Robert K. Cheruiyot’s dramatic victory in The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon today not only secured him $140,000 in prize and bonus money, it also moved him into a commanding lead in the chase for the $500,000 that is awaiting the winner of the World Marathon Majors Series in 2007. The Chicago race was the fourth of the five WMM events that will take place in 2006, the next and final one of the year being the ING New York City Marathon on November 5.
Cheruiyot’s 2:07:35 win was made all the more dramatic by the fact that he slipped as he crossed the finish line, falling backwards and hitting his head on the ground. He was taken to the hospital and treated for bleeding beneath the skull, and doctors planned to keep him under observation over night. His injuries were reportedly not serious, however.
This was Cheruiyot’s second victory in a World Marathon Majors event this year. He also claimed victory in Boston earlier in April. His two wins earned him a total of 50 World Marathon Majors points, and a 25 point lead in the series over Felix Limo and Haile Gebrselassie. Limo was the 2005 Chicago champion, but had to withdraw from this year’s race due to a back ailment.
The women’s race in Chicago also had a significant impact on the World Marathon Majors standings. The 2:20:42 victory of Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere moved her from a tie for fourth in the standings into a narrow five-point lead over Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo who, like Cheruiyot, had taken the laurel wreath in Boston.
Both races on the streets of the Windy City unfolded in dramatic, though contrasting, fashion. Among the women, Romania’s Constantina Tomescu-Dita powered into an early lead, hammering through the half-way mark in a time of 1:08:07 that gave her an advantage of over two minutes on Adere and Russia’s Galina Bogomolova, Australia’s Benita Johnson, and Mexico’s Madia Perez Carrillo, among others. There was an inevitable toll to be paid for so aggressive a tactic and, with approximately four miles remaining, Bogomolova and Adere surged into the lead, embarking on a shoulder-to-shoulder battle to the line. Adere’s 14:29 5,000m track speed made the difference as the Ethiopian sprinted ahead in the final half mile to secure the win, 2:20:42 to 2:20:47. Interestingly, Adere and Bogomolova had placed fourth and fifth in the Flora London race in April, a mere six seconds apart. Furthermore, each of the first four finishers in Chicago established a new national record. Adere’s improved the Ethiopian mark of 2:21:34 set by Gete Wami in the real,-Berlin race just last month. Bogomolova’s time improved the mark of 2:21:29 set by Ludmila Petrova in London this past spring. In third and fourth, Johnson and Perez Carrillo improved the Australian and Mexican marks with respective times of 2:22:36 and 2:22:59.
The men’s race in Chicago did not have an early leader, a circumstance that allowed a fascinating war of attrition to unfold. A cumbersome group including all the main contenders charged through half way in 1:03:14, but was inexorably whittled away until, with two kilometers remaining, Cheruiyot, Daniel Njenga and Jimmy Muindi, all from Kenya, were the only ones left in contention. Muindi was the first to weaken as Cheruiyot surged into the lead. Njenga, who had placed second, third, second and third here in Chicago over the last four years, was clearly determined to finally take the top spot, as he responded forcefully, a move that only pressed Cheruiyot into a still higher gear. Njenga responded again but, with the finish line in sight, the Boston winner was not about to be denied. He kicked one more time and the drama was done.
Or so it seemed. As he raised his hands in celebration, Cheruiyot slipped as he was about to cross the finish line. Race referees confirmed that he did cross the finish line, but he fell backward and struck his head on the ground.
Although four of this year’s five WMM races have been completed, the outcome of the ING New York City race will have an enormous impact on the standings. Of the 19 men currently appearing on the men’s leaderboard, four have committed to run in New York. These are Olympic champion and silver medalist, Stefano Baldini (ITA) and Meb Keflezighi (USA), 2005 runner-up Hendrick Ramaala, and Alan Culpepper (USA), the fifth place finisher in Boston this year. A high placing for any of these would move them dramatically up in the standings, although none would catch Cheruiyot.
Four women from the 18 presently in the WMM rankings will appear in New York. They are Boston winner, Rita Jeptoo (KEN), Olympic bronze medalist and Flora London winner, Deena Kastor (USA), 2005 ING New York winner and 2006 Boston runner up Jelena Prokopcuka, (LAT), and Flora London third placer Susan Chepkemei (KEN). With Adere currently holding a slim five point lead over Jeptoo and Kastor in the standings, it is almost certain that, with New York completed, the women’s WMM leader board will look dramatically different.
