC crew was taking a mini-vacation when the field came out as they got spared our outrage for about a week. Now that I’ve taken a look at the men’s elite international field, I’m wondering if one of my biggest fears is coming to fruition – is the field being purposely watered down to make an American victory by Galen Rupp possible?
For years, I’ve been worried a US major marathon would water down a field so an American could win it and now my fear appears to be turning into reality.
Have you seen the list of the international elite men for Chicago this year?
Here it is.
Dennis Kimetto (KEN)
Abel Kirui (KEN)
Kohei Matsumura (JPN)
Zersenay Tadese (ERI)
Yuki Takamiya (JPN)
Jordan Chipangama (ZAM)
Chihiro Miyawaki (JPN)
Ryoichi Matsuo (JPN)
Stephen Sambu (KEN)
2:02:57 (Berlin, 2014)
2:05:04 (Rotterdam, 2009)
2:08:09 (Tokyo, 2014)
2:10:41 (London, 2012)
2:10:57 (Tokyo, 2016)
2:11:35 (Duluth, 2015)
2:11:50 (Tokyo, 2014)
2:12:11 (Nobeoka, 2014)
2:13:35 (Chicago, 2016)
That simply isn’t good by Chicago Marathon or Abbott World Marathon Major standards. In fact, it looks like a parody of a normal Chicago Marathon field.
In 2014, the Chicago marathon field featured seven men under 2:07 (six under 2:06). In 2015, the depth was similar as there were seven men with pbs of 2:07:17 or better (four under 2:06). In 2016, when one would expect Chicago to be a little weaker as much of the world was focused on the Olympics, Chicago still featured six guys with pbs of 2:07:14 or better (three under 2:06).
But in 2017, the first time in years that a star American man with a shot at victory enters Chicago, they come up with a field that includes just two sub-2:07 guys and only one more under 2:10?
|#Sub-2:07:30 Guys in Chicago||7||7||6||2|
And one of those guys, Dennis Kimetto, is a shadow of himself. Kimetto may have set the WR in Berlin in 2014, but he has done nothing of late. Here’s what he’s done since the spring of 2015: DNF Worlds, DNF Fukuoka, 2:11:44 in London, DNS Chicago, DNS in Boston. So the guy has finished a grand total of one of the last five marathons he’s signed up for and only run 2:11:44 in that one race.
Ok, some of you may argue that Zersenay Tadese ran 2:06:51 in the Nike sub-2 time trial. I don’t consider that to be a legitimate sub-2:07 (nor do the Chicago organizers) but fine, count it. And go ahead and say Rupp is a sub-2:07 talent. That would only bring the number of sub-2:07 guys to four, which pales in comparison to a normal year.
Who in that field besides Abel Kirui could even be expected to put up a good challenge for Rupp? A Japanese man has never won a World Marathon Major. There are no half marathon studs making their debuts. It’s just very disappointing.
It’s pretty easy to see how something like this happens. The appearance fee for someone like Rupp is probably equivalent to the appearance fee of a whole handful of sub-2:07 African runners. And if Rupp wins, the race will get way more publicity than normal. So instead of coming up with extra money to compensate for the increased cost of Rupp, Chicago looks the other way and hopes no one will notice.
Well, I’ve noticed. If Rupp wins in Chicago this year, I’ll probably put an asterisk next to it like I do when I look at the 1985 Boston Marathon results as that year most of the top elites skipped it as Boston didn’t offer prize money.
Talk about the race on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: Is the 2017 Chicago Marathon being set up so Galen Rupp is almost guaranteed to win it?
*Chicago Elites = Disappointment?
Update at 1:52 p.m. (17 minutes after publication): While I wrote Chicago before publishing this article to confirm that they had published their complete elite field, a source texted me after seeing this article published to let me know that Olympic silver medallist/2:04:52 man Feyis Lelisa will also be running Chicago. So that makes things a little more interesting. But the same source did like the tone of the article and reminded that Chicago is a Nike-sponsored race so they likely want a Nike-sponsored winner. This tweet seems to back up what my source was telling me.
Spent the evening catching up with Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa ahead of his run at the Chicago Marathon in October. pic.twitter.com/PZ8Oo9QH5k
— Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) August 16, 2017