KURT Fearnley had planned to attack out of the final corner in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon in his bid to win the race for a sixth time, but as it turned out the decisive moment came much earlier.
And unfortunately for the Carcoar native, it was one of his rivals who made the race-winning move.
Having narrowly held Fearnley off in a sprint to the line 12 months earlier – a photo needed to determine the winner – this time Swiss ace Marcel Hug pulled clear with some seven kilometres remaining.
He clocked a time of one hour, 29 minutes and 23 seconds, Hug’s effort the quickest in six years at Chicago.
While Fearnley easily won the sprint for second over Spain’s Jordi Madera Jimenez, finishing in 1:30.24, Hug’s aggressive tactics were rewarded.
“It was a really tough race, I tried to attack many times, but always the Japanese filled the gap, and Kurt Fearnley,” Hug said.
“I tried so many times as I really wanted it, and finally I got it.”
Though Hug got the nod, Fearnley still added to what is a remarkable Chicago Marathon record. Since he made his debut, he has never finished worse than second.
He won three titles in a row between 2007-09, while his most recent triumph was in 2015. He is the most decorated male in the history of the event, but conceded Hug was just too good this year, labelling him “a weapon”.
“I’ve had some good results here in the past, but today just wasn’t my day,” Fearnley said.
“Marcel is a hell of an athlete on an incredible run. Full credit to him. To pull away from the pack at that stage of the race and build a minute lead is something else.
“I love this race and it suits my strengths, so I came into today pretty confident. But sometimes someone else pulls out a world-beating performance to beat you and you just have to suck it up, pat him on the pack and come back next time with a bit more mongrel in the tank to try and be that world-beater.”
The pace was on from the start on Sunday, the field averaging 28.6km/hr through the opening 5km then upping the tempo even more to the next split at 10km.
At that point Fearnley was fourth wheel and the field had been split with the leading pack numbering 16 athletes.
With just over 45 minutes gone the leaders pushed past the halfway mark, the pace fluctuating as the rivals tested each. At the 35km mark Hug moved forward to sit at the head of the field and soon after he attacked.
The next time Hug and Fearnley are likely to do battle over the 42.2km distance is in the New York Marathon on November 5.