Paul Evans and Marian Sutton defend championships in Chicago Marathon
CHICAGO (AP) _ A record number of more than 14,000 runners are expected Sunday to challenge defending champions Paul Evans and Marian Sutton in the LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon.
Elite runners will compete for a total of $300,000, with the winners in the men’s and women’s division each receiving $50,000.
In addition, New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc., is offering $1 million to the American man or woman who lowers, by the largest margin, the U.S. best performance in a marathon.
For the men, the target is Bob Kempanian’s 2 hours, 8 minutes, 47 seconds, at Boston in 1994. For the women, it’s Joan Benoit Samuelson’s 2:21:21 at Chicago in 1985.
Both defending champions in the Chicago race lauded the course, which winds through ethnic neighborhoods and finishes along Lake Michigan and into downtown’s Grant Park.
Evans and Sutton, both from Britain, noted the course’s favorable flatness.
``It’s very friendly. The cheers you get are phenomenal,″ said Sutton, who ran 2:30:41 last year to win the women’s division. ``The course is flat ... It’s a fast course.
``The skyline is tremendous. When you come into the finish, you know you got 26 miles of hard work behind you. You see the skyline and you know that the pain is nearly all over.″
Evans, who ran 2:08:52 last year, also noted the ``complete flatness″ of the course and the crowds that gather to watch.
``A lot of people come out and support us,″ he said. ``That means a lot, especially when you’re getting a bit tired.
``When you’re coming to the finish, the last 5 miles you can see the skyline and you’re running for home. It’s a big, psychological thing. Last year, I could see the finish. The skyline was home. That pumps you.″
Among those making his marathon debut is Todd Williams, a two-time U.S. Olympian and five-time U.S. champion at 10,000 meters. He is aiming for a time under 2:10.
``This is one of the top three courses in the world and the fastest in the U.S.,″ Williams said. ``It’s a great place to run. It’s as flat as a pancake.″
Also making their debut and expected to be among the leaders are Jon Brown of Britain, a 1996 Olympian, and Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco, who ran a 1:00:27 half-marathon in Philadelphia Sept. 28.