At present, the standings are as follows.
1. Robert Cheruiyot, KEN, 50 points; 1st Boston, 2:07:14; 1st The La Salle Bank Chicago, 2:07:35
2. Felix Limo, KEN, 25 points, 1st Flora London, 2:06:39
2. Haile Gebrselassie, ETH, 25 points; 1st real,-Berlin, 2:05:56
4. Ben Maiyo, KEN, 15 points; 2nd Boston, 2:08:21
4. Martin Lel, KEN, 15 points, 2nd Flora London, 2:06:41
4. Gudisa Shentema, KEN, 15 points, 2nd real,-Berlin, 2:10:43
4. Daniel Njenga, KEN, 15 points, 2nd The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:07:40
8. Meb Keflezighi, USA, 10 points, 3rd Boston, 2:09:56
8. Hendrick Ramaala, RSA, 10 points, 3rd Flora London, 2:06:55
8. Kurao Umeki, JPN, 10 points, 3rd real,-Berlin, 2:13:43
8. Jimmy Muindi, KEN, 10 points, 3rd The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:07:51
12. Brian Sell, USA, 5 points, 4th Boston, 2:10:55
12. Khalid Khannouchi, USA, 5 points, 4th Flora London, 2:07:04
12. Terefe Yae, ETH, 5 points, 4th real,-Berlin, 2:15:05
12. Abdi Adirahman, USA, 5 points, 4th The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:08:56
16. Alan Culpepper, USA, 1 point, 5th Boston, 2:11:02,
16. Stefano Baldini, ITA, 1 point, 5th Flora London, 2:07:22
16. Ahmed Ezzobayry, FRA, 1 point, 5th real,-Berlin, 2:15:29
16. Robert Cheboror, KEN, 1 point, 5th The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:09:25
1. Berhane Adere, ETH, 30 points, 1st The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:20:42; 4th Flora London, 2:21:52
2. Rita Jeptoo, KEN, 25 points, 1st Boston, 2:23:38
2.Deena Kastor, USA, 25 points, 1st Flora London, 2:19:36
2. Gete Wami, ETH, 25 points, 1st real,-Berlin, 2:21:34
5. Galina Bogomolova, RUS, 16 points, 2nd The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:20:47; 5th Flora London, 2:21:58
6. Jelena Prokopcuka, LAT, 15 points, 2nd Boston, 2:23:48
6. Ludmila Petrova, RUS, 15 points, 2nd Flora London, 2:12:29
6. Salina Kosgei, KEN, 15 points, 2nd real,-Berlin, 2:23:22
9. Reiko Tosa, JPN, 10 points, 3rd Boston, 2:24:11
9. Susan Chepkemei, KEN, 10 points, 3rd Flora London, 2:21:46
9. Monica Drybulska, POL, 10 points, 3rd real,-Berlin, 2:30:12
9. Benita Johnson, AUS, 10 points, 3rd The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:22:36
13. Bruna Genovese, ITA, 5 points, 4th Boston, 2:25:28
13. Asha Gigi, ETH, 5 points, 4th real,-Berlin, 2:32:32
13. Madai Perez Carrillo, MEX, 5 points, 4th The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:22:59
16. Kiyoko Shimahara, JPN, 1 point, 5th Boston, 2:26:52
16. Marcia Narlock, BRA, 1 point, 5th real,-Berlin, 2:35:28
16. Constantina Tomescu-Dita, ROM, 1 point, 5th The LaSalle Bank Chicago, 2:24:25.
Launched with the Boston Marathon this year, the World Marathon Majors is an innovative alliance among the world’s five leading marathons—Boston, Flora London, real,-Berlin, The LaSalle Bank Chicago, and ING New York City. Competitors accumulate points in a maximum of four races over a two-year period, the eventual male and female winners taking equal shares of a $1,000,000 prize purse. Each two-year WMM season overlaps; the cycle is, therefore, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2009/2010, etc. After 2007, the prize money is awarded at the end of each year. In the year’s in which they occur, the World Championships and Olympic Games are also part of the WMM series.