Organizers of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon confirmed this morning that Beijing Olympic Marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru would run their race on Sunday, Oct. 11. It will be Wanjiru's first-ever marathon in the United States, and the 22 year-old is hoping for a fast time on Chicago's famously flat and fast course.
"My only focus between now and October is to prepare and train aggressively for my best performance yet," said Wanjiru who has won the Fukuoka, London and Olympic Marathons and has a career best time of 2:05:10 set in London this year.
The fastest time ever in Chicago was 2:05:42 set in 1999 by Khalid Khannouchi, a Moroccan who became an American citizen the following year. Performances at Chicago were held back the last two years by unusually hot weather, especially in 2007 when the temperature reached 27°C (80°F) by the time the men's winner, Kenyan Patrick Ivuti, hit finish tape in 2:11:11. In good weather Wanjiru could challenge Haile Gebrselassie's world record of 2:03:59 set in Berlin last year. Indeed, Wanjiru told reporters after his Beijing victory last August that he wanted to break the world record this year.
"Sammy is certainly the athlete to watch in this sport right now and we are honored to be able to host him at such a pivotal point in his career,” said Carey Pinkowski who directs the race and recruits the event's top athletes. "We have had the pleasure of witnessing four previous world records in Chicago and if conditions are right, the enthusiastic sports fans in this city could have the opportunity to see that again."
Three other former Chicago champions were also announced by Pinkowski, including Ivuti, Kenyan Evans Cheruiyot (the defending champion), and Russian Lidiya Grigoryeva (the defending women's champion). American women's record holder, Deena Kastor, will also compete, Pinkowski said. It will be Kastor's first marathon since breaking a bone in her foot before the 5 km mark at last summer's Olympic Marathon; she was unable to finish the race.
"Today's announcement significantly advances the depth of our elite athlete field for the October 11 race, and continues the tradition of world class marathon competition in Chicago," Pinkowski concluded.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the second-largest marathon in the United States and helps raise about $10 million for charity. Last year's race had 33,033 starters and 31,401 finishers. Only the ING New York City Marathon is larger with 38,832 starters and 38,096 finishers last year.