The 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon represents a triumphant return for the race after a year off because of COVID, and as the athletes hit the streets of Chicago, there were some truly remarkable stories that emerged.
Here are ten of the coolest facts and most remarkable stories that have emerged from this year’s marathon.
Emma Bates’ Finish the Best by an American Woman in More Than a Decade
It was a remarkable day for American-born runner Emma Bates, who finished in the runner-up position with a time of 2:24:20 in Sunday’s race.
While Bates finished nearly two minutes behind eventual race-winner Ruth Chepngetich, she still achieved something remarkable, becoming the first American women to finish in second place in the race since Desiree Davila did so in 2010.
The last American woman to win the race was Deena Kastor, who did so in 2005.
First Time Multiple American Women Have Made the Podium in More Than a Quarter-Century
Bates was not the only American finisher on the women’s podium, as Sara Hall finished in third place with a time of 2:27:19.
This marks the first time since 1994 that two or more American women have finished on the podium, with Kristy Johnston winning that year’s race and Elaine Van Blunk finishing third.
Trina Painter finished fourth that year, matching this year’s American finish with three women in the top four. Keira D’Amato finished in fourth this year, with a time of 2:28:22.
Ruth Chepngetich Wins Closest Race in Six Years
Despite starting off with a blistering pace, the Kenyan-born Chepngetich didn’t set a new record this year, but she still put up a strong 2:22:31.
Her 1:49 margin of victory over Bates was substantial, but actually marked the closest finish in the women’s race since Florence Kiplagat beat Yebrgual Melese by 10 seconds in a hotly-contested 2015 race.
Galen Rupp’s Podium Finish Further Cements Legacy
Rupp became the first American man to win the Chicago Marathon in more than a decade when he captured the 2017 title, and although he finished in the runner-up spot this time around, he still finds himself in very elite company.
Rupp is the only American man to finish in a podium spot in Chicago since Kahlid Khannouchi won the race in 2002. The duo are the only two American men to finish on the podium in the last 25 years, with Jerry Lawson accomplishing that feat in 1996.
Seifu Tura Only the Second Ethiopian Man to Capture the Victory in Chicago
At the age of 24, Tura has now captured his first-ever Abbott World Marathon Majors title by winning the Chicago Marathon, putting up a time of 2:06:12.
Tura is only the second man from Ethiopia to win the race, joining 2012 champion Tsegaye Kebede in that category. A total of four women from Ethiopia have won the title, with Tirunesh Dibaba the most recent to achieve the feat in 2017.
McFadden Becomes the Third American Woman to Go From Runner-Up to Champion
Tatyana McFadden continues to cement her place in the record books at the Chicago Marathon, blitzing the field to capture her ninth title in the women’s wheelchair race.
McFadden is not only the most decorated women’s wheelchair racer ever, with her nine titles eclipsing the six that Ann Walters won between 1991 and 1996, but she’s also now one of only three women to capture the title after finishing in the runner-up spot in the previous year’s race, joining Miriam Nibley, who won in 2004, and Candace Cable, who won in 1997.
Both Nibley and Cable went on to win more races, with Nibley capturing three straight from 2004-2006 and Cable capturing a back-to-back title in 1998.
Romanchuk the Third Man to Win Three-Straight Men’s Wheelchair Titles
Daniel Romanchuk has been engaged in an incredible rivalry with Switzerland’s Marcel Hug in recent years, and he took another trophy home from that battle when he won his third straight Chicago Marathon men’s wheelchair race.
Romanchuk is the third person to win three straight titles in the race, joining Australian Kurt Fearnley, who most recently won in 2009, and James Briggs, who won three straight from 1993 to 1995.
Shalane Flanagan Finishes Third of Six Abbott World Marathon Majors Races in Seven Weeks
With a condensed schedule this year because of COVID-19, Shalane Flanagan set a remarkable goal: to finish all six Abbott World Marathon Majors within a seven-week span, and to do so in under two hours and 30 minutes.
While she won’t achieve the latter goal, she took another big step toward achieving the first goal, finishing this year’s marathon in 2:46:39.
Flanagan, the top finisher among women between the ages of 40 and 44, will now head to Boston for Monday’s Boston Marathon. She will also race in New York in November, and will race another event to replace the Tokyo Marathon, which was postponed until next year.
Keira D’Amato’s Incredible Comeback Continues
The 36-year-old Richmond, Virginia-native has put up some impressive race times in her career, but her story of how she got to the starting line in Chicago is remarkable.
A former Division I runner, D’Amato underwent ankle surgery, and took a seven-year hiatus from racing, raising two children and developing a successful career in real estate.
Now, she’s back on the asphalt, and all she did Sunday was finish in fourth place in this year’s Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:28:22.
Champaign Crew Dominates Chicago
The University of Illinois in Champaign has produced some of the best wheelchair racers in the history of the sport, and the city’s dominance in the field was apparent again Sunday, as Daniel Romanchuk captured the men’s wheelchair race and Tatyana McFadden won the women’s title.
The title is the third straight for Romanchuk, and is the ninth overall for McFadden.
On the men’s side, Champaign was well-represented among the top 10, with four athletes hailing from the area. Aaron Pike finished in third, 21 seconds behind Romanchuk, and Brian Siemann finished in sixth place.
James Senbeta finished in ninth, with a time of 1:40:28.
In the women’s race, U of I graduate Yen Hoan finished in second, 1:17 behind McFadden. Champaign-resident Amanda McGrory finished in fifth place, 10 minutes off the pace.