Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Race two of the World Marathon Major series is scheduled for this Sunday through streets of downtown Chicago. The race starts and ends on Columbus Drive and winds through the Loop before heading north to Lincoln Park, finally ending with a run up Michigan Avenue.
The race will feature a solid elite men's division, headed up by a trio of Kenyans - Moses Mosop, Dennis Kimetto and Emannuel Mutai. However, one absentee from the race will be the defending champion Tsegaye Kebede, who had one of the most remarkable stretch runs last year. Kebede actually trailed the leader by 43 seconds, by exploded in the final 4 1/2 miles to win by 29 seconds in a personal-best time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 38 seconds. Kebede will sit out this race after winning the London Maraton earlier this year, but should be ready to go in November for the New York City Marathon.
The hottest of the Kenyans right now is Kimetto, who won the Tokyo Marathon in course-record time earlier this year and was a second-place finisher in the 2012 Berlin Marathon.
As for Mosop, he shoots for his second Chicago Marathon victory in the last three years. The 28-year-old Mosop was an easy winner back in 2011, when he set a course-record at 2 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds. An selection to the 2012 Kenyan Olympic team and injury kept him from defending his title. However, Mosop is glad to be back and will be aiming for regain his course-record title, currently held by Kebede.
Among the other elite runners in the men's field are Sammy Kitwara, who was fifth in Chicago in 2012, and Eliud Ngetich, both from Kenya, Yoshinori Oda of Japan, Ethiopia's Tilahun Regassa, winner of the 2013 Rotterdam Marathon and Ayele Abshero of Kenya, who ranks among the top 11 marathon performers of all time.
The U.S. best hopes rides with Dathan Ritzehein (Portland, OR), the third fastest American of all time and two-time Olympian Matt Tegenkamp (Summit, MO). Ritzenheim, 13th in the 10,000m at the London Olympics, had a solid ninth-place finish at the last year's Chicago Marathon and was the fastest non-African runner in the field.
The last American to win the Men's division was Khalid Khannouchi of New York in 2002. He also won the race in 2000.
Last year in the women's division, saw one of the most dramatic finishes in Chicago history. Ethiopia's Atsede Baysa battled Kenya's Rita Jeptoo stride for stride before Baysa earned the one-second victory. Baysa also is a two-time winner at the Paris Marathon and was runner-up in Chicago in 2010. Earlier this year, Jeptoo cruised to a 33-second victory at the Boston Marathon, her second title in Beantown in seven years.
The question remains, "If not Baysa or Jeptoo, then whom"? The field is loaded with "could bes and might bes", but some of the top runners include Kenya's Jemima Sumgong (2013 Rotterdam winner), Japan's Yukiko Akaba (2011 Osaka winner), Russia's Maria Konovalova (5th fastest in the world) and the Chinese duo of Chao Yue and Jingxia Zhang.
The two top Americans in the field are expected to be Stephanie Pezzullo (Charlotte, NC) and Clara Santucci (Morgantown, WV). Americans have won the female division 12 times in 36 years, the last being Deena Kastor of California in 2005.
NOTES: Last year, there were 85 countries represented at the Chicago Marathon; this year the total is 129...About 10,000 runners in the field come from outside of the United States...There will be at least one runner from each of the 50 United States...The most represented state, not including Illnois, will be Indiana at 1,360...The top foreign country entree is Mexico, followed by Canada.