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Weekend Break: Bank of America Chicago 13.1 race a big success Sunday on city’s West Side

CHICAGO — More than 10,000 runners took off from Garfield Park early Sunday morning to compete in the third annual Bank of America Chicago Half Marathon on the city’s West Side.

Officially known as the Bank of America Chicago 13.1 — 13.1 miles being the distance of a half marathon — the race is the second of the three Bank of America Chicago Distance Series events this year, each progressing in length.

The Shamrock Shuffle, an 8-kilometer run, was held in March at Grant Park. The prestigious Chicago Marathon, which covers 26.2 miles, is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 13, also at Grant Park.

While those events have been around a long time, the middle of the three — Sunday’s Chicago 13.1 — is in only its third year.

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Carey Pinkowski, race director for the Bank of America Chicago Distance Series, says when talks about adding a half marathon to the race series first began, the West Side kept popping up as a great location.

So the race now begins in Garfield Park and takes runners through historic parks and boulevards on the West Side.

“I’ve got to just really acknowledge our team, who said, ‘The West Side. Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Douglas Park,'” Pinkowski said. “It’s just a natural fit, and I have just been honored.

“The community here and these neighborhoods have come out and supported us.”

Additionally, the event raises money for the community. Pinkowski says participants raised over $200,000 on Sunday morning for 11 charities.

“The charities are here on the West Side and do some great work,” Pinkowski said. “So we’re just scratching the surface with that.”

And, to put the cherry on top, the weather for race day this year was just perfect, with sunny skies and dry air.

“Mother Nature came along with us,” Pinkowski said. “It’s just a cool, wonderful morning.”

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Race winners

The race kicked off with a Wheelchair Division, which was won by Daniel Romanchuk, an elite American Paralympic athlete who will be competing in the Paralympic Games in Paris in September.

Them came the half marathon, which was won by Peter Njeru of Kenya in a brisk in 1 hour, 1 minute and 45 seconds. It was his first time both in the race and in Chicago.

Like any competitive distance runner, Njeru was said he can run a better time than he did Sunday and was already looking to his next challenge.

“I’m going to prepare for the Boston 10K in two weeks’ time,” Njeru said. “That is my target, and I’m hoping to do better.

“… I did my best (Sunday).”

Joyline Chematai, also from Kenya, was the first female to finish Sunday’s half-marathon, clocking in at 1:11:45. This was her second year in the race.

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“Last year, I was position-two, but this year I moved to win the race,” Chematai said.

And she had someone to dedicate this year’s victory to, as well.

“I’d like to dedicate this win to my lovely husband,” she said.

After crossing the finish line Sunday, runners joined the community in a festival filled with wellness activities, entertainment and community activities. From spectators to participants, there was much to cheer for, as people looked forward to qualifying for other major races and returning for years to come, or possibly as soon as October for the Chicago Marathon.

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“Chicago is the greatest event city in the world,” Pinkowski said.

“… What impressed me is how beautiful the West Side of Chicago is. These beautiful parks, the energy of the people. We’ve made some wonderful friendships.”

Full race results can be viewed later HERE.

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