Runners return, race through the city in the 2021 Chicago Marathon

By Bianca Kreusel, Photojournalist

Runners from all over the world gathered at the starting line, each with their own personal reason for running, either raising money or setting a personal goal. People young and old were dressed in colorful running attire and chatting away anxiously.

Grant Park was filled with an adrenaline rush on Sunday, Oct. 10, for the annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The Chicago Marathon was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and many runners were disappointed to not be able to participate. But, the return and excitement in the early morning before the start had many runners ready to race.

“It’s good to see people smiling again and enjoying themselves,” said Paul Blachowicz, who has run in the Chicago marathon for 15 years. “It’s good to be outside and enjoying yourself.”

The course runs 26.2 miles through many different Chicago neighborhoods including Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, Little Italy, Chinatown, Bridgeport and the South Loop. Both participants and spectators were able to experience the diversity of Chicago and take part in the excitement.

The race was founded in 1977 by five people, including former Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic and race director Wendy Miller. More than 4,200 people showed up, and because of the sudden success, the marathon became an annual event with numerous marathon records being set in the ensuing years.

This year, the marathon organizers worked closely with the the Chicago Department of Public Health to provide a safe experience for runners and spectators. Proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to the event was required for participants.

Sefu Tura Abdiwak from Ethiopia finished in first place in the men’s heat with a time of 2:06:12, and Ruth Chepngetich from Kenya took first in the women’s heat with a time of 2:22:31

Daniel Romanchuk from the United States finished in first place in the men’s wheelchair heat with a time of 01:29:07, and Tatyana McFadden finished first in the women’s wheelchair competition with a time of 1:48:57.

Though participants came from all over to compete, most runners focused on simply completing the marathon and enjoying the experience, while viewing Chicago from a unique perspective.

Kim Fatone, 54, is from California and said she was excited to see Chicago landmarks, including the Willis Tower and “The Bean,” and loves running through the city.

“Today we’re just enjoying life,” said Kristen Saylor, 39, who had previously run in the marathon and was excited to be back.

Before the sun had even risen over the horizon, Saylor was thrilled to start running.

“We’re excited to be here and see the people,” Saylor said. “We said that we are chasing stories. … We want to be a part of the energy.”