Wesley Korir hopes training in colder Canadian climes pays off Sunday at the Chicago Marathon.
But the 29-year-old Kenyan runner, second last year in Chicago, said he's still figuring out how to best handle temperatures projected to be in the 30s when the race begins. Ice pellets and snow are possibilities.
"I'm a student of the sport," he said. "I've learned how to run in hot weather, so now it's my turn to learn how to tackle the cold weather. From now and Sunday, I'm going to really look at the scientific ways of how to handle the cold."
Korir's wife is Canadian, offering him an opportunity train north of the border for the last two years.
"I've trained in the worst weather -- rain and cold and snow," he said.
Kenyan Moses Mosop won in 2011 with a course record 2 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds but will miss Sunday's race as he recovers from an injury. That leaves Korir, the 2012 Boston Marathon champ, as the men's favorite in his fifth Chicago appearance.
Korir wasn't even among the elite field in 2008, his first Chicago race. He started with tens of thousands of amateur runners, yet still produced the day's fourth best time.
"I've enjoyed the journey, Chicago (in 2008) set me up for a very good career," said Korir, who ran a personal best 2:06.15 last year. "Every race I've learned something and it gives me more motivation to run."
The cool conditions and a fast field may put course records in jeopardy for Chicago's 35th annual marathon. Twelve men have gone under 2:10 and 10 women have broken 2:30.
"Chicago has been known for a cool, flat, fast course," race director Carey Pinkowski said Friday. "The historic (times) in Chicago have been in cool weather."
Korir has the top Chicago time among the elite men's field. But the fastest overall entry is Kenya's Levy Matebo, who had a 2:05.15 last year in Frankfurt. Next is Ethopian Tsegaye Kebede, whose fastest career time is 2:05.18 in 2009 in Japan. Dathan Ritzenhein is the fastest American entry, clocked at 2:09.55 earlier this year at the U.S. Olympic trials in Houston.
In all, there are 43 elite men and 17 elite women competing for $100,000 first prizes.
Russian Liliya Shobukhova seeks a fourth straight Chicago title, something no man or women has ever accomplished. She won last year's race in 2:17.20, less than a second off the course record 2:12.18 set by Paula Radcliffe in 2002.
She had to pull out of the 2012 London Olympics with stomach cramps and has also been bothered this year with a leg injury.
"My legs weren't quite doing what I wanted to do," she said through a translator. "I feel good (now). Fourth time is a goal, a challenge for every athlete and I'm going to try to do it. My first (Chicago) marathon in 2010 was also cold. And I won."
American Tatyana McFadden, who won three gold medals at the recent London Paralympic games, defends her women's wheelchair crown. Canadian Josh Cassidy, fourth last year and 2012 Boston Marathon champ, is the top men's wheelchair contender.
Most of Chicago's previous races have run under seasonal conditions expected on Sunday. But there have been temperature extremes. In 2007, temperatures hit 88 degrees under high humidity and organizers shut down the race early. One runner died and 49 were hospitalized.
Last year, temperatures reached the high 70s, the fourth time in five years with unusually warm conditions. A 35-year-old North Carolina firefighter, running to raise money for a charity, collapsed and died 500 yards from the finish line. Autopsy results were inconclusive.
The Chicago Marathon is among five races in the World Marathon Majors, a two-year cycle of races with a $1 million purse split between the top male and female point earners. Boston, New York, Berlin and London marathons also make up the field.