By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2019 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CHICAGO (13-Oct) — It took more than 16 years, but Paula Radcliffe’s absolute world record in the marathon came crashing down here this morning when Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei, 25, ran a mind-boggling 2:14:04, 81 seconds faster than Radcliffe ran in London in April, 2003. Running behind two male pacers, Geoffrey Pyego and Daniel Limo of Kenya, Kosgei ran a devastating series of 5-kilometer segments through the 40-kilometer mark: 15:28, 16:00, 15:58, 16:01, 16:06, 15:45, 15:56, and 15:57. On what was a cold, crisp and sometimes windy morning, she won this race for the second consecutive year and pocketed $175,000 in prize money and time bonuses.
“I’m feeling good and I was happy because I was not expecting to run like this,” Kosgei said in her post-race television interview. She said she felt great throughout the race. “I feel my body is moving, moving, moving,” she added, looking a little stunned.
Kosgei went for the record right from the gun, and never even thought about the women behind her. Her hair pulled into a tight ponytail and her back bib flapping because it was not pinned on the bottom, she blasted through the 10-kilometer checkpoint in 31:28 –a time which would win nearly all 10-K road races– and halfway in a daring 1:06:59. She was focused, she said, on simply running fast.
“Here I came to run my own pace,” she said at the post-race press conference. “I did not depend on anyone.” She added: “I wanted to improve my personal best.”
After running her slowest 5-kilometer segment through 25-K (16:06), she reasserted herself, and dropped her tempo to 15:45 through 30-K. Her form, erect and smooth, indicated that the pace wasn’t draining her, and her confidence grew with each step.
“We are witnessing history here on the streets of Chicago,” said two-time Olympian Ed Eyestone on the local television broadcast.
Near the 40-K mark, her male pacers drifted off one at a time leaving her to get to the finish in Grand Park alone. She did not falter, and smashed the record while Radcliffe, a guest of the organizers, looked on.
“I think we all know that time will come,” Radcliffe said on the local television broadcast before posing for pictures with Kosgei. She quipped about her world record: “It will always be my personal best.”
Kosgei also broke Radcliffe’s course record of 2:17:18 from 2002, which was the fourth-fastest time in history.
Behind Kosgei two Ethiopians, Ababel Yeshaneh and Gelete Burka, also ran well clocking 2:20:51 and 2:20:55, respectively. Yeshaneh’s time would have been fast enough to win 35 of the previous editions of the race which was held today for the 42nd time today.
It was also a good day for USA women. Emma Bates, the reigning national marathon champion, finished fourth overall clocking a three-minute career best in 2:25:27. Her compatriots Steph Bruce (2:27:47), Lindsay Flanagan (2:28:08), Laura Thweatt (2:29:06) and Taylor Ward (2:30:14) finished sixth, seventh, eighth, and 10th, respectively.
“The first half I didn’t want to go out too aggressively,” said Bates who is getting married to her longtime boyfriend and coach, Kameron Ulmer, next weekend. “That’s where most people make the mistake.”
Bates said that the pacemaking by Ben Bruce, Steph Bruce’s husband, helped her to establish a good rhythm in the first half, and after she pulled away from Bruce she leapfrogged from man to man, looking for shelter from the wind.
“That helped immensely,” she said.
It was not a good day, however, for Jordan Hasay. The second-fastest American woman of all time, who recorded a sensational 2:20:57 here in 2017, had to drop out of the race early. “Jordan felt a sharp pain in her hamstring after two miles and had to stop,” said her manager, Ricky Simms, in a text message to Race Results Weekly. “She stretched and tried to go again but was unable to run.”
CHERONO WINS IN SPRINT FINISH
Just like he did at the Boston Marathon last April, Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono, 31, won in a sprint finish in a solid 2:05:45. In doing so, he became the first man in 13 years to win the Boston and Chicago marathons in the same year; the last was compatriot Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot in 2006. Two Ethiopians, Dejene Debela (2:05:46) and Asefa Mengstu (2:05:48) finished second and third, respectively, not able to match Cherono’s sprint speed. Cherono won $100,000 in prize money.
“Winning a major race is very special,” Cherono told reporters at the post-race press conference, his mood turning serious. “Not everybody is able to win a race like this.” He continued: “For me, I became lucky by winning it so I was very excited, very motivated and happy for it.”
The men’s race was made up of equal parts speed and tactics. With two strong pacemakers at the front, Kenyans Edwin Koech and Emmanuel Saina, the race went out honestly at 29:27 for 10-K and 1:02:14 at halfway. That pace was fast enough to whittle the lead pack down to six: Kenyans Cherono, Dickson Chumba, and Bedan Karoki, and Ethiopians Debela, Mengstu, and Seifu Tura. Not in that pack was defending champion Mo Farah of Great Britain who was 38 seconds behind, or 2017 race winner Galen Rupp who three seconds behind Farah. Farah would fall further out of contention and finished eighth in 2:09:58, while Rupp –competing in his first race of the year after getting an Achilles surgery– was unable to finish.
“Galen DNF’d due to a calf strain,” explained Rupp’s manager, Ricky Simms, through a text message. “It started tightening up after six miles. He kept going but by the 23rd mile was unable to run any further and had to stop.”
When the last pacemaker dropped out at 30-K (1:28:58) Karoki made a hard surge. He briefly held a two meter lead before being caught, but that move was hard enough to put Chumba, the 2015 champion here, out of contention. He would finish seventh.
Tura, who managed to stay with the pack through 35-K, was the next to fall off, and by 40-K (1:59:08) four still remained in contention: Cherono, Debela, Mengstu and Karoki. Cherono was actually sitting in the back of the pack trying to decide what to do. He had made some small moves earlier, but he observed that they had no impact on his rivals.
“Let me say that the race was very competitive,” said Cherono who pointed out that between 30 and 40 kilometers nobody really wanted to take the lead after Karoki’s brief surge. He added: “After that we had to struggle for our own all the way from 30 kilometers, all the way to 40 kilometers where it was no man’s race.”
The waiting was over when Debela decided to pick up the pace. Karoki fell off the back (he would finish fourth), then Cherono waited just a moment to catch his breath before making his bid for victory.
“Of course when you are in a race, if you see one tactic is not working you apply another one,” Cherono explained. He added: “When I applied it, it worked a lot.”
Just like in Boston, Cherono had the best top speed and was able to hold it to the finish. He has now built an enviable record as a marathoner, achieving eight victories in 15 starts since 2014.
As in the women’s race, the American men had a very good day. Jake Riley (9th in 2:10:36), Jerrell Mock (10th in 2:10:37), Parker Stinson (12th in 2:10:53), and Andrew Bumbalough (12th in 2:10:56) all set career best times (it was Mock’s debut at the distance). Riley, who has been injured and out of the top level of the sport for nearly three years, was elated.
“This was well beyond expectations,” said Riley, 31, who does not have a sponsor. He said that he “very seriously” thought about quitting the sport, but under coach Lee Troop he’s optimistic about his future after “months of feeling like 10 pounds of dirt in a five pound bag.”
“This was a fantastic day,” he said.