Eight years ago, while I was living on Canada’s east coast, a friend of mine dragged me to watch my first rugby game. Knowing little of the sport and how it was played, I expected to be bored, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself engrossed in the action. That’s because rugby is a spectator sport: it unfolds intuitively, accessibly, and offers entertainment value to those who might not be well versed in the finer points (or in my case, any points) of the game.
The marathon? Not so much.
Distance running in general, and road racing in particular, can be a little thankless from a spectator’s point of view. Improvements to the viewing experience from televised coverage, colourful commentary, and the recent introduction of drone footage, may have enhanced the entertainment value, but the sport remains one of subtlety. At its best, it’s nuanced; at its worst, dead boring.
This morning marked the first time in 26 years that the Chicago Marathon has been run without elite pacers, resulting in a slower field than previous years, but one characterized by the sort of cautious, tactical strategy typically reserved for championship racing. Instead of an optimized time trial, viewers were treated to an old-school foot race, with elites vying for place instead of time.
The great appeal of the marathon is in those transcendental moments it occasionally offers up – moments in which we witness the power of human tenacity in rising to a challenge which can at times appear insurmountable. On the streets of Chicago this morning, the elite women’s race offered no shortage of such moments.
Kenyan Florence Kiplagat ran to a cautious but strategically impressive victory, crossing the line in 2:23:33. The 28-year-old dropped to the ground after finishing, giving an exuberant thumbs up to press and spectators.
Kiplagat ran to a third-place finish in Chicago last year, but was later upgraded to second following then-champion Rita Jeptoo testing positive for EPO.
American record holder Deena Kastor, who won the Chicago Marathon in 2005, bettered her own winning time from ten years prior, running 2:27:47 for a seventh-place overall finish. At 44 years old, Kastor is now the new American masters record holder as well, smashing Colleen De Reuck’s previous record of 2:28:40. Master or not, Kastor’s 2:27:47 is one hell of a world-class run.
Kiplagat and Kastor’s transcendent performances this morning were electrifying to watch. To see Deena Kastor continue to nail out world-class times as a master only reaffirms the prominence of women’s distance racing.
So thanks, ladies – your hard work, dedication, and grit are inspiring a generation of running women, and redefining what it means to run like a girl.
Chase big dreams.