Earlier Thursday, organizers of the Bank of America Chicago Maratho
n announced the elite athlete fields for the race's 37th edition, to be held on Sunday, October 12. Among those competing at the World Marathon Majors event include Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge and Florence Kiplagat, both of whom join previously announced competitors Kenenisa Bekele and Rita Jeptoo, the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m and reigning women's champion, respectively. Jeptoo is also the reigning Boston Marathon champion.
Fronting the American charge are Amy Hastings and Bobby Curtis, with Olympian Lisa Uhl making her marathon debut.
"This year's field is built for speed and record-breaking performances," said Bank of America Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski in a prepared statement. "We have big expectations due to this group of men and women who know how to race, dig deep and win."
A two-time Olympic medalist on the track, Kipchoge, 29, has transitioned to the marathon seemingly with ease. After debuting with a win at the Hamburg Marathon in 2013 (setting a course record of 2:05:30), Kipchoge went on to place second in the 2013 BMW Berlin Marathon (a personal best of 2:04:05) and claim victory at the 2014 ABN-AMRO Rotterdam Marathon in 2:05:00.
In Chicago, Kipchoge will face-off against Bekele who debuted with a win at the Paris Marathon in 2:05:04. A month ago, Bekele expressed his intent to go after Dennis Kimetto's Chicago course record of 2:03:45.
"I am looking forward to coming to Chicago and competing with Kenenisa on the road this time. I chose Chicago because it has a fast course and I want to better my personal best," said Kipchoge. "It's also one of the best races in the world."
Joining the pair on the starting line will be fellow Kenyans Sammy Kitwara, Bernard Koech, and Dickson Chumba; Kitwara placed third at last year's race and fourth in 2014. Since 2001, Kenyan men have claimed eleven victories at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project athlete Bobby Curtis, current U.S.A. Running Circuit points leader Christo Landry, and marathon debutant Matt Llano lead the American contingent. Japan's Koji Kobayashi and Ecuador's Byron Efren Piedra also are entered
"The depth of the field this year is incredible," said Curtis. "I'm looking forward to seeing where I stand against the world's best, as well as how I stack up against some of the top Americans."
Rita Jeptoo returns seeking to become the first repeat champion since Birhane Adere in 2006/2007*. Jeptoo, the current World Marathon Majors points leader, will have to defeat Florence Kiplagat, Jemima Sumgong, and Birhane Dibaba if she wants to retain her laurel wreath.
Kiplagat, a two-time winner of the BMW Berlin Marathon and the world record holder for the half-marathon, comes to the Windy City with added motivation after an injury forced her out of the 2012 Bank of Chicago Marathon. In her last marathon, Kiplagat timed 2:20:24 for runner-up honors at the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon in April.
"I was supposed to compete in the Chicago marathon two years ago but was out due to injury, but I am happy now to be part of the competition for my fans and supporters," said Kiplagat. "It is no retreat and no surrender for me; it's a do-or-die game, and I will give all my best to succeed and make the 12th of October a great day!"
Sumgong, who is a training partner of Jeptoo, placed second last year and is looking for more. Racing to a 2:20:41 personal best at this year's Boston Marathon, Sumgong proved that a sub-2:20 performance may be in the cards on the flat, fast course in Chicago.
Dibaba, 20, will be racing her first marathon on American soil. At the 2014 Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon, Dibaba sprinted by Jeptoo to earn the win, 1:09:34 to 1:09:37.
Top American Amy Hastings has showed promise on the roads this summer, winning the AJC Peachtree Road Race (10-K) and placing second at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (20-K). She'll race the Chicago Marathon for the first time.
"I can't wait to be racing through the streets of Chicago," said Hastings, who boasts a marathon personal best of 2:27:03. "As a notoriously fast course, I am out there to run a PR and compete with some of the world's best until the very end."
Clara Santucci, the top American at last year's race, and 2013 California International Marathon champion Becky Wade, will be racing as well. Lisa Uhl, a 2012 Olympian at 10,000 meters, is slated to make her marathon debut; her half-marathon best stands at 1:13:28.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon women's event record comes from 2002, when Great Britain's Paula Radcliffe timed 2:17:18. Last year, the race saw a race record of 39,122 finishers.