Over 20,000 runners take part in the fourth annual XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon.
CHICAGO – With the countdown to opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games just five days away, it was only fitting that two London-bound athletes emerged victorious on the streets of downtown Chicago this morning at the 4th annual XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon. First across the finish line adjacent to Buckingham Fountain was 24-year-old Daniel Vargas Sanchez from Mexico, who covered the 13.1-mile course in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 18 seconds. Karolina Jarzynska, 30, from Poland won the women’s race in 1:13:04.
“This was my first time in Chicago and running was a great way to see the city. The course is perfect, it’s very flat and fast,” said Jarzynska, who pulled away from Kenyan Pauline Thitu at 3 miles and ran uncontested to the finish line. “This is my final test before the Olympic Marathon in two weeks and I’m excited to begin my final preparations. It will be my first time competing at the Olympic Games.
The pace of the men’s race was set early by Sanchez’s Olympic teammate Carlos Cordero Gómez, along with Kenyans Edward Tabut, 29 and Geofrey Terer, 34. They lead a pack of 7 runners through two miles in 9:45, hitting the 5K split in 15:17. The lead pack stayed together through 10K in 30:44, but as the course turned down Michigan Ave along Grant Park, Sanchez gradually took control and by mile 8 he had victory comfortably in hand.
“The race was difficult, my goal was to run 3:05 per kilometer and the morning humidity affected me a little bit. But I ran with the rock ‘n’ roll rhythm and I’m very pleased with my time,” said Sanchez, who will arrive in London on August 1st, eleven days before the Olympic Marathon. “I have three weeks until the race on August 12, my training has gone very well. I expect to be the top runner from Mexico and hope to run under 2:10.”
The event attracted more than 20,000 entrants to downtown Chicago, including NASCAR driver Nelson Piquet Jr., who won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race last month. Piquet drove 225 miles on Saturday night in the American Ethanol 225 Truck Race at Chicagoland and then completed his first half-marathon on Sunday morning with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 44 seconds.
“The spectators cheering along the route were amazing,” said Piquet, a 26-year-old Brazilian who had previously competed in a few triathlons. “The 13.1-mile distance was tough after the race last night. I didn’t get much sleep so I just tried to give it the best I could.”
Other notable runners included television personality Dr. Andy Baldwin (1:38:22), who joined Natalie Davila (older sister of U.S. Olympic Marathoner Desiree Davila) and more than 350 participants completing the “Rock N’ Mud Challenge” at both Saturday’s Columbia Muddy Buddy Chicago and the XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon. Sunday’s event also featured a ‘mini-marathon’ distance of just over 3 miles, and featured reality television personality Kate Gosselin and former NFL player Roger Craig, a three-time Super Bowl Champion with the San Francisco 49ers.