After 26.2 miles of winding through the packed streets of Chicago on a quintessential day to run, with unbeatable forty-degree fall temperatures, the men’s 2019 Chicago Marathon came down to one second.
Kenyan runner Lawrence Cherono outkicked Ethiopian runners Debela Dejene and Asefa Mengstu in the final 400 meters to win the men’s elite race. After running 26 miles and some change, the top three band of runners looked like they were coming down the home stretch of an 800-meter track race rather than the final minute of their endurance run.
Long-winded, yet determined to fight for first, Cherono, Dejene, and Mengstu finished within three seconds of each other – the closest podium finish in Chicago Marathon history. It was such a close margin that the entourage of people gathering around the finish and crowding Michigan Ave. had to crane their necks to see Cherono cross first.
Some may have been surprised that British distance runner Mo Farah, last year’s champion, wasn’t in the mix. Farah competed again this year but finished more than four minutes off his winning time last year of 2:05:11.
Leading the men’s elite field this October, Cherono ran a 2:05:45, topping his winning time from April's Boston Marathon (2:07:57). He is the first man since 2006 to win both titles in the same year – the latter, secured in a second.
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For all the positive momentum and attention the Chicago Red Stars received for reaching the NWSL Championship, things unraveled quickly once the game kicked off.
The Red Stars’ first appearance in the NWSL final was not one to remember. The host North Carolina Courage won 4-0 to win their second straight NWSL title.
Vanessa DiBernardo had an early shot for the Red Stars in the second minute which required a solid save from Stephanie Labbe. After that, the Red Stars were under siege,
The top-seeded Courage got a goal in the fourth minute from Debinha and kept piling on the pressure. Two more goals put the game out of reach before the break. U.S. national teamer Sam Mewis added a fourth goal on a header in the second half.
Red Stars forward Sam Kerr, who broke her own single-season record with 18 goals this season and was named the league MVP just days before the final, was unable to get on the board. The Australian had a pair of solid chances, but couldn’t convert.
The Red Stars went 2-0-1 against the Courage in the regular season and Kerr scored in all three of those games. Neither of those trends continued.
The Red Stars’ season featured a fifth straight playoff appearance and a first-ever final appearance. They won a semifinal in front of a raucous home crowd the week before. They also had a record crowd of 17,388 in a July 21 match that was the first game back for the team’s returning World Cup winners. However, the final defeat, and especially the way it happened, will leave a bitter taste in their mouths.
Red Stars coach Rory Dames tweeted out some reaction to the final.