Chicago Marathon: world records watch, U.S. Olympic Trials preview
The most anticipated Chicago Marathon in years, maybe decades, is Sunday, streaming live nationwide at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSportsChicago.com and the NBC Chicago News channel on Peacock.
The gist: possible men’s and women’s world record pursuits, the most versatile distance runner in the world today (perhaps ever) and the likely decider of favorites for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Feb. 3 in Orlando.
Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum is the men’s headliner, racing his first marathon since clocking the second-fastest time in history to win London on April 23.
Since 1999, a men’s or women’s marathon world record has been broken four times on the Windy City flat roads.
Kiptum ran 2 hours, 1 minute, 25 seconds to prevail in London. Common sense says he hasn’t peaked. He’s still just 23 years old and has raced just two career marathons.
Kenyan legend Eliud Kipchoge’s world record is 2:01:09.
Comparing times from different marathons is quite apples and oranges, but if Kiptum can beat 2:02:42 (Kipchoge’s winning time from Berlin on Sept. 24), he has to be considered the Olympic favorite going into 2024.
Behind Kiptum, and they should be well behind, are the two fastest Americans over nearly the last four years: two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp and Conner Mantz, currently the Olympic Trials favorite.
Rupp, 37, is the third-fastest American in history behind the retired Ryan Hall and Khalid Khannouchi. But Rupp withdrew around the 22nd mile of his most recent marathon, last Nov. 6 in New York City, after his back “completely locked up.”
He’s been hampered by injuries in this Olympic cycle and didn’t race a marathon last spring as he ramped back up. He did finish 19th in the NYC Half marathon on March 19, his lone race at any distance this year.
“Last several months, especially, it’s probably been the longest I’ve trained consistently without having any races,” he said Friday. “The one positive about it is I’ve had a lot of weeks of good volume [of miles in training] going back months.”
Mantz, 26, made his marathon debut in Chicago last Oct. 9 and ran 2:08:16, which remains the fastest time by an American since the start of 2022.
He followed that by running 2:10:25 in Boston on April 17, good for 11th place and third among Americans.
With back-to-back solid marathons, Mantz is currently the favorite for Olympic Trials, where the top three are likely to make up the team for Paris.
Sunday’s women’s race pits the third-fastest woman in history -- defending champion Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich -- against Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, a champion over her career at 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m and the marathon.
Chepngetich’s winning time from last year — 2:14:18 — was at the time 14 seconds off the world record (set by Kenyan Brigid Kosgei in Chicago in 2019).
But two weeks ago, Ethiopian Tigst Assefa lowered the record by an astonishing 2 minutes, 11 seconds in Berlin, bringing it down to 2:11:53.
Chepngetich’s splits last year indicate she is capable of dipping below 2:14. Her first half was 65:44 — 2:11:28 marathon pace. She slowed to 68:34 in the second half, a positive split indicating she could have run a swifter 26.2-mile time if she didn’t go out so hard.
Hassan completes an already epic year of racing. She won April’s London Marathon in her debut at the distance off limited training while observing Ramadan.
Then Hassan went back to the track, where she won 5000m silver and 1500m bronze at August’s world championships.
Six weeks after that feat, she races another marathon.
Then there’s the American story.
Last year in Chicago, Emily Sisson finished 4:11 behind Chepngetich in a distant second place. Her time — 2:18:29 — broke the American record and cemented her as an Olympic Trials favorite.
The Chicago field also includes Emma Bates, the second-fastest American this year and the top American in Boston in April.
Then there’s Des Linden, who is running her 25th career marathon at age 40. Linden, a two-time Olympian and 2018 Boston winner, was fourth at the Tokyo Olympic Trials. In this Olympic cycle, she ranks 21st among Americans by fastest time.
And Molly Seidel, who made the Tokyo Olympic team in her marathon debut, then took bronze at the Games. Seidel last finished a marathon in November 2021, having since dealt with hip and glute injuries and anemia and taken time to focus on mental health and an eating disorder relapse.
“Emily and Emma are going to be running a very fast race on the front end,” Seidel told LetsRun.com. “My goal in this one is to use this as a stepping stone for trials.”
Aliphine Tuliamuk, the Tokyo Olympic Trials winner and top American in New York City last November, withdrew from Chicago, citing a hamstring injury.