The world’s 4th largest Marathon by participants kicks off this Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 5:30 AM GMT-5 (1:30 PM EAT) on the wonderfully flat looping course mapped out within the magnificent environs of Chicago, Illinois, United States.

A part of the World Marathon Majors, this has always been the elite road racing athlete’s dream; and the 41st Annual Edition of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is expected to provide a spectacle to behold for the millions of viewers tuning in worldwide.

Over 45000 athletes are expected to line up at the start line, with at least 40 million households expected to be tuned in through television partnerships across three continents; with hundreds of millions expected to be streaming the race online.

So far, the weather forecast promises temperatures in the low 60s F (between 62 and 65 F), 78% humidity, with a possibility of rain. Projected 11 mph winds out of the northeast is expected.

Consequently, this race is unlikely to be fast.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon has managed to assemble one of the most competitive rosters ever in this edition, with this year’s elite lineup featuring at least 11 men who have run south of 2:07.

“We have put together an exciting elite field, and it should be a fast race to the top of the podium,” said Bank of America Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski. “This year’s elite field is a collection of some of the best international and American athletes running on the global stage today. We are confident that they will continue the great tradition of memorable and record setting performances in Chicago.”

A quick perusal of the start list paints a picture of an impending slugfest that will expose the fitness, endurance, mettle and athletics pedigree of each and every elite athlete that attempts to go for the win.

At the head of the cast is Mo’ Farah. A man renowned more for his exploits on the track than his feats on the road. He is a quadruple Olympic champion, with his “double-double” having been attained in spectacular fashion winning gold for both the 5000m and 10000m, at London 2012 and Rio 2016, a feat which ascribes him as only the second man to retain both Olympic titles after Lasse Viren of Finland in 1972 and 1976. He is a five-time winner of the Manchester Great North Run, a feat unmatched before, or since. He is the current holder of the GB Marathon record of 2.06.22 attained when he came third in the 2018 London Marathon, a race in which he could arguably have run faster considering his first half split was an arduous 61min flat.

More impressive is the fact that this was only his third marathon, and he managed to match the relentless Eliud Kipchoge, the eventual winner (2:04:17), and recent new WR holder (2:01:39) stride for stride, for the entire first half of the race, and all the way to 30km.

“Eliud is a great athlete,” Mo said. “He makes it look so easy. I came across at 30km, absolutely knackered at that point, and he just changed gear and kicked on. But could you have got a better field? I beat Kenenisa Bekele, Daniel Wanjuri, so many good guys. I will take time to improve, as I took my time to win medals on the track.”

Lining up at the start line alongside the Briton is the current Chicago Marathon Defending champion, Galen Rupp of the USA, understandably the man in the spotlight right now, and a darling of the American media since his win last year.

Lapping up all the adoration but barely flattered from all the media attention, Galen Rupp has wasted no time in creating the impression that he is not in awe of Mo Farah. After all, the two have previously trained together before Mo Farah embarked on his Globe Trotting training regimen focused on living and training at altitude, the last of which was at Ethiopia, 10000M above sea level while training for London 2018, but more recently has been at 7000M above sea level. Galen Rupp on the other hand has preferred training and living near his home at Oregon, a preference by his own admission inculcated by a great sense of family values, being unwilling to part with his wife and children in preparation for upcoming marathons.

Indeed, considering his win in last year’s edition of this race, it may be futile arguing against the fact that his principle works. Further evidence may be his six finishes (all in the top three) in the 26.2-mile distance.

At age 32, standing at 1.8M in height and weighing in at a paltry 61kg, Galen Rupp’s accolades include an Olympics 10000M silver medal attained in London 2012, and an Olympics Marathon Bronze medal attained at Rio 2016.

His win at the 2017 Chicago Marathon (2:09:20) sets him apart as the first American to win since Khalid Khannouchi (four time Chicago Marathon Winner) in 2002. Galen Rupp’s other accolades include a 2nd Place finish at the 2017 Boston Marathon, and more recently, a winners medal at The 2018 Prague Marathon.

Pointedly Rupp has more experience than Farah does at the Marathon.

As expected Kenya and Ethiopia will have a contingent of world-beaters on show.

Step up, Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui. If ever there were a man ignored, underrated and forgotten, but always turned up to cash in the check, then this man would be the prime candidate. At only 25 years old, he will most probably be the youngest accomplished elite athlete at Chicago.

