Evans Cheruiyot en route to his win in Chicago (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
General News 12 October 2008 – Chicago, USA

Cheruiyot, Grigoryeva beat the heat in Chicago - UPDATED

Chicago, USAThe nationalities of the men’s and women’s champions at Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon were not a surprise, but the individuals were.

Kenya’s Evans Cheruiyot, 26, broke away from runner-up David Mandago, 30, of Kenya in the 25th mile and won the men’s race by a minute and 12 seconds in 2:06:25.  Russia’s Lidiya Grigoryeva, 34, made her break in the 21st mile to defeat Russia’s Alevtina Biktimirova, 26, by two minutes and 15 seconds in 2:27:17.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Two-man battle in Men’s contest

Cheruiyot, Mandago, and pre-race favorite Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya broke open the race just before the half marathon mark, passing it in 1:02:27 with Mutai setting the tempo.  Mutai was running so fast that the leaders shed designated pacemaker Boaz Cheboiyo after 10 miles.  Despite day race temperatures that started around 68 degrees F (20 C) at the start and rose to near 78 (25 C) by the finish, Mutai continued to push the pace until mile 18 when Mandago took the lead and motioned to Cheruiyot to follow.

The lanky, long striding Mandago and the compact, smooth striding Cheruiyot battled each other through mile 24. Mandago opened a gap at one point, Cheruiyot noting that Mandago seemed to be running “fartlek,” upping the tempo to test for weakness in Cheruiyot.  But it was Mandago who finally cracked as Cheruiyot swept past him and ran a 4:48 25th mile to pull away for good.

Conservative run in women’s race

The women ran more conservatively as a pack of 12 came through the halfway mark around 1:16:03.  Then, much as it had in the Beijing Olympics, the race began.  Biktimirova, who noticed for the first time how slow the pace had been, accelerated taking Grigoryeva and Ethiopia’s Bezunesh Bekele with her as the trio went from running an average of 5:48 a mile to 5:15.  By mile 15, Bekele had been dropped and it was a two woman race.  Instead of attempting to break Grigoryeva, however, Biktimirova said she “probably made a mistake” by not attempting to drop her rival by throwing in more surges. Ultimately it was Grigoryeva who made the decisive move by running a 5:13 21st mile to drop Biktimirova.

Olympic champion Constantina Dita of Romania was fourth in 2:30:57 and American Desiree Davila was fifth in a personal best 2:31:33.

Eight of the top ten men were Kenyan, while the US dominated the women’s top ten with four finishers, but the Russians took the top two spots.  Cheruiyot won $ 140,000 in prize and bonus money, and Grigoryeva took home the $100,000 first place winner’s check.  When asked what they might do with their winnings, Cheruiyot said he might buy a supermarket back in Kenya.  Grigoryeva, who had struggled with a sore hip muscle in training, said she vowed during that time that if she overcame the injury, she would donate part of her winnings to her church and a children’s hospital in her hometown of Cheboksary.

Cheruiyot was healthy physically for the race, having run the fastest half marathon (59:29) of the competitors in Chicago in Rotterdam in September, but the former auto engineer from Eldoret had endured a stern test of character in 2004 when he moved to France to be with an agent who was later convicted and fined by the French for mistreating the athletes. Cheruiyot had lived in a place provided by the agent with 14 other Kenyans, none of whom were paid their race winnings by the agent, according to Cheruiyot. 

Cheruiyot has since changed agents and prospered on the roads circuit in Europe, but had run only one other marathon, Milan in 2007, where he triumphed in 2:09:16.  He said that because of his inexperience in the marathon, he was reluctant to make a decisive move any earlier, not knowing how he would feel.  Plus, he also felt the heat and dumped water over his head at every water stop.

Grigoryeva said that fear that her hip might flare up on her, kept her from pushing the pace any earlier, but that the warm weather may have helped loosen her muscles and keep them from spasming as they had in training.  She also said that her older sister, Irina Timofeeva, had inspired her. Timofeeva (family name Nikivorva) finished seventh in the Beijing Olympics.

For the first time the race’s elite runners had a five minute head start on the field. The change was made, said race director Carey Pinkowski, because the women had expressed frustration about men who would run too close to them during races because, they felt, many of them wanted to get on the television coverage.  The change caused some confusion at the end of the race as University of Louisville grad and native of Kenya, Wesley Korir, had the fourth fastest time of the day, 2:13:53, but he was not entered in the elite field. 

Korir started five minutes after the elites and was not racing against the other elites, but against the clock.  Jim Estes of USATF, the race referee ruled essentially that Korir was in a separate race and thus not eligible for the elite race prize money. 

Race officials said that the temperature rose to 84 degrees (29 C), but the humidity fell later in the race.  The web globe bulb temperature (WGBT) reached 78 (25 C).

“We had a challenging and tough year (in 2007),” said Pinkowski. “We made adjustments and they worked.”  Race officials said that125 runners were transported from the course, 76 of them were sent to the hospital. Most were heat related illness or exercise related collapse, race officials said. 

There were 33,033 official starters and 31,401 finishers.

Jim Ferstle for the IAAF