In somewhat of a surprise move, organizers of the Chicago Marathon announced on Wednesday that the prestigious race—one of six in the World Marathon Majors series—will do away with elite pace-makers beginning with this year’s edition on Oct. 11.
“We have always tried to blend pace and competition,” race director Carey Pinkowski told the Chicago Tribune. “But the athletes relied too much on the pace up front, and the chemistry of the competition has become too much about settling in behind the rabbits. Without the rabbits, the leaders need a much greater level of concentration. That will allow us to see more tactics, strategy and competition throughout the race.”
Chicago, which has used pacemakers since 1990, is known for its flat course profile, deep elite fields and traditionally fast times. It joins both the Boston and New York City marathons as rabbit-free races in the WMM series, which awards an annual $500,000 prize to its male and female winners. The other three WMM events—London, Berlin and Tokyo—will continue to employ pace-makers to chase world and course-record times. Should a runner break a course or world-record in Chicago, they will still be awarded an additional prize bonus for their efforts.
“This is a place where people always have come to run fast,” Pinkowski told the Tribune. “Great competition produces great performances.”
MORE: Chicago Tribune