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Elites expected to leave world record in dust

Matt Tegenkamp, Moses Mosop and Dathan Ritzenhein
Matt Tegenkamp, Moses Mosop and Dathan Ritzenhein
Photo credit Rebecca E. Eden Photography

Whether he thinks a world record is possible at this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Race Director Carey Pinkowski isn’t saying.

What Pinkowski will admit is a lot of hard work went into drawing the elite field of male and female runners participating at this year’s event.

“Records aside, it looks like it is going to be an incredible race on Sunday,” Pinkowski said during a press conference held to introduce some of the elite runners.

With cool temps forecasted (a high temperature of 63 degrees) and the fast, flat course there is an expectation that the elite men could break the world record, though Pinkowski will not admit whether he hopes to see the record broken during the 36th Annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

A new marathon world record was set in September 2013 at the Berlin Marathon. Wilson Kipsang ran that race in in 2:03:23. At the Chicago Marathon, a $75,000 bonus (in addition to the $100,000 prizes to the top male and female) is waiting for the runner who can beat the previous course record of 2:04:38.

Among the elite men, who may leave that record in the dust are Moses Mosop, 28, of Kenya. Mosop won the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2:05:37. When he won Chicago, Mossop admittedly said he was at about 80 to 85 percent of perfect health. This year Mosop said he’s at 95 percent and in good health.

“I trained for six months, no injuries,” Mosop said.

The race has a lot of strong runners, he said, adding the course record is definitely in the back of his mind.

Switching things up

For Dathan Ritzenhein, making changes to his training plan has made the difference.

Ritzenhein, 30, of Beaverton, Ore., said he did more speed work, a full track season and the cramping that once plagued him, has not been an issue. “It was a muscle thing,” he said.

“I had always gone out fast… and then the cramping would come on,” he said. But, in his last marathon that didn’t happen.

In 2012, Ritzenhein ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2:07:47, a breakthrough performance with a more than two-minute personal best, according to race information. That performance made him the third-fastest American marathoner of all time.

“I would like to go out faster than I did last year, hopefully I can come home strong and finish stronger than I did last year,” he said.

Making his debut

A two-time Olympian, Matt Tegenkamp, 31, of Portland, Ore., will make his marathon debut in Chicago this weekend.

His experience has been on the track, but he made the transition to road racing in the fall of 2012 when he won his first road national title at the USA 20K Championships in New Haven, CT, according to race information.

Although Chicago is his marathon debut, Tegenkamp said he isn’t nervous. Although there are a lot of unknowns in marathons two things Tegenkamp isn’t concerned about are the weather and his fitness level.

“Right now I’m pretty calm, it is definitely going to be a big task on Sunday,” he said. “There is anticipation of the unknown and looking forward to tackling a new challenge.”

He is hoping to run in 2:10 or faster, Tegenkamp said.

“I don’t want to put any limitations on what I can offer.”

A strong female field

Atsede Baysa, Yukiko Akaba and Rita Jeptoo
Atsede Baysa, Yukiko Akaba and Rita Jeptoo
Photo credit Rebecca E. Eden Photography

Among the women, Atsede Baysa, the 2012 Chicago Marathon winner (2:22:03) suffered some medical problems earlier in the year, but the 26-year-old runner from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said she is ready for the race.

“My body is good,” Baysa said. “No problem now.”

When asked if she would try to exact revenge at this year’s race, Kenyan Rita Jeptoo said she was happy to be back in Chicago.

In 2012, Jeptoo finished the race in 2:22:04, losing to Baysa in a sprint finish. In April, Jeptoo took first place at the Boston Marathon, finishing in 2:26:25.

“I’m ready to do anything, but I’m happy,” Jeptoo said. “My training is good and I’m ready for Sunday.”

Pinkowski said the women’s field  is also impressive this year, drawing a number of top female contenders.

Racing her first Chicago Marathon, Yukiko Akaba, 33, of Japan said she was excited to finally make it to the race.

“I have long wanted to run the Chicago marathon and I am finally here and achieved this goal,” Akaba said with the aid of a translator.

Chicago will be Akaba’s fourth marathon since April. She completed the Virgin Money London Marathon, the Gold Coast Marathon in Brisbane, Australia (first place finish in 2:27:17) and most recently in August, the Hokkaido Marathon in Sapporo, Japan.

“I run those races after the London Marathon, the two races after London was for the preparation to compete at the Chicago marathon and I would like to beat my personal best at the Chicago Marathon,” Akaba said.