For the first time in 26 years the Chicago Marathon chose not to provide pacemakers for its elite field. Officials said the decision would result in a more competitive but slower event, with record-breaking performances less likely.
As predicted the race was slower and subsequently produced a solid Kenyan sweep, with Dickson Chumba and Florence Kiplagat coming out on top.
After coming third last year Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat, who has twice set the world record for the half marathon, won the women's race in 2:23:33.
Kiplagat broke away just after mile 24, leaving Ethiopia’s Yebrgual Melese in second place in 2:23:43. Fellow Ethopian Birhane Dibaba finished third in 2:24:24, beating Kayoko Fukushi of Japan by one second.
Unperturbed by the lack of pacemakers, after crossing the finish line Kiplagat fell to the ground briefly before giving the crowd a thumbs up and leaping in the air.
“I jumped because I love my kids and told them that this year was mine,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in position one [in a marathon]. They tell me, if you win, do something,” she said.
Meanwhile in the men’s race Kenyan Dickson Chumba also pulled away in the final stretch to scoop the men’s title in 2:09:25.
Fellow Kenyans Sammy Kitwara and Sammy Ndungu came second and third in 2:09:50 and 2:10:06, respectively.
Some elite runners agreed the lack of pacers made the race more difficult. "Running without pacemakers is not nice for me," said Sammy Kitwara, after coming third.
Race day temperatures started at around 12°C and rose to 17°C. Winds also picked up in the second half and runners had to contend with breezes of around 9mph with gusts up to 15mph.
"It was a problem," Chumba said, adding that he thought he could have run a 2:04 or 2:05 if the race had offered pacemakers.