CHICAGO —Van Wert graduate Craig Leon finished 19th at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday in a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes.
And, overall, it was quite a day for the Kenyans.
Eliud Kipchoge had an ear-to-ear grin while he ran away with the Chicago Marathon. Minutes later, Rita Jeptoo raised her arms and sunk to her knees after she repeated as women’s champion.
Kipchoge led a 1-2-3 finish for his country at the Chicago Marathon, while Jeptoo again took the prize for the women.
Kipchoge pulled away over the last two miles for his first major marathon victory, finishing in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 11 seconds. He was followed by Sammy Kitwara in 2:04:28 and Dickson Chumba in 2:04:32.
Jeptoo was timed in 2:24:35 in winning her fourth straight major marathon. She also won the Boston Marathon in April and captured the 2013-14 World Marathon Majors points championship.
Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia (2:25:37) was second and Florence Kiplagat of Kenya (2:25:57) was third.
“Today was a great day for me and my fans,” said Jeptoo, who struggled with the wind on a day when the temperature was ideal. “I’m happy to be here. … I was having fun.”
The winners earned $100,000. Jeptoo received an extra $500,000 for winning the series championship, and Kipchoge picked up a $55,000 time bonus.
With a flat course and an ideal forecast, there was plenty of talk before the race about fast times.
The skies were clear and the temperature — 46 degrees — was just about right when the race started. But the wind picked up and the men’s and women’s leaders didn’t break away until the latter stages of the races.
“It’s the marathon,” executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. “We talked a lot about fast times. … It became tactical racing. The women obviously started watching each other a little bit. The men became much more of a competition and much more gamesmanship. So that was exciting. Toward the end there, Eliud ran a great race and finished really strong. You bring the best athletes together, they complement each other and (you have) great competition.”
The men’s pack stayed together for about 20 miles before Kipchoge, Kitwara and Chumba drew away.
Kipchoge and Kitwara were side by side with Chumba right behind after 24 miles. But Kipchoge made it look easy down the stretch. He made a quick burst and was in command as he headed toward the finish at Grant Park, grinning for the final few miles.
“To enjoy the streets of Chicago, you need to smile,” he said. “With all these people, you need that big smile.”
Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic medalist in the 5,000 meters, was competing in his fourth marathon. He ran his first one in 2013 and is getting used to the longer distance.
“To run a good marathon, (you need) good preparation and good planning,” he said. “This is the fourth one. I can say my planning with my coaches is (good). I now understand. I’m still learning the ropes, but I can say today I am now fully experienced. … I am happy to be one of the winners here.”
Jeptoo hasn’t lost a major marathon since she finished second in a sprint to Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa in the 2012 Chicago Marathon. She smashed the course record when she repeated as Boston Marathon champion in the spring and came away with an easy victory in Chicago for the second straight year.
She made her move at around 23 miles and pulled away for her fifth major marathon victory, with no one near her at the end.
“It was not easy,” Jeptoo said. “The beginning, nobody tried to push because everybody was looking for me. … Everybody was strong so I was like ‘Let’s wait.’”
The Americans swept the wheelchair races, with Joshua George winning the men’s event and Tatyana McFadden capturing her 11th major marathon victory.
It was McFadden’s fourth straight win in Chicago and fifth in six years. If she finishes first at the New York City Marathon next month, she will complete her second “grand slam” with four majors in one season.