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“I Am the Queen of Chicago”

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Eliud Kipchoge Rita Jeptoo

The Chicago Marathon is the definition of an epic event. Television and radio commercials take place leading up to the big day, getting the city prepared and excited for the ordeal. 1.5 million — that’s right, million — spectators get out on the sidelines to cheer on strangers by their first names (which are often proudly displayed on their shirts).

To a runner, this weekend is the world. I will always hold my marathon race-days as the best days of my life. If you really think about it, you’re a celebrity for a day. Streets in 29 different Chicago neighborhoods shut down simply to let you run through them. Strangers tailgate for hours just to cheer you on while they enjoy a good bloody mary. The entire city is asking questions like, “What are you doing for Marathon?” As a runner, you get to say, “I’m running it,” and enjoy all the #respect that comes with that declaration.

Last weekend marked the first in 2 years that I was not lining up with 45,000 other runners getting ready to #OwnChicago. It was a rather bittersweet experience, though it did allow me to experience a part of the race I had not yet seen: the elite runners.

This year, I watched from the sidelines at Mile 24, the mile I remember as being the first moment you truly know you’re almost done. You’re running in the direction of the finish line, you can vaguely see your last turn, and even at your absolute slowest run you don’t have more than 12 minutes left. This mile means so much more to the elite runners. This is the moment of truth. This is after the runners kick up their speed for that last drive. You can feel their passion as they fly passed. I quickly realized I couldn’t even sprint at their marathon pace.

I watched as the fastest men passed, knowing that it would be close as they all picked up their speed moving toward the finish line. Eliud Kipchoge ultimately took first place. Kipchoge missed a personal best by just 6 seconds, and it was his fourth time finishing under 2:06. The only other three men who have met this milestone have been the fastest men in the world at some point in their career. As Kipchoge passed the finish line, we saw the first woman elite runner, Rita Jeptoo, pass by our cheer-station. She was amazing, fearlessly running towards the finish line. Jeptoo went on to finish as the woman champion of the 2014 Chicago Marathon. She is one of 6 women in the world to win the Chicago Marathon two consecutive years.

Jeptoo’s quote of the day, according to ESPN, is “I am the Queen of Chicago.” That she was, and hopefully every other person passing the finish line felt overwhelmed with a similar sensation. As far as I’m concerned, those finishers, elite and otherwise, do #OwnChicago and, even for a mere moment, they’re Chi-Royalty.

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Written by Mary Kate Pleggenkuhle
Mary Kate Pleggenkuhle

October 17th, 2014 at 12:21 pm