The average temperatures for October 10 in Chicago read like a marathoner’s dream—a low of 47.5 degrees and a high of 65.4 degrees, with barely a drop of rain. But Chicago can also bring unpredictable swings, and Sunday’s unseasonably warm weather was proof of that: Temperatures were 72 degrees at the 7:30 a.m. CT start, with 70 percent humidity and winds at 13 to 15 miles per hour.
While Sara Hall’s attempt at the American marathon record may have been thwarted before it began, six American women still crossed the line in the top 10. American Emma Bates led them, finishing second in 2:24:20—a PR by more than a minute. Hall crossed third in 2:27:19, almost seven minutes off of her best, and Keira D’Amato was fourth in 2:28:22. This was the first time since the 2018 Boston Marathon that two American women reached the podium at a World Marathon Major.
Rounding out the American women were Maegan Krifchin in sixth (2:30:17), Carrie Verdon in seventh (2:31:51), Sarah Pagano in eighth (2:33:11), and Lindsay Flanagan in 10th (2:33:20).
Bates started conservatively, crossing the halfway point in sixth place in 72:27. But 5K later, she had moved up two spots to fourth.
“Going into this race, I knew that with the conditions, I needed to go out conservatively, so I didn’t want to push too much, too soon,” Bates said in the postrace press conference. “I went through halfway still feeling really good, but then I was like ,‘Oh crap, I don’t know how far ahead all of these women are.’ I was getting a little nervous, and I was like, ‘I need to pick it up,’ so I started slowly and surely picking it up bit by bit.”
Bates posted her fastest 5K split—16:59—from 30K to 35K, as she passed Hall to move into third. By 40K, both Bates and Hall had moved up one more spot into second and third, respectively, having passed Kenya’s Vivian Kiplagat, who finished fifth.
Bates maintained a metronomic pace to the finish line, reaching her first-ever World Marathon Major podium and getting that PR. (Her previous best was 2:25:27 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.)
“It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever run, but to be able to not only podium but to PR today was incredible; it was very unexpected, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Hall ran all of her race separated from the leaders, but she was surrounded by three male pacers. At the 5K mark, she was 1:06 behind leader and eventual winner Ruth Chepngetich (who was on world record pace at that point), and 29 seconds ahead of a pack of four American women.
Hall went through the half marathon in 71:37—slower than the 69:38 she ran for the first of last December’s Marathon Project, the first race at which she’d publicly attempted to break the record. (In that race, she slowed slightly, finishing in a personal best 2:20:32, which is the second-fastest American women’s marathon time ever.)
“I was hoping to go out similar [to what I did], 71 or 71:30, based on what I trained for, which was getting into American record shape,” Hall said in the postrace press conference. “It felt comfortable-ish but definitely got really uncomfortable increasingly after that, so it turned out to not be as conservative as I was hoping. I just tried to keep fighting each mile. ... I’m really proud to get back on the podium in my next marathon major, so I’m thankful for that.”
Although the record attempt had dominated headlines and fueled Hall’s ambitious training schedule, she’d told Runner’s World in September she never saw the situation as “record or bust.”
“I have a lot of respect for that time. I never said, ‘I’m going to break the record’—I’ve always said, ‘I’m going to chase the record,’” Hall said in September. “It’s a fun target to chase, and in the process, you get to find out your potential. It draws that out of you, and then that’s really what the goal is.”
Her other goal, and the reason she chose Chicago rather than London, was to win a world major—and preferably, to do it on American soil—which Hall’s husband, Ryan, discussed with the NBC Sports Network broadcast during the race. “[Sara is] more excited about winning the race or finishing on the podium than setting the American record. ... Her pace is not as important, try and go out at a pace you know you can maintain throughout the race and look for future opportunities when you can go after that American record.”
Hall still plans to chase the American record one day. “It’s going to take preparation meeting opportunity, and I’m going to have to keep moving the ball forward in training and hope everything comes together on a day weather-wise and how the race plays out. Hopefully in the near future I’ll get a stab at that.”
But in her conversation with Runner’s World in September, Hall acknowledged that her window might be closing, however. “The urgency would be probably being 38 [years old],” she’s said. “Realistically, I’ve still been able to improve, but I don’t really know how much longer that’s going to continue. At some point, it’s not.”