Chicago Marathon runner Brigid Kosgei sets a new women’s world record

By Junie Burns
Medill Reports

It took 17 years to the day for Brigid Kosgei of Kenya to set a new women’s world record in running this year’s Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04. On October 13, 2002, Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe set the Chicago Marathon course record and a world’s record for a woman runner with a time of 2:17:18.

Coming just one day after Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the two hour barrier by completing the Vienna marathon in 1:59:40, Kosgei’s world record wraps a historic weekend of distance running for Kenya.

“I come here to run my own race,” Kosgei said.  “I have been training good. I was happy.”

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Brigid Kosgei of Kenya sprints to the finish line in her world record-breaking women’s victory. (Junie Burns/Medill)

Kosgei says she is proud to have contributed to the accomplishments of her country, and with hard work and diligent training, women should have no problem setting new world records and breaking the 2:10:00 barrier.

“It will take time, training, hard work,” Kosgei said.  “I think 2:10:00 is possible for a lady.”

In a sprint to the finish line, 2019 Boston Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono edged out the rest of the pack earning another marathon victory for Kenya with a time of 2:05:45  Defending champion Mo Farah of Great Britain who returned to Chicago, but fell behind the front elite pack early in the race. He finished in eighth place.

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2019 Chicago Marathon winner Lawrence Cherono of Kenya (center) prepares to make his move to first place as he enters the final 0.2 miles of the marathon in the lead elite pack. (Junie Burns/Medill)

Tensions were high at the 42nd Annual Chicago Marathon.  With ideal race conditions in the cool fall weather, speculation soared about the potential for breaking the longstanding course records.  The men’s record still stands and was set in 2013 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya, and the women’s record had been in place from 2002 until today’s race.

For the wheelchair division, the Chicago Marathon was the qualifying race for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games.  The top two male and female Americans could earn their spot on the Paralympic team if they finished fast enough to meet elite status qualifications for entering the race. They did.

The 2018 defending champion, 21-year-old Daniel Romanchuk of the Illinois was a favorite going into the race.

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Daniel Romanchuk of the United States wins the men’s wheelchair division for the second year in a row and earns his spot on the US National Paralympic team for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. (Bank of America Chicago Marathon)

“I know my limits more than I did [last year] and know more about strategy,” Romanchuk  said.  “I don’t like to make any assumptions about any race, but we’ll see!”

He ultimately earned his spot by winning the men’s race in a landslide victory, finishing more than three minutes before the rest of the elite pack with a time of 1:30:26.

Joining Romanchuk for the 2020 Paralympic Games from the women’s division are current Chicago Marathon record-holders Tatyana McFadden and Susannah Scaroni who placed second and fourth, respectively, behind Swiss para-athlete Manuela Schär.

“The marathon is really all about experience,” said fourth place female finisher and top female American runner Emma Bates of Idaho. “I really wanted to do a full marathon so that I could learn more about myself… I need to be in a race that I have women right next to me and women ahead of me to learn how to keep my composure.”

With the Olympic trials just four months away, Chicago also marked an essential check point for elite distance runners.  While some runners choose not to do a full marathon so close to the trials, others find it an essential part of preparation.

“It’s incredible to be here and it’s so surreal,” Bates said.  “What better marathon than the Chicago Marathon.”

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Spectators gather on the Marshall Suloway Bridge to cheer on runners in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. (Junie Burns/Medill)
Photo at top: Tatyana McFadden of the United States pulls away to earn second place in the women’s wheelchair division. (Junie Burns/Medill)