Preview: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

The 38th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon includes a mix of seasoned competitors in the Abbott World Marathon Majors race series and newcomers.

2015 Tokyo Marathon champion, Endeshaw Negesse, headlines the men’s elite field, and 2015 Tokyo Marathon winner, Birhane Dibaba, leads the women’s elite field. For the first time in almost three decades, the race will not feature elite pacesetters (“rabbits”); this switch has the potential to create a more championship-style, tactical competition up front.

Men’s Field

Ethiopia’s Endeshaw Negesse has the most at stake in his Bank of America Chicago Marathon debut. As the winner of the 2015 Tokyo Marathon, he is the only athlete in the field who could move to the top of the Series IX AWMM leaderboard alongside of 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon and 2015 BMW BERLIN Marathon winner, Eliud Kipchoge. If Negesse breaks the tape first, he will walk away with his second AWMM victory in 2015 and 50 points on the leaderboard.

With Olympic bronze medalist, 2012 Chicago Marathon champion, and 2012-2013 AWMM champion, Tsegaye Kebede, out of the field due to injury, Sammy Kitwara stands out as a heavy favorite to challenge for the win. Kitwara will be making his sixth appearance in an AWMM event and while he has scored points in all of them, he has yet to land on the top of the podium. October 11 marks Kitwara’s fourth time touring Chicago’s 29-neighborhood course; he finished fourth in 2012, third in 2013 and second in 2014. His 2:04:28 finish last year makes him the fastest man in this year’s elite field.

Out to prevent a duel up front is 2014 Tokyo Marathon winner, Dickson Chumba. Chumba currently sits in ninth place on the AWMM leaderboard with nine points after placing third at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon. Chumba competed stride-for-stride with Kitwara down the homestretch in Chicago last year, and while Chumba failed to match Kitwara’s final burst of speed, he walked away with an impressive PR: 2:04:32.

In the hunt for the win will be 2012 Boston Marathon champion and 2011 Chicago Marathon runner-up, Wesley Korir. Korir, making his seventh Chicago Marathon appearance and his 12th AWMM appearance, finished fifth in Boston earlier this year and scored one point to vault him onto the AWMM leaderboard.

Women’s Field

Several women in the field boast the potential to make the marathon a thrilling contest of strength, endurance and speed, and Birhane Dibaba is off to a good start in 2015. After becoming the youngest female runner (she was 20 years, 165 days) ever to score points in the Abbott World Marathon Majors at the Tokyo Marathon in 2014, she returned to Japan in 2015 to capture her first AWMM win. Like Negesse, Dibaba has a lot at stake in Chicago: if she wins, she moves to the top of the AWMM leaderboard.

Out to stop Dibaba is half marathon world record holder (1:05:09), Florence Kiplagat. All eight of Kiplagat’s career marathons have been AWMM events, and she has scored points in six of them, including first place finishes in Berlin in 2011 and 2013. Kiplagat struggled to keep pace with Dibaba at last year’s Chicago Marathon, but outside of Deena Kastor, she is the only woman on the start line with a sub 2:20 to her credit (2:19:44). Kiplagat is currently in 19th place on the AWMM leaderboard after earning one point for her fifth place in London.

Mulu Seboka of Ethiopia enters Chicago seeking her first AWMM career win. She launched her professional running career 12 years ago with a modest 2:46:33. Over the past decade, she has run more than thirty-five marathons – unprecedented for an elite marathoner – and she welcomed the New Year with a PR in Dubai, 2:21:56.

In her first ever AWMM event (she has run 14 career marathons), Amane Gobena hopes to be among the leaders down the homestretch. She arrives fresh off of a PR and a second place finish at the 2015 Paris Marathon in 2:23:30. Yebrugal Melese is also making her AWMM debut; she won the 2015 Houston Marathon and she boasts a 2:23:23 PR.

Hoping to prevent an East African sweep, Kayoka Fukushi of Japan is a three-time Olympian (Athens, Beijing, London) and a former world record holder in the 15K. She finished second in the 2011 Chicago Marathon (2:24:21). And while American Deena Kastor is 42-years-old, she has been outrunning competitors two decades her junior.  As the 2005 Chicago Marathon champion, Olympic marathon bronze medalist, and American marathon record holder (2:19:36), it is not implausible to think that she could finish inside of the top five.

Men’s Field

  • Sammy Kitwara (KEN)
  • Dickson Chumba (KEN)
  • Endeshaw Negesse (ETH)
  • Abera Kuma (ETH)
  • Wesley Korir (KEN)
  • Sammy Ndungu (KEN)
  • Lucas Rotich (KEN)
  • Satoshi Yoshii (JPN)
  • Fernando Cabada (USA)
  • Hiroyuki Yamamoto (JPN)
  • Rob Watson (CAN)
  • Liam Adams (AUS)

Women’s Field

  • Deena Kastor (USA)
  • Florence Kiplagat (KEN)
  • Mulu Seboka (ETH)
  • Birhane Dibaba (ETH)
  • Yebrgual Melese (ETH)
  • Amane Gobena (ETH)
  • Meskerem Assefa (ETH)
  • Kayoko Fukushi (JPN)
  • Diane Nukuri (BDI)