CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Marathon kicked off on Sunday morning with elite runners targeting its relatively flat and fast course and other participants set to tackle temperatures that could reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit later.
The marathon course is considered ideal for record-setting performances, when conditions are right. The route cuts through two-dozen ethnic neighborhoods between its start and finish in Grant Park adjacent to downtown.
On the women's side of the race Liliya Shobukhova of Russia hopes to take her third consecutive Chicago victory on Sunday.
There will be no repeat winner on the men's side in the 34th Chicago Marathon. Olympic champion Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, the first-place finisher in Chicago the past two years, fell to his death in May after he jumped off a balcony after his wife found him in bed with another woman.
Moses Mosop of Kenya, who lost the Boston Marathon by 4 seconds earlier this year, the 2008 Chicago Marathon winner Evans Cheruiyot of Kenya and Ryan Hall of Arizona were among the lead pack of a dozen elite runners on the men's side early in the race on Sunday.
Chicago had the world's fastest marathoner in 1999 when Morocco's Khalid Khannouchi shaved 23 seconds off the then-record with his time of 2:05:42. The current world record in the marathon is 2:03:38, set September 25 in Berlin by Kenya's Patrick Makau.
Leading up to this year's race, organizers warned the majority of the 45,000 participants not to push themselves too hard with temperatures forecast to rise to near 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 C) by afternoon.
Runners from more than 100 countries have registered for the marathon and some 1.7 million spectators are expected to line the route.
In 2007, temperatures during the marathon climbed to 90 degrees F (32 C) with high humidity. One runner collapsed and died, some 300 were taken to hospital suffering from heat-related illness and the race was halted early.
(Reporting by David Bailey and Andrew Stern)