Ed Eyestone hopes to become the first American to win the Chicago Marathon since 1982.
And the odds are good because Eyestone is one of only two of last year's top 10 finishers returning for Sunday's race."I still have all the competition I want," said Eyestone, seventh in London's marathon in April. "It's going to be a good, honest race."
But the field won't be so good, due in part to reduced appearance fees and prizes. Elite runners are staying away, complaining that race organizers are moving toward a more regional field and that this could be the last year for international competition.
Mexico's Dionicio Ceron and Polish runners Jan Hurek and Antoni Niemczak are considered the favorites. Morocco's Salah Qoqaiche is back after finishing 10th a year ago.
Ceron has never run a marathon but is considered one of the best road runners around.
"He's done so phenomenally well at other distances this year," said Eyestone, who finished fourth here in 1989.
Ceron's coach, Tadeusz Kepka, doesn't think the Mexican athlete's inexperience at running 26 miles will make any difference.
"Maybe he is the best marathoner I have had," said Kepka, who also coached Alejandro Cruz, winner of the 1988 Chicago Marathon.
Ceron, 25, has won four of the eight major U.S. road races he has run this year, including a victory in Philadelphia's half-marathon last month in a world record time of 1 hour, 46 seconds.
How did he do it?
"It is a simple matter - work, work, work," Ceron said.
Boston's Greg Meyer won the 1982 event in 2:10:59, and Eyestone expects a winning time Sunday of about 2:10, although nobody knows what to expect from the new course.