With a powerful surge late in the race of five consecutive miles under 4:40, Tsegaye Kebede on Sunday became the first Ethiopian man to win the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, breaking the tape in 2:04:38 to demolish the course record by a stunning 59 seconds.
“I don’t believe it,” Kebede said of the time.
It was the fastest marathon ever run in the United States on a record-certified course. Not only that, but the times for runner-up Feyisa Lelisa (2:04:52), third-place finisher Tilahun Regassa (2:05:27), and the next three men behind them were also the fastest for those places ever run in a marathon in this country.
The previous course record, 2:05:37, was set last year by Moses Mosop of Kenya. He did not return to defend, opting instead to run the ING New York City Marathon on November 4.
Ethiopia had a big day: Not only did the men sweep the medals, but the women’s winner, in 2:22:03, was countrywoman Atsede Baysa, besting Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo by one second. Third was Kenyan Lucy Kabuu in 2:22:41. Three-time defending champion Liliya Shobukhova of Russia, bothered by a lingering hamstring injury, was fourth in 2:22:59, while Renee Metevier-Baille, making her debut at the distance, finished in 2:27:17 as the top American woman.
The top American man was an elated Dathan Ritzenhein, ninth in 2:07:47, a personal best by more than two minutes and a time that makes him the third-fastest U.S. man in history, behind only Khalid Khannouchi and Ryan Hall.
“It was a huge step forward in my marathon career for me, so I’m just thrilled,” said Ritzenhein, 29. “There’s a lot more potential, a lot more in the tank … I still have a lot of room for improvement. If I can just continue to stay healthy I can just continue to build off of this.
“It was a huge jump for me from 2:09:55 to 2:04,” said Ritzenhein. “Now I’ve cut that in half. The next step for me now is to probably just go with it.”
Ritzenhein was paced in the early going by Jason Hartmann, who finished fourth in the 2012 Boston Marathon and is training for the ING New York City Marathon. They were high school teammates in Rockford, MI.
After coming off a full year lost to injury, Ritzenhein finished fourth in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last January, just missing the team but running a then-personal best 2:09:55. He came back to make the U.S. team for London at 10,000 meters.
Coached by Alberto Salazar, Ritzenhein trains with Mo Farah, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at 5000 meters and 10,000 meters, and Galen Rupp, the silver medalist at 10,000 meters, and said he is looking forward to running cross country in the spring and then a full track season before tackling a fall marathon.
“I think I have PRs in me in every distance still,” he said, “I want to be able to continue to train with the two best 10K runners in the world. That was a huge confidence booster for me.”
Despite its fast times, the race outcome will not factor into the 2011–2012 World Marathon Majors series prize of $500,000. The men’s winner, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, was determined when he won the BMW Berlin Marathon; the women’s winner will be decided in New York.
Photo: Ritzenhein in NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K last fall. Credit: PhotoRun/NYRR