Participants run in the Chicago Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Live coverage of the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon begins at 7 a.m. on NBC 5 and NBCChicago.com.
It's the final countdown...
Starting in 1977 with over 4,200 runners, the Chicago Marathon continues to increase in popularity, and now 45,000 marathon runners and 1.5 million spectators turn out for the annual fall event.
Will any speed records be made or broken? With Chicago's fairly flat landscape, it's been done before.
Some in that cluster of 45,000 are runners who have made marathons their career (did we mention there's about $400,000 in available prize money?).
Last year's winner, Kenyan Evans Cheruiyot, finished the race in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 25 seconds. He'll be back to defend the title this year. Up against him: Beijing Olympic gold Medalist Sammy Wanjiru, who also won the London Marathon in April.
For the ladies, the top runner was Russia's Lidiya Grigoryeva, who crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 17 seconds. She'll be back, going up against German star Irina Mikitenko, who has won the last three marathons she entered, and American Deena Kastor, the 2005 Chicago champion.
At the start of the race, which begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, winds will likely be out of the west at about 10 MPH with temps near in the 30s.
It's a far cry from the last two years. In 2007, the race was stopped after four hours because runners were collapsing and vomiting in the 80s heat. One runner died and another 184 went to hospitals. Last year, 76 runners went to the hospital as the temperature climbed from 65 at the start to the high 70s while the elite runners were still on the course, and hit 84 by late morning.
More than 1.5 million people are expected to cheer on runners as they snake through 15 Chicago neighborhoods, including Streeterville, Lakeview, Pilsen, Chinatown and the South Loop.
Traffic & Street Closures:
The Start and Finish Line areas are both located in Grant Park on Columbus Drive, and rolling road closures will take place as runners make their way through the city. Towing enforcement will be brutal. Call 312-744-4444 if you suspect you've been towed.
One bonus to putting yourself through a grueling 26.2 mile ordeal is the fact that you get to pig out the night before -- and justify partying like a rock star afterward. Whether you're actually running in the Chicago Marathon or not, there's plenty of places to help get you into the spirit.
Eateries Offer Marathon-Themed Specials
Marathon Profiles & Inspiring Stories:
Not everyone participating in Sunday's race will be going after the purse. Most or the participants run for personal reasons: individual goals, charity or simply to inspire.
Video: Doctor Hopes Feet Can Save Lives
Dr. Tamarah Brownlee is running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to raise money to fight breast cancer.
Video: Docs Said I Would Never Walk Again
Police officer Jeff Albee tore all the ligaments in his right knee seven years ago and was told he would never run again. He's out to prove them wrong.
Video: I Run Because He Can't
Cathleen O'Hare will be running for a little boy in her neighborhood who, because of his muscular dystrophy, finds it increasingly difficult to walk.
Video: Every Step Helps Fight Cancer
Jason Sissel left a Wall Street career to use his passion for athletics to raise money to fight cancer.
Video: Dual Inspirations Push Cop
Chicago police officer Sandra Mendiola-Kunis will be running her fourth marathon Sunday in memory of her father and her fallen colleagues.
Video: Marathon Seems Like Natural Next Step
Two years ago, Andrew Wickwire weighed 310 pounds. Not anymore.
Video: Because He Just Can't Stop
Thirty-two years ago, Larry moon was an overweight, pack-a-day smoker. He cleaned himself up and has run every marathon since.