Geoffrey Kirui first broke into the scene when he won the 2011 African Junior Athletics Championships before he went on to secure a Bronze medal at the 10000M 2012 World Junior Championships held in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Shortly thereafter, he transitioned from the 10000M to the Marathon, in a curious departure from tradition, whence athletes previously only transitioned into the marathon after a long career on the track.

In 2015, the world began to take notice when Kirui clocked 59:38 in the 2015 New Delhi Half Marathon.

In his last three marathons, Geoffrey Kirui came in first at The 2017 Boston Marathon (2:09:37), Clinched The Gold Medal at The London 2017 World Championships (2:08:27) and most recently finished runners up at The 2018 Boston Marathon (2:18:23).

His Marathon PB stands at 2:06:27 (Amsterdam 2016).

It is instructive to note that in the buildup to this race Geoffrey Kirui has split his training between his base in Keringet and Kaptagat, where he has been training with Patrick Sang‘s group for three weeks. Ominously, Eliud Kipchoge trains with this group.

In the eyes of many, Geoffrey Kirui is the man laced with the greatest venom in this race.

Next onto the Start Line comes Dickson Chumba. Coming straight out of Kenya’s conveyor belt of athletes, he is another proven athlete you probably never heard of before, but whom the chatter on the airwaves portends a competitor who the world is watching with anticipation.

At 31 years of age, Dickson Chumba boasts the best PB of the entire cast (2:04:32 Chicago 2014).

In his last three marathons, he came in third at The 2017 Tokyo Marathon (2:06:25), second at the 2017 Toronto Marathon (2:09:11), and most recently emphatically came in first at The 2018 Tokyo Marathon (2:05:30).

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Duncan will be Abel Kirui, a man who needs little introduction, with his consistency and performances unquestionable, if not impeccable. The only reason Abel Kirui attracts little attention is that, surely, at age 36, everyone expects him to be on the decline.

Abel’s accolades include being a two-time World Champion having clinched Marathon Gold at both the 2009 Berlin and 2011 Daegu World Championships. He is only the third man to have successfully defended his marathon world title, following in the steps of Abel Antón and Jaouad Gharib.

In his last three marathons, Abel Kirui came in fourth at the London 2017 World Championships (2:07:45), second at The 2017 Chicago Marathon (2:09:48) and 4th The 2018 London Marathon (2:07:07).

Another Kenyan athlete likely to generate interest will be Augustine Choge, an established track athlete who was world class in middle distances ranging from the 800M to the 5000M. His amazing range and versatility may come to bear in the early stages of the race.

Ethiopians who are likely to make the race competitive include Mosinet Geremew and Birhanu Legese

Other athletes expected to throw in their lot include Yuki Kawauchi — Japan, 31 years old, 2:08:14 PB (2013 Seoul), 62:18 half. In his last three marathons: he performed as follows: 9th Gold Coast Marathon (July 1; 2:14:51), 1st New Caledonia International Marathon (Aug. 26; 2:18:18), 2nd Wakkanai Heiwa Marathon (Sept. 2; 2:24:55).

Yuki Kawauchi gets special mention because he amazingly won the 2018 Boston Marathon earlier this year.

As a sub plot, if Suguru Osaku of Japan comes to the party then this may provide adequate motivation for the Japanese Marathon Record to go down. The current Japanese record is 2:06:11.

Mo Farah has requested for a 62-minute first half of the race from the pacesetters.

International Men’s Elite Field (Name, Country, PB)

Mosinet Geremew ETH 2:04:00

Birhanu Legese ETH 2:04:15

Dickson Chumba KEN 2:04:32

Abel Kirui KEN 2:05:04

Kenneth Kipkemoi KEN 2:05:44

Paul Lonyangata KEN 2:06:10

Mo Farah GBR 2:06:21

Geoffrey Kirui KEN 2:06:27

Suguru Osako JPN 2:07:19

Bedan Karoki KEN 2:07:41

Ryo Kiname JPN 2:08:08

Yuki Kawauchi JPN 2:08:14

Mohamed Reda MAR 2:09:18

Stephen Sambu KEN 2:11:07

Tsukasa Koyama JPN 2:11:20

Yohei Suzuki JPN 2:14:53

Taku Fujimoto JPN 2:15:30

Pardon Ndhlovu ZIM 2:16:22

Daniel Wallis NZL 2:19:24

Augustine Choge KEN Debut

Hugh Williams AUS Debut