Flanagan, Wacker Win Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago

Shalane Flanagan, left, and Andy Wacker, celebrate their victories in Chicago. Photos: PhotoRun.net

Over 20,000 entrants took to the streets of The Windy City on Sunday morning.

The Windy City didn’t live up to its name today, as ideal summertime conditions greeted more than 20,000 entrants for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Festival in Chicago. The event featured two days of running and the first ever Remix Challenge in which runners earned a special medal for completing a race on Saturday and Sunday.

Headlining the festival weekend was America’s top female distance runner Shalane Flanagan, who became the first ever recipient of the Remix Challenge medal by pacing runners at Saturday’s 5K and winning Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon presented by HumanVitality on Sunday. The Olympic bronze medalist asserted her dominance over the half-marathon distance, claiming victory in the women’s race with a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 45 seconds. It was the second fastest half marathon run by an American woman this year.

“I came to run the streets of Chicago and today was the first real long effort I’ve had since the Boston Marathon,” said Flanagan, who is the fastest U.S. woman to ever run the Boston course with a 2:22:02 clocking this past April. “What I ran today is basically what I want to run in my fall marathon, my marathon pace of 5:19 a mile. But I think the real highlight of my weekend was being able to mingle and run with the people on Saturday and be a part of the first Remix Challenge. I loved hearing everyone’s stories because they are so inspiring and they inspire me to get the most out of myself and out of my training. That was a rare opportunity and I’m really excited that Rock ‘n’ Roll had multiple races this weekend.”

RACE PHOTOS: Over 20,000 Runners Rock Chicago!

Flanagan was running competitively in Chicago for the first time in her career and led the race from start to finish, placing fifth overall. Behind her, Lindsey Scherf of Chapel Hill, N.C. finished second in 1:13:47 and Danish Olympian Jess Peterssen was third in 1:16:03. Scherf was using the Chicago event to help finalize her decision of which fall marathon to run, while Peterssen is in the midst of a final block of heavy marathon training for the European Marathon Championships in Zurich on August 16, 2014.

“Today was a lot of fun, it was a good opportunity to see the city of Chicago and preview what the second half of the Chicago Marathon course was like as I prepare to make my decision of which fall marathon to run,” said Scherf, who won Gasparilla earlier this year and finished 4th at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego in June. “I love the Rock ‘n’ Roll races, the bands give you energy and keep you going and keep from feeling sorry for yourself when you start getting tired. Getting to see a new city and covering 13.1 miles of it keeps running fresh.”

MORE PHOTOS: Day 2 At Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago

Peterssen, who won the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in January said, “It was really fun, the weather was so nice and a little overcast. I have two big weeks left of marathon training and than two weeks of training before the European champs. I always know I’ll have a really good time when I come to a Rock ‘n’ Roll Series event. This morning was so cool, because we totally took over the city, all you saw in the city today where runners in downtown Chicago.”

The men’s race really got going when Andy Wacker—no relation to Chicago’s famous Wacker Drive—began pushing out front shortly before hitting the 5K mark in 15:22. Taking off and not letting up, Wacker maintained a steady lead the remainder of the race and held off chasers Kevin Havel and Tyler Pence, who finished in second and third, respectively, to win in 1:06:21. Havel crossed the finish line in 1:06:40, while Pence was clocked in 1:07:44.

“I pulled away early, and wanted to distance myself from the other guys and make sure I didn’t get caught,” said Wacker. “Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego was really my first race back on a national scene after being injured all winter. It was nice to come back today and my fitness has really progressed, so it was a little easier to keep clicking off some five minute miles. You couldn’t ask for any better conditions today, lots of support on the course and finishing right here next Buckingham fountain and lake Michigan, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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