By Grant Alexander
One of the busiest times of the year for the Windy City aligns with the transition to fall in mid-October — the running of the Chicago Marathon. This year on Oct. 13, one of the largest races in the world featured several Wheaton alumni who were joined downtown by current Wheaton students taking the 5:12 a.m. train to show their support. Much of the city shut down for the race, and 45,000 people from over 100 countries ran 26.2 miles. Cheering them on were 1.7 million friends, family members and fellow running enthusiasts.
The numbers may come as a surprise — who wants to run 26.2 miles early in the morning? However, this long-distance event is one of the most popular races in the world. Since 2000, the number of runners in the Chicago Marathon has increased from about 27,000 to over 45,000.
Unlike last year’s rainy conditions, this year’s marathon had clear skies, temperatures in the 40s and only slight winds. Brigid Kosgei from Kenya broke the women’s world record of 2:15:25 with a time of 2:14:04. Lawrence Cherono of Kenya took first in the men’s race with 2:05:45, becoming the first person to win the Boston and Chicago marathons in the same year. Cherono beat out Ethiopian Debela Dejene by a second, and Asefa Mengstu, also from Ethiopia, who finished third with a time of 2:05:48. Last year’s champion, British runner Mo Farah, took eighth place with a time of 2:09:58, about four minutes off his time last year.
Among the 45,000+ runners, Wheaton alumnus Kent Smith (‘14) finished in the top 100 with a personal best of 2:24:09. He began competing in marathons as soon as he finished running at the collegiate level. His inspiration for running marathons comes from his mother, who ran the Chicago half marathon in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and the full marathon in 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008.
“I would get up early with her every Saturday to bike her long runs which sometimes took three and a half to four hours,” Smith said. “On race day I always went down and cheered for her and would join in the last 10k to finish the race with her.”
Following this year’s Chicago marathon, he spoke with the Record about some of the hardest parts of the race.
“Around mile eight I turned south and felt the wind for the first time and was already feeling a twitch tired,” he said. “Another hard section was running west on Adams Street with the winds and not as much cheering.” When asked about the final stretch down Michigan Ave, he said, “The final mile was just brutal. I was so gassed and felt I was on the verge of seizing up. I was seriously hobbling across the line and they put me in a wheelchair after.”
Smith ran the Boston and Berlin marathons last year and the Chicago in 2017. He says he loves running marathons for many reasons, but “the opportunity to travel and see new places” ranks high.
Moreover, he said it was an honor for him to be in the same start corral before the race with some of the best runners in the world including Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Parker Stinson, Noah Droddy, Andrew Bumbalough, Scott Smith, Jordan Hasay and Brigid Kosgei.
Another Wheaton cross country and track alumnus in the race was Patrick Lannen (‘14). This was his fifth marathon and he finished with a time of 2:48:39.
“My goal after college was to run Chicago and Boston once and check off the marathon goal, but over time I really grew to enjoy racing the longer distance,” Lannen said.
Wheaton track alumnus Tyler Benware (‘15) finished with a time of 3:44:09. In addition, Maggie Caldwell (‘14) competed for World Vision and finished with a time of 3:57:22.
Among the 1.7 million spectators, current Wheaton students and alumni were especially present around mile thirteen. Among the alumni spectators were Mike Joyce, Bradely Dowell, and Andrew Daghfal, and students watching the race included Courtney Rockness, Ruth Daghfal, Jonah Jones and K.J. Dittmer.