CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, October 09 — Ruth Chepngetich and Emily Sisson toed the starting line of the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon hoping to run fast and chase records, albeit with far different pacing strategies.
Chepngetich threw all caution into the still wind, running well under WR pace, only to fall 14 seconds short in the final 2 kilometers, finishing in 2:14:18, the second-fastest time ever.
Sisson started more prudently but hammered home the final 7km to finish 2nd in 2:18:29, a new American Record.
Sisson has had an on-and-off relationship with the 26-miler — splitting her efforts between track and the roads — and this race went surprisingly well. “When I crossed the finish line,” she said, “I was really surprised with the time and the place, and I’m just really, really happy. It’s been so long since I’ve run a marathon and I’m really happy to have a positive experience here.”
While disappointed in not bettering Brigid Kosgei’s 2:14:04, run on this same loop in ’19, Chepngetich also stressed the positive side of her experience, offering, “I did my best, and I’m happy for the results. I’m happy for the win.”
The 28-year-old Kenyan had hoped to refine the ballistic tactics that she used to win last year’s Chicago race. That refinement was to head off at an even faster — if not unprecedented — tempo. Try a 4:47 opening mile, 15:11 for 5K (2:08:08 pace) or 30:40 for 10K (2:09:24 pace). Yikes! We’re talking about a women’s race.
Whatever the bombastic pace, Chepngetich appeared to be running with ease, following two male pacemakers on a brisk morning run hoping to take advantage of the perfect conditions. Tapping out the third 5K segment in 15:39, the Kenyan trio passed 15K in 46:19, a robust 2:10:17 pace.
While Chepngetich clearly had targeted Kosgei’s WR, she was not interested in running 2:14 pace; not even close, as her 15K split was 67 seconds ahead of the WR split.
But inevitably the pace slowed: 15:51 in the 4th 5K, hitting 20K in 62:10, then passing halfway in 65:44 – now 75 seconds ahead of Kosgei’s 66:59. Chepngetich embraced her fast start, noting, “In everything, you have to try your best. I wanted to run a PB and my pacemaker did a good job.”
Clipping off kilometer after kilometer, Chepngetich ran with little expression and seemed to steady herself at a 3:10 kilometer pace. The 20–25K segment was covered in 15:53, with Chepngetich’s 1:18:03 split 91 seconds ahead of Kosgei and putting her on 2:11:44 pace.
Her bold WR gambit was looking good as a subsequent 15:59 kept her on 2:12:44 pace at 30K (1:34:01). Then the first signs of fatigue appeared as Chepngetich began to lean into the effort and a 16:24 confirmed the slowing tempo as her 35K split of 1:50:25 netted 2:13:07 pace, while her lead over Kosgei’s split was down to just 50 seconds.
Chepngetich responded by more aggressively pumping her arms, but this did little to offset the sliding pace and when she crossed 40K in 2:07:02, her 16:37 segment left her a scant 10 seconds ahead of Kosgei’s split.
After spending much of the race at sub 2:12 pace this WR attempt would come down to the final 2195m (sans pacers, as per protocol they retired at 40K). Unfortunately, it wasn’t close as Kosgei closed a very fast 6:52 in her WR run, while Chepngetich’s could only manage 7:16 as her bid seemed to play out in slow-motion with a hang-time element added to her once crisp stride.
About a kilo out from the finish, the WR slipped from her grasp as she pressed on to finish in 2:14:18. She expressed some frustration in coming oh-so-close: “Even approaching the finish line, I was still inside the World Record, but I missed by some seconds.”
For Sisson, it was a case of pace ignorance is bliss, as she admitted, “I didn’t know what pace I was on the whole time. I was given instructions [by coach Ray Treacy] to go off my pacers and not think about time at all, so I had no clue what pace I was running until I think a mile to go, a few people told me to pick it up, so I thought, “Oh, I must be close to either breaking 2:20 or the American Record,” but I didn’t know which one.”
Sisson was well served in leaving the driving to her rabbits, as they latched onto 3:16/3:19 pace, cranking out an ever-steady batch of 5K splits: 16:23, 16:31, 16:23, 16:32 en route to a 69:26 opening half. The steady running continued with 5Ks of 16:20, 16:28 and 16:33 putting her on 2:18 pace at 35K.
Sisson was more than ready to attack the finish. “I felt pretty good,” she said. “I think with a little less than 4M to go, I talked to John, one of my pacers, and was like, ‘Let’s pick it up a bit,’ and we did.”
Hitting a strong efficient stride, Sisson lifted the tempo through a 16:19, then hit high gear closing out the final 2195 in 7:00, and paring 43 seconds off Keira D’Amato’s 8-month-old U.S. standard.
The 30-year-old Providence grad explained, “My intent was to break 2:20 and to walk away with a positive experience from the marathon and be excited for my next one. My main goal was 2:20, and I thought if I felt good, I’d go for the record. To break the record and break 2:19 and finish 2nd, I’m so excited about that.”
CHICAGO WOMEN’S RESULTS
1. Ruth Chepngetich (Ken) 2:14:18 PR (2, 2 W)
(15:11, 15:29 [30:40], 15:39 [46:19], 15:51 [62:10], 15:53 [1:18:03], 15:58 [1:34:01], 16:24 [1:50:25], 16:37 [2:07:02], 7:16) (65:44/68:34]) (
2. Emily Sisson (US) 2:18:29 AR (old AR 2:19:12 Keira D’Amato [Nik] ’22)
(16:23, 16:31 [32:54], 16:23 [49:17], 16:32 [65:49], 16:20, [1:22:09], 16:28 [1:38:37], 16:33 [1:55:10], 16:19 [2:11:29], 7:00) (69:26/69:03);
3. Vivian Kiplagat (Ken) 2:20:52 (69:26/71:26); 4. Ruti Aga (Eth) 2:21:41 (69:26/72:15); 5. Waganesh Mekasha (Eth) 2:23:41 (69:27/74:14); 6. Susanna Sullivan (US) 2:25:14 PR (72:57/72:17); 7. Sara Vaughn (US) 2:26:23 PR (72:31/73:52); 8. Maggie Montoya (US) 2:28:07 PR (73:26/74:41); 9. Sarah Inglis (GB) 2:29:37 (73:04/76:33); 10. Makena Morley (US) 2:30:28 PR (72:31/77:57); 11. Laura Thweatt (US) 2:31:24; 12. Jessie Cardin (US) 2:33:34; 13. Marie-Ange Brumelot (Fra) 2:33:49; 14. Carrie Verdon (US) 2:33:50; 15. Brittney Feivor (US) 2:33:59; 16. Olivia Pratt (US) 2:34:22.