Joining defending champion Galen Rupp and American superstar Jordan Hasay in a stellar field of American runners taking on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this year are Olympic gold medalists, world champions and one of the deepest women's fields in the history of the Windy City race.
Organizers announced Monday the strong field of American runners who will go head to head with international running stars, including previous winners Abel Kirui and Dickson Chumba.
But what could be a game-changer in this year's race is the women's field.
The last time three American women finished in the top five in Chicago was 1994, and the last time U.S. women claimed the top two spots was 1992.
That could all change in 2018.
Last year, Hasay ran the fastest American time ever run on U.S. soil during the Chicago race. She currently ranks second on the list of all-time American marathoners.
She'll be joined by fifth-ranked Amy Cragg, ninth-ranked Laura Thweatt and Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen.
“We are thrilled with this year’s overall elite field,” Bank of America Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski said in a statement. “There is an incredible amount of talent and momentum on the American women’s side, and Rupp is leading a resurgence on the men’s side. These athletes are going to put on quite a show in October, and they are going to keep alive Chicago’s legacy of supporting and showcasing top U.S. athletes.”
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The women's American field includes:
Gwen Jorgensen’s potential in the marathon remains unknown. She debuted at the New York City Marathon just nine weeks after she won gold in Rio in the triathlon. Given her lack of marathon-specific training, she impressed with a 14th-place finish and 2:41:01 time. Jorgensen grew into a legend as a triathlete: in addition to her gold medal (the only Olympic gold in the triathlon in U.S. history), she also won two world titles and an unprecedented 17 ITU World Triathlon Series races. She took most of 2017 off to welcome her first child, and since making the leap into a full-time professional running career. Jorgensen trains with Cragg and Shalane Flanagan as part of Nike’s Bowerman Track Club.
Sarah Crouch made a name for herself at the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She cut almost 12 minutes off of her previous PR and placed seventh in a personal best of 2:32:44. Since then, she has returned to Chicago three times. She enjoyed another strong performance in 2015, finishing 12th in 2:32:51; she finished ninth in 2016 in 2:33:48; and she finished 13th last fall in 2:38:27. Crouch started 2018 with a seventh-place finish at the Houston Marathon and then she experienced a significant stride forward in June at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. She finished second in a personal best of 1:11:31. It was her first PR over any distance in four years. She later wrote on Instagram: “I took the first mile out in 5:17 and never looked back, pushing as hard as I could for as long as I could…at the press conference, I really put myself out there, looking into the cameras and reporters and saying, ‘I’m stupid fit. If I don’t PR tomorrow, it will be because I didn’t step up.’”
Taylor Ward ran strong at the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, finishing ninth in a personal best of 2:35:27. She is a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon (2016, 2020), and she is the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon champion. One of Ward’s biggest confidence boosters happened this winter when she subtracted 40 seconds from her half marathon PR to win the Carlsbad Half marathon in 1:13:50.
Kristen Heckert, with a personal best of 2:38:54, is Chicago’s very own elite athlete, and she has been loyal to her hometown race. She ran her debut at the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, finishing in 2:51:04. She has returned every year since (with the exception of 2015) to better her PR. In 2016, she finished 27th at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and followed that performance with a second-place showing at the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K. Now running for the Second City Track Club, she will compete in her seventh Chicago Marathon. Outside of running, she teaches math and coaches cross country at Plainfield South High School.
The men's American field includes:
Elkanah Kibet surprised race commentators during his marathon debut at the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon when he bolted to the front of the elite field with 22 miles to go and put a 15-second gap on the field. The chase pack caught him at mile nine, and many suspected that Kibet’s bold move would spell disaster in the later stages of the race. But Kibet never relented – he held on to finish seventh overall with his PR of 2:11:31. He returned to Chicago in 2016 to finish 10th, and he represented the U.S. at the 2017 IAAF World Marathon Championships, finishing 16th. He started his 2018 marathon campaign with an eighth-place finish at this year’s historic Boston Marathon – a race that saw many elite runners drop out due to cold temperatures, whipping winds and rain.
Tyler McCandless, an All-American in the 10,000m at Penn State, has steadily improved since he embarked on his professional running career more than 10 years ago. He has qualified for three Olympic Trials in the marathon (including 2020), and, unlike many elite runners, he balances his training with a demanding corporate career. McCandless holds a Ph.D. in meteorology. Most recently, he won the popular Bolder Boulder citizen’s race.
Aaron Braun was a self-professed “mediocre” high school runner with modest PRs, but he emerged as a 16-time All-American with six national titles at Division II Adams State. Braun stands out as one of the most versatile American runners from 5,000m to the marathon. He competed in his first Bank of America Chicago Marathon last fall, stealing the show early on as he led a pack of over 20 men through the early miles. Braun finished 12th in 2:13:41.
Kiya Dandena, like McCandless, took a significant step forward in his career last December at the USATF Marathon Championships, running an 11-minute PR to finish third in 2:12:56. He competed in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon; after hitting 2:14 pace at the half, he fell apart and struggled home to finish 23rd in 2:22:14. Dandena recovered by experiencing a banner year in 2017, setting PRs in every distance from the 10K to the marathon, including a new half marathon PR, 1:03:13.
Andrew Bumbalough, a member of Nike’s Bowerman Track Club, is back in Chicago after racing well in 2017. In just his second go at the 42K distance, he finished 13th overall. This spring, he endured arguably the most brutal conditions in Boston Marathon history to prove not only his physical fitness, but also his mental toughness – he was rewarded with a fifth-place finish. He set his PR during his marathon debut at the 2017 Tokyo Marathon, running a steady and controlled pace to finish in 2:13:58.
Parker Stinson – a nine-time All-American, a three-time U.S. junior 10,000m champion and a junior Pan American Games 10,000m champion – made his marathon debut last year at the USATF Marathon Championships. While the results tell one story about how the race ended, anyone who watched the race unfold saw something else. Stinson may have finished 31st in 2:18:07, but he hit mile 22 on a 2:09 pace; at that point, he was running inside of an arena where few Americans have ventured. But proving that elite athletes are mere mortals, he struggled with cramps and side stitches and had to stop several times over the final four miles. After the race, he said, “I wasn't on a suicide mission, but I expected to die a little bit out there. I felt good…until I didn’t.” Stinson’s pure guts running style supplies an element of excitement to this year’s American field.
The 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon steps off Oct. 7.