The mood inside the Hilton Chicago’s media room was relaxed and playful during today’s elite field Chicago Marathon press conference. Britain’s Mo Farah made his entrance while recording the audience for his Instagram account, adding a whistle at the end and a quick selfie-mode “hello” before taking his seat. Setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon and possibly the weekend.
Athletes Galen Rupp, Yuki Kawauchi, Dickson Chumba, Laura Thweatt, Gwen Jorgensen, Tatyana McFadden, Marcel Hug and the rest of the field made their way into the room looking confident and eager to get to the starting line on Sunday.
This year’s deep elite American and international fields are thanks (in part) to executive race director Carey Pinkowski’s vision as he did studied the runners he hoped would fill the roster in 2018. “I kind of went back to the old playbook that I would use and when I looked at the athletes that I saw run starting in the spring and through the fall, and some of their great performances,” said Pinkowski. “I started looking at these individuals and thought, ‘I want to get this guy and this guy,’ and it all came together.”
Another reason the race may be seeing a strong level of competitors this year is due to the reintroduction of pacemakers on the course. In 2015, the marathon did away with them which led to some complaints from the elites. “Part of it was listening to the athletes. It wasn’t a decision that I woke up in the middle of night saying, ‘Let’s bring it back,’ but talking with some of the athletes, you know, they want to get going,” said Pinkowski. “Two very strong gentleman are going to be upfront and we’ve had our discussions about what that pace will be”
On both side of the fields, the lineup is going to make for an exciting race day. As the defending champion, Rupp is ready to tackle the race again this year and feels even stronger than in 2017. “I’m in good shape. The workouts that I’ve done, are real similar and faster to some of the ones I did before Prague/Chicago last year,” said Rupp. “Marathon’s kind of a tricky event where we only get a couple of times a year to run it. So you really have to learn a lot from those and learn a lot from each marathon you’re doing. Fortunately I have six now under my belt.”
With all eyes on the match-up between him and Farah, Rupp jokes that, “Mo’s never beaten me above a half marathon;” although it’s clear that any rivalry is purely for show between the two. “We’re very familiar with each other, we’ve had a great time training together for so long. I’m looking forward to running against him. … I know he’s going to be tough, he’s always brings his A game. That’s one of the things that makes him so special.”
While he hopes to break an American record, Rupp urges that he’d rather grab the top spot on Sunday and come out as the winner versus securing a fast time in third or fourth place. “My goal certainly is to win. I’d take a win in a little bit of a slower time than to run quicker and get second, third, or fourth, whatever it is. So that’s always my goal,” said Rupp.
Making her marathon debut, Pappas names Jorgensen as the person she’s most excited to run with during the race. “I’ve long admired Gwen and I think we’re both in our first* marathon and we both sort of had this like-minded attitude about it where we’re excited and nervous in a good way,” said Pappas. “So I felt this connection to her. I’m glad she’s in here with me.” At the end of the day, though, she hopes to just feel excited about the marathon as an event once she crosses the finish line.
Although she won’t be racing with Hasay or Cragg, two of runners she was most looking forward to running with, Thweatt is excited to toe the line again following an injury last year that kept her out of the racing circuit.
“Coming off of it I feel strong and just kind of hungrier in a different way. You don’t take it for granted—to run again and run pain free—and everything that it took to get to that point,” said Thweatt. “You just really appreciate it on another level. So Sunday is that victory for me, just getting back to the start line of a marathon. That in itself was really the challenge, so to have done that, the race is kind of the cherry on top.”
To watch this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7, click here to see how to do so from your home, the course or smartphone. Plus, see all of our on-the-ground 2018 Chicago Marathon coverage here.
*Editor’s Note: Gwen Jorgensen’s first marathon was the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon where she came in 14th in 2:41.01. She considers the Bank of America Chicago Marathon her “first real” go at the event.