Neely Spence Gracey, Daniel Vargas Win Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago


The finish line at Sunday’s Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon was nothing but smiles. The annual race, held in the “Windy City” was celebrating its eighth anniversary and thanks to optimal mid-summer conditions with temperatures in the low 70s and clouded skies to keep the heat in check, many participants were rewarded with new personal bests.

Flashing what could be the biggest grin of them all was Mexican Olympic team member Daniel Vargas who was the first runner to break the tape at the finish. Vargas, who wore bib No. 2, rocked the 13.1 miles in one hour, five minutes, and 55 seconds. Fellow countryman Fernando Cervantes came through at the finish line in Chicago’s Grant Park over a minute later in 1:07:00, while Andrew Lemoncello, the pre-race favorite with bib #1, was third in 1:08:55.

The women’s race was much more decisive as Neely Spence Gracey obliterated the field with an impressive 1:12:26—a full four-and-a-half minutes ahead of second-place finisher Chirine Njeim (1:17:00). Third place went to Jessica Watychowicz (1:18:03).

“I was really happy with today. The cloud cover helped,” Spence Gracey said afterward. “I had some guys out there helping me keep with the pace. I didn’t have to run alone until the last three miles. I can’t complain for sure.” Gracey says she will be running her third Falmouth Road Race next month in May and that she is undecided what she will be training for in the fall. “I appreciate coming to these Rock ‘n’ Roll events, because they help prepare me for other races.”

Spence Gracey admitted that she hadn’t spent much time in Chicago since she was 11 years old and today’s win allowed her to experience the city in a whole new way. “Rock ‘n’ Roll puts on such great events, it’s so cool to come to all these amazing cities and race. I love the energy here at these races. I love the music. It gets me going and keeps me focused out there.”

Probably the top highlight of Sunday’s race was Julia Webb, who set a new half-marathon world record for pushing a jog stroller (1:22:57) by over 4 minutes.

The race was suspended for about 15 minutes due to lightning in the area before it resumed.

True to the Rock ‘n’ Roll experience, runners and their families got a musical treat at the finish-line festival in Chicago’s Grant Park as the headliner, Echosmith, took to the stage and got everyone on their feet with their popular “Cool Kids” song.

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