While the women’s race at the Chicago Marathon saw the coronation of a distance-running great, the men’s equivalent saw the arrival of a new champion at the 40th edition of the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (8).
Galen Rupp became the first US man since Khalid Khannouchi in 2002 to take victory, the 31-year-old surging to victory over the final three miles to win in 2:09:20, 28 seconds clear of last year’s champion Abel Kirui.
That may have been the most riveting contest on the day, but the women’s race showcased the best display of individual brilliance, with Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia taking victory in 2:18:31, almost two minutes clear of runner-up Brigid Kosgei, who clocked 2:20:22.
Dibaba stamped her authority on the race from the outset, moving to the front from the gun and towing a cluster of four athletes through the opening 10 kilometres in 32:28.
At halfway, reached in 1:08:48, Dibaba still had the same quartet on her tail – Kenyans Kosgei, Florence Kiplagat, Valentine Kipketer and USA’s Jordan Hasay – but it was clear that her patience was running thin, the Ethiopian zig-zagging around the road in a bid to prevent her rivals drafting in her slipstream.
By the time she reached 30 kilometres in 1:38:29, Dibaba had just Kosgei for company, but it was clear she was the stronger of the two and shortly afterwards she began to open an advantage, one that continued to grow with each passing mile.
When she rounded the turn into the home straight, Dibaba could enjoy a long, luxurious run to the finish in what was her third career marathon, and she hit the line to take her first win over the distance in 2:18:31 – short of her personal best of 2:17:56 but an outstanding performance in conditions that were far warmer than ideal.
“I ran without a pacemaker and I was leading for pretty much the whole 42km,” said Dibaba. “The course is a good one for breaking records but it was very windy, so I’m very happy with the run.”
Dibaba admitted afterwards that she had scant recovery time after winning silver over 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships two months ago. “I worked very hard for this,” she said. “After London there was an award ceremony I missed so I could prepare for this.”
Dibaba, a three-time Olympic gold medallist on the track, said afterwards that the marathon will be her sole focus for the rest of her career. “I’m not going back to the track,” she said. “I’ll be targeting the world record in the marathon.”
Kosgei held on well for second in 2:20:22, with 26-year-old Jordan Hasay marking herself out as a potential star in third, running a big personal best of 2:20:57 in the second career marathon of her career to move to second on the US all-time list.
Kiplagat, the defending champion, had been on course for a sub-2:20 finish, but she withdrew shortly after 25 kilometres.
Rupp reigns supreme
The men’s race, in contrast to the women’s, gave credence to the old adage about the marathon only starting at 20 miles.
The first half proved an uneventful affair, with USA’s Aaron Braun leading through 10 kilometres in a controlled 31:24 with 25 athletes grouped together behind. At halfway, reached in 1:05:49, that had been whittled only slightly to 22, the main players all buried in the pack and playing a waiting game.
At 30 kilometres, reached in 1:33:21, defending champion Abel Kirui became more prominent at the front of the race, with home hope Galen Rupp also taking closer order on his shoulder and previous leader Chris Derrick – who was making his debut – slowly starting to feel the hurt and falling behind.
Sustained pressure from Kirui reduced the leading group to five at 35 kilometres, but the decisive move of the race didn’t occur until the last six kilometres.
Rupp, running in the fourth marathon of his career, injected a big surge, covering the 38th kilometre in 2:47 which drew him swiftly clear of Kirui. From there, the 31-year-old only lengthened his advantage with each passing minute, and his waiting strategy began to pay dividends.
“I hadn’t planned out when I was going to go but I wanted to wait until at least 20, 22 miles,” said the Olympic bronze medallist. “I made the mistake before of going too soon, but I put the head down and said I’ve got to drive to the finish.”
Rupp reached the finish in a PB of 2:09:20, having covered the second half in 1:03:21. Kirui came home second in 2:09:48, with his Kenyan compatriot Bernard Kipyego third in 2:10:23.
“It’s incredible,” said Rupp, who became the first US-born men’s winner since 1982. “You train so hard year in, year out, day in, day out, and to have a race like this where it all comes together and to win in a city that’s such a special place for me, words can’t describe it. I’ve been second so many times in my career so I’m thrilled to be able to pull it out.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF
1 Galen Rupp (USA) 2:09:20
2 Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:09:48
3 Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 2:10:23
4 Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:11:01
5 Stephen Sambu (KEN) 2:11:07
6 Kohei Matsumura (JPN) 2:11:46
7 Ezekiel Chebii (KEN) 2:12:12
8 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 2:12:19
9 Chris Derrick (USA) 2:12:50
10 Michael Shelley (AUS) 2:12:52
1 Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) 2:18:31
2 Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:20:22
3 Jordan Hasay (USA) 2:20:57
4 Madai Perez (MEX) 2:24:44
5 Valentine Kipketer (KEN) 2:28:05
6 Lisa Weightman (AUS) 2:28:45
7 Maegan Krifchin (USA) 2:33:46
8 Alia Grey (USA) 2:34:25
9 Taylor Ward (USA) 2:35:27
10 Becky Wade (USA) 2:35:46