CHICAGO | Temperatures in the 40s provided perfect running weather Sunday.
Maybe a little too perfect.
“The cool weather was nice,” said Laura Brubaker of Merrillville, competing in her first marathon at 45, "but my right foot was numb from the cold. My toes were numb. I never took off my long-sleeved shirt (over her tank top). Toward the end it got even colder.”
Better those kinds of relative minor aggravations than the disasters of 87-degree October Sundays for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Back in 2007, humid summer readings prompted race director Carey Pinkowski, a Hammond High alum, to cut short the race. Two other marathons since have run in 80-degree weather.
At mid-afternoon Sunday, marathon medical director Dr. George Chiampas reported just 10 hospitalized runners, including one cardiac arrest victim, a 47-year-old male who was treated at Mercy Hospital. Chiampas said overall medical incidents were down “50 to 60 percent.”
Better yet for Pinkowski, the weather was a factor in record-fast times for men’s winner Tsegaye Kedebe of Ethiopia, whose 2:04.38 finish was one minute faster than the marathon record set in 2011.
Fellow Ethiopian Atsede Baysa was the women’s winner in 2:22.03, .01 of a second faster than Rita Jeptoo of Kenya.
“I think the cool weather contributed to the amount of runners running under 2:30,” said Pinkowski. “The messaging we say to participants is to slow down.
“This is back to the traditional October weather that everyone is familiar with in Chicago. We’ve had (recent) cool Saturdays and Saturdays where they’ve done their training.”
The elite competitors’ running like the breeze spread to the recreational crowd, including the usual hundreds from the region who annually traverse the 26-mile course.
Brubaker finished in 4:32.09. She hoped for a five-hour time.
Also competing in her first marathon, Gayle Andrews, 40, of Kouts, finished in 4:12.08. She projected 4 1/2 hours.
Most extreme improvement was Brenda Merschantz, 26, of Highland. She first ran the Chicago course in 5:13.09 last year. Merschantz zoomed across the finish line Sunday in just 3:44.45.
But Merschantz willed herself to bust her own barriers. Husband Rick claimed her goal was 3:35.
Merschantz has endured six knee surgeries, including four on anterior cruciate ligaments, due to wear and tear from past athletic competition. But they didn’t slow her in the marathon and certainly not on her job as a nurse at the Lake County Jail.
“Stubbornness, I don’t know,” theorized Merschantz, who repeated the mid-race kiss she received from her husband after they were reunited near the finish line.
“I’ve been training a lot more this year. I’ve done a lot more competitive races.”
Merschantz said her knees started giving out at the 18-mile mark last year. On Sunday, the knees “started bugging me at mile 13, but I just kind of pushed through it, and it just went away. It was mind over matter a lot.”
Andrews did not have any such past medical history, but she had never run more than 20 miles, her top training distance.
“I didn’t want to crawl,” Andrews said of running through the finish. “Physically I feel beat. My legs are pretty tired. From (mile) 18 to 23 was pretty tough. The last three miles were tough, but I was kind of in my own zone. Now I feel pretty good.”
Andrews is undecided whether she’ll run the race again. Brubaker figures she’s one and done.
Regardless of her future running plans, Merrillville’s Deanna Grimes has a lesson to bring back as a leader of her Weight Watchers group in Crown Point.
“Never give up,” Grimes said.