Course records and the history books may be in danger on Oct. 12 in Chicago.
Race organizers for the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon have announced their full elite field, featuring five men who have run under 2:06 and three women who have run under 2:23.
The field is headlined by Kenenisa Bekele, world record holder at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters on the track. Reminiscent of his days at IAAF World Championship meets, Bekele will face off against Eliud Kipchoge, against whom Bekele holds the upper hand with nine wins over the Kenyan.
Another challenger to watch will be Sammy Kitawara, who finished fourth in his marathon debut in Chicago in 2012. Kitawara's experience could benefit him given that 2014 marks the third time he will run the flat 26.2-mile course through the Windy City.
"I am coming back to Chicago for the third time. Chicago is a nice city and it has a good sports atmosphere. I will try to run the race of my life this year, and if God gives me the strength, my target is to run 2:04:28,” Kitawara said in a press release.
Bernard Koech of Kenya has the second-fastest personal best of the field with his 2:04:53 from the 2013 Dubai Marathon. A fast background may be beneficial for Koech, because Bekele has already stated he wants to challenge the course record and world record on race day.
The American field is a bit deeper compared to last year’s race, which included Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp. Craig Leon (2:13:52 personal best) finished 12th at this year’s Boston Marathon and will head this year’s American contingent along with Bobby Curtis (2:13:24) and Mike Morgan (2:14:22).
Matt Llano of Team Run Flagstaff has a lofty goal of breaking Ryan Hall’s American marathon debut record of 2:08:24.
On the women’s side Rita Jeptoo looks to defend her crown against Florence Kiplagat. Jeptoo and Kiplagat are the only women in the field who have cracked the 2:20 barrier. Jemima Sumgong, Jeptoo’s training partner, looks to be the next challenger with her personal best of 2:20:48.
Jeptoo could cement herself as one of the best marathoners in history with a third sub-2:20 performance. Only Paula Radcliffe and Catherine N’Dereba have accomplished that feat.
Amy Hastings leads the American side with her 2:27:03 personal best. The 30-year-old skipped running a spring marathon after fighting pain to a 20th place finish at the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.
A rising star to watch will be Becky Wade of Houston, Texas, who made her marathon debut in grand fashion by winning the 2013 California International Marathon and recently inked a professional contract with Asics. Former Olympian Lia Uhl will be making her own debut after being a spectator for the 2013 edition of the race.