“Bringing together these three great champions in the prime of their careers will make the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon one of the most exciting races in the event’s history,” said executive race director Carey Pinkowski in a news release.
Wanjiru, 23, set the Olympic Marathon record of 2:06:32 in Beijing two years ago. The Kenyan used repeated surges to beat back his competition, and still had enough left in the tank to run 66 seconds for his final lap of the track in the Bird’s Nest stadium. The former world half-marathon record holder won both the London and Chicago Marathons in 2009 and has a personal best time of 2:05:10 for the distance. In his most recent marathon in London last April, Wanjiru was forced to drop out with a knee injury.
“The Bank of America Chicago Marathon has a fantastic course and I am looking forward to returning there to defend my title,” said Wanjiru, who set a course record 2:05:41 in Chicago last year. “I know there will be good competition and I will be ready for a fast and competitive race.”
Kebede, 23, who only weighs 50 kg (110 lbs.), won the Virgin London Marathon this year in 2:05:19, just one second shy of his personal best. That victory followed a sensational season in 2009 where he made three important marathon podiums: second at London, third at the IAAF World Championships, and first at Fukuoka. He broke 2:05:30 twice in 2009, and was the 2008 Olympic Games Marathon bronze medallist.
“After competing in Europe, Asia and my home continent of Africa, I’m looking forward to competing in America for the first time in my life,” Kebede said through a statement. “Chicago is one of the most prestigious races in the world, and after winning London this spring, I feel privileged to compete here in Chicago against some of the best marathoners in the world.”
In winning Boston this year, Cheruiyot ran the fastest-ever marathon without pacemakers, shattering the course record of his namesake Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot by more than a minute, clocking a career best 2:05:52. Cheruiyot, 22, burst on the world scene in 2008 when, in his first trip ever outside of Kenya, he set the course record at the Frankfurt Marathon in 2:07:21.
Pinkowski also announced that Vincent Kipruto, the 22 year-old Kenyan who set his personal best time of 2:05:13 in Rotterdam this year, will also compete. Kipruto was third in Chicago last year in 2:06:08. Pinkowski had previously announced that American Ryan Hall (2:06:17 PB) would also compete in Chicago for the first time.
Kebede and Wanjiru are tied with 50 points each in the 2009/2010 World Marathon Majors contest (Cheruiyot is in a three-way tie for sixth with 26 points). This means that the series, and the $500,000 winner-take-all prize, could be decided in Chicago. Nothing would please Pinkowski more.
“Wanjiru, Kebede and Cheruiyot are young, accomplished and fearless, and they’ll bring out the best in one another,” Pinkowski added. “With Bank of America’s support, I’m proud to say that the current World Marathon Majors series could be decided right here in Chicago between these great rivals.”
Chicago has one of the world’s fastest, record-standard marathon courses. The 2:07 barrier has been broken 14 times in Chicago, and the men’s world record has been broken there twice, first by Britain’s Steve Jones in 1984 (2:08:05), then by Morocco’s Khalid Khannouchi in 1999 (2:05:42). Khannouchi later became an American citizen.
This year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be the 33rd edition of the event. Last year’s race had 33,475 finishers, making it the second largest marathon in the United States after the ING New York City Marathon.