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Chicago Marathon Celebrated a Diverse Array of Stories

The 45th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon returned to the Windy City on Sunday, Oct. 8. The race drew an estimated 48,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators from all over the U.S., as well as over 100 countries, according to the official Chicago Marathon site.

The race welcomed many first-time marathon competitors, and welcomed back just as many seasoned runners. Whether this was their first or 50th race, all 48,000 participants gathered in Grant Park at 7:20 a.m., ready to take on the 26.2 mile course.

Large marathons, such as the Chicago Marathon, attract runners from around the world, including regions where major conflicts are occurring.

“I’m very proud [of my dad] because he came all the way from Ukraine to run this marathon,” said Polina Bolumysna, whose father ran his third marathon. “[I watched him at] the previous one in London.” Like many spectators, she tried yelling support to him as he ran, but he wasn’t able to hear her. “It’s really hard to catch them when they’re running because of the big crowd around every corner and they don’t hear you because of the loud noises.” 

Polina Bolumysna, whose father came from Ukraine to run his third marathon. Photo credit: Sofia Oyarzun

For many runners, marathons have become a habit they can’t quit. “This was my 77th [marathon] and this is my 12th Chicago marathon,” said Preston Fraser, 50, of Maryland. “I just one day wanted to run a little bit and I liked it. Then, I challenged myself to run a marathon around 15 years ago, and I’ve been running ever since.” 

Preston Fraser, from Maryland, was running his 12th Chicago Marathon. Photo credit: Matt Martirez

However, much more goes into qualifying for the Chicago Marathon other than simply training. Runners who wish to participate must qualify based on previous race times, have run five Chicago Marathons in the past 10 years or be running for a charitable cause in order to be guaranteed a spot in the race.  

Some qualifying runners of this year’s marathon decided to start their marathon journey here in Chicago. “I have the dream of completing all world majors, and I was motivated by my friend to start in Chicago because he’s also doing it today,” said Lucas Ferraz, 26, of São Paulo, Brazil.  

But not all runners were on the course. Avid marathon runner Mary Stella, 46, of Wooksburg, Penn. spent this year’s race cheering on her boyfriend.

“Steve is an endurance athlete. He’s a marathon swimmer, so he swam from the U.S. to Canada and back, which is like 50 miles,” Stella said. “I think that it’s really important to acknowledge this is the celebration of their training. This is fun, people are on the street cheering you on [and] you’re running around a beautiful city.” 

“But it’s really important to support them in their training. It’s hard to get up and go run 20 miles on a Sunday morning when you don’t necessarily feel your best,” she added.  

Runner Marry Stella of Wooksburg, Penn. was here to cheer on her boyfriend. Photo credit: Emily Honey

For those considering marathon running, Fraser advises starting slow. “I would say start [training] with a short distance. Listen to your body. It depends on the age — if you’re around my age, over 50, then definitely listen to your body.” 

Spectators also included those who admire the feat but have no plans to do it themselves. 

“I think the Chicago Marathon is really cool and I have a lot of respect for the people that participated in it,” said Makenna Ranson, 18, of Elkhorn, Wis. “I will never be participating in a marathon, but I think they’re a good thing for people to do.” 

Makenna Ranson of Elkhorn, Wis. watched the marathon but doesn’t ever plan to run one. Photo credit: Izzy Smith

Additional reporting by Vincent Byas, Matt Martirez and Sofia Oyarzun

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