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Friday, October 10, 2008

Chicago Marathon Preview

The 2008 Chicago Maration: Race Preview

Well, the second big marathon post-Beijing happens in Chicago on Sunday, and it promises to be a great race. Very different from the Berlin Marathon, where Haile Gebrselassie made a concerted effort (and ultimately a successful one) at his world record.

No talk of a world record in Chicago, but a far more competitive race is without doubt on the cards. For the best preview of the names to watch, check out the analysis done by Letsrun.com. They looked at the top 5 men and women over the course of the last week, and you can read their final prediction article here for the men and here for the women. If you're watching the race, it's well worth the read.

From our side, the race has personal significance, because as you'll recall from Jonathan's post last weekend that he'll be involved in the medical tent doing research on the race.

That research, in turn, was driven by the events of last year's Chicago Marathon, which was one of the most dramatic, controversial and spoken about races in many years. From a racing point of view, it produced two of the most dramatic finishes you will ever see in a marathon in BOTH events. On the men's side, Patrick Ivuti and Jaouid Gharib raced shoulder to shoulder through the finish line, almost cleaned out the men holding the tape, and eventually Ivuti was declared the winner.

On the women's side, Andriana Pirtea of Romania, running her first ever marathon, came into the final 400m with a large lead over Birhane Adere, and had even begun waving to the crowd and celebrating her win. Adere didn't read the script, however, and she pressed one last time, caught the Romanian (whose reaction when she realised that the Ethiopian closed her down was one of the highlights of the marathon year) and won her second title.

But the real drama, for most people, was still to come. The race was cancelled earlier due to the excessively high temperatures, and the number of runners who were collapsing, bailing and struggling in unseasonally hot conditions. More tragically, we had a death, that of Chad Schieber, a 35-year old policeman from Michigan, who collapsed at the 18 mile mark of the Chicago Marathon, and was later pronounced dead. This tragic event, together with approximately 300 other medical cases, prompted the race organizers to take the unprecedented step of shutting the course down after about 4 hours of running.

The reaction to the decision was varied, emotional and ultimately, we believe, inappropriately harsh. Race organizers were heavily criticised for failing to provide water, for not cancelling the race sooner and a variety of other decisions deemed to be harmful. We tried to cover that story and the fallout in as much detail as possible, explaining that dehydration, which was blamed for the death, was in fact NOT the issue - you can read the posts on Chad Schieber here and here.

This year's race is not expecting a repeat of the same - it is supposedly going to be a decent day for racing. Not perfect (like Berlin), but definitely more manageable than last year, temperature-wise.

However, Jonathan will be able to bring you all that information, straight from the front lines in the course of the next week.

Before that, we will bring you the race analysis, including our usual fare of pacing, split times and race commentary. So join us on Sunday evening/monday morning for our race analysis, and then in the week after the race in order to unpack Chicago 2008.



Trihardist said...

It's a big weekend for endurance sports! Can't wait to see the outcome in Chicago. Do you have any thoughts on Kona?

Anonymous said...

you reporting like a live...