There were a record number of starters (38,535) in the 35th annual Chicago Marathon, held Oct. 7, coupled with near-perfect running conditions (42 degrees at start time), leading to a record-setting performance.
Tsegaye Kebede set a new course record by 59 seconds, finishing the 26.2 miles in 2:04:38. The previous record was set in 2011.
Kebede is the first Ethiopian male to win the Chicago Marathon in the event's history.
Atsede Baysa, also from Ethiopia, was the first female finisher, crossing in 2:22:03.
"Obviously, the popularity [and] demand of the race continuea great day for racing," Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski told the media assembled at the post-event press conference, held at the Chicago Hilton Hotel.
The race attracts participants from literally around the worldall 50 states and more than 100 countries. Some were running for a bucket-list, some the simple challenge, and, oh, about 10,000 on behalf of a charity, according to race organizers.
"It was a great day; a lot of people set [time] goals or a personal record (PR)," said Dan Lakin, director of endurance events for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), which features the Team To End AIDS (T2). "The weather helped. The energy and camaraderie was great throughout the day; it was amazing."
There were about 220 T2 runners in red on Sunday, including about 190 supporting AFC. Others came from T2 programs in Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C.
All T2 runners crossed the finish line.
"That just shows the quality of the program," Lakin said. "We are able to take people who have never run a marathon before, many who were very skeptical when they registered [with the program] that they could in fact finish a marathon.
"But they did it; they all finished."
Ryan Hopper was the top T2 finisher (2:56:02), while many other T2 runners set personal-best times, such as Craig Foley and Otis Richardson, among others.
There are about 350 T2 participants this year in seven endurance events, including the Chicago Marathon, and more than $600,000 has been raised for AFC.
The T2 goal for 2012 is $700,000 and Lakin said the group "should hit" that total.
Paul Ketz set a personal record in the marathon, eclipsing his time in the 2011 event by 16 minutes. Ketz also was the top T2 marathon fundraiser; he has raised close to $7,000 for AFC this summer, and is running the Honolulu Marathon in December on behalf of T2.
The T2 tent in charity village featured parts of the AIDS Quilt, no doubt added motivation for T2 runners
Illinois state rep. Deb Mell, an open lesbian, finished in 6:03:03. She is recovering from a breast-cancer diagnosis.
The runners cruised through Boystown at about Mile 7, where they were greeted by cheerleaders in football gear. They blared the Chicago Bears' theme song, among others. The area featured members of the Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago.
Along the course, runners were greeted by wild fans, crazy signs, plus opportunities to indulge in beer and jello shots late in the race.
The most common sign seemed to be, "Run Like You Stole Something." There also were several signs stating "Worst Parade Ever."
One of the funniest signs was "Paul Ryan Finished Yesterday."
"This was my first marathon and a truly moving, amazing experience," said T2's Greg Orbin, 36, who lives in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood and had the red AIDS ribbon drawn on each calf. "Knowing that each mile I was running was helping people in Chicago living with HIV/AIDS was all I needed to push to the finish line. In my five months of training I learned that the body is an amazing machine and if you put your mind to it, you can do anything."
Peter Ruger, 25, finished his second marathon in red, running to support T2.
"The sentiment of myself and everyone I talked to from T2 after the marathon is that we were so unbelievably luckyrunning a race with weather conditions like [they were on Sunday] is unbelievable," said Ruger, who finished in 3:57:04. "Running for T2, which is such an important cause with wonderful coaches and teammates, is a real blessing. The support that you feel from all the Chicagoans who come out to cheer is unreal. I was grinning from ear to ear and having a blast 95 percent of the race, even when I felt like my legs were going [to] fall off."