CHICAGO – Just a few years ago, Dennis Kimetto was a farmer in Kenya. Now, he’s shattering marathon records.
Kimetto broke the course mark Sunday in capturing the Chicago Marathon, and compatriot Rita Jeptoo was the women’s winner in the first major marathon in the United States since the Boston bombings.
Kimetto finished in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 45 seconds, leading a 1-2-3 finish for Kenyan men. He beat the mark of 2:04:38 set by Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede last year. He pulled away from Emannuel Mutai over the last few miles and was all alone with both arms raised as he crossed the finish line.
It was his second major victory this year to go with a win at Tokyo in February – not bad for someone who was tending corn and cattle in the west Kenyan town of Eldoret.
He said through an interpreter that he had been running on his own when he had a chance meeting with Geoffrey Mutai. A star marathon runner and fellow Kenyan, Mutai asked Kimetto to join his camp and train with him.
Kimetto finished second in his marathon debut in Berlin last year, won Tokyo and added to his status as one of the world’s best Sunday.
Before the race, there was a 30-second moment of silence to honor the victims of the Boston bombings.
Mutai (2:03:52), the 2011 London winner, also beat Kebede’s time but finished 7 seconds off the lead. Sammy Kitwara (2:05:16) was third.
Jeptoo followed up her victory at Boston by easily taking the women’s race, finishing in 2:19:57 after losing in a sprint a year ago. There was no one near Jeptoo as she turned into Grant Park, wearing a wide grin and waving to the crowd.
Jemima Sumgong Jelegat of Kenya (2:20:48) was second, followed by Maria Konovalova of Russia (2:22:46).
The winners each earned $100,000. Kimetto gets an additional $75,000 for the course record, while Jeptoo gets an additional $40,000 for finishing under 2:20:00.
There was a different feel to this event in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
Police promised heightened security. More than 1,000 uniformed and undercover officers and more bomb-sniffing dogs mixed with the crowd along a course winding through 29 neighborhoods. Officers inside a command post monitored pictures coming in from helicopters and the city’s 22,000 cameras, the most extensive surveillance system in the nation.
The Department of Homeland Security designated the marathon a level two event, a notch below massive gatherings such as the Super Bowl, which meant more federal agents with their own high-tech monitoring equipment.
Runners also saw changes.
They used only clear plastic bags issued by organizers to store their belongings near the finish line. They had to pick up their own packets, with race bibs and tracking devices, rather than friends or family.
I thought everything went really, really smooth, executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. I think the key to that was the messaging to our participants, to our volunteers. We asked our participants to get there a little bit earlier. I think everything went well.