While security was on the minds of many during their 26.2 mile journey through the city's streets, participants didn't let it stop them as the winning runner set a new course record in what has become a historic Chicago Marathon.
Dennis Kimetto of Kenya won the male division with an unofficial time of 2:03:45, breaking the previous record set last year of 2:04:38.
Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the female division with an unofficial time of 2:19:59, slower than the 2002 course record of 2:17:18.
The winners of the wheelchair division finished the race in less than 2 hours. As a group of wheelchairs crossed the finish line a number of volunteers clapped and cheered.
Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won the male wheelchair division with a time of 1:30:37 and the winner of the female wheelchair division, Tatyana McFadden of Champaign won with a time of 1:42:37.
Kelly Minor, 22, finished the race in four hours flat, 30 seconds slower than her finish last year.
“Doesn’t that just tick you off?” said Minor, of Chicago, who ran her second Chicago Marathon.
Asked how she was feeling after running: “Tired. Very, very tired.”
She said the race started out good because of the cool weather in the early morning. But as she ran farther down through the course and the morning progressed, that’s when the heat kicked in.
“Once I got past the buildings, the sun was just on your back,” she said, cloaked in her blanket-like heat wrap. “The sun was hot…Phew!”
For Minor, the most difficult part of today’s race was around the 22-mile mark when she said her body was playing a “mental game,” meaning she was getting close to the finish line but she knew there was still a long way to go.
She also thought of the Boston bombings, especially since her finishing time was around the same time they exploded during that city’s marathon.
By 11 a.m., fatigue and pain were on every face as they turned north onto Michigan Avenue from 35th Street in Bronzeville at the 23-mile marker.
One runner lay on the curb, struggling to get up. After some water he got to his feet and told Bob Arendt of Chicago that he'd finish the marathon walking.
Arendt, 52, was there cheering on his daughter-in-law.
"His legs cramped up and he kind of went down," Arendt said of the marathoner he helped. "We got him some water and encouraged him on."
Shortly before 11 a.m., Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said Superior Ambulance Service, a private ambulance company, has been handling any medical calls arising from the race. Chicago Fire Department personnel has been merely assisting them, so far.
Langford couldn't provide the number of calls Superior has responded to, but he said the Fire Department hasn't transported any runners to hospitals.
As the runners raced along State Street, police officers in bright yellow vests kept watch at every intersection, lending a sense of reassurance to many in the crowd for the 36th annual race.
"You always think about safety because you never expect (violence), but I haven't felt uncomfortable at all," said Belinda Musgrave, who had come from Houston, Texas to cheer on her friend, Rhonda Kersgieter. "They seem to have everything under control."
Among the people at the end were a number of uniformed Chicago police officers who were standing guard behind the fence along side the finish line area.
A few of the uniformed officers were wearing bulletproof vests that read, "Department of Homeland Security POLICE" and walked through the area. They were accompanied by a homeland security K9 officer who was walking a bomb-sniffing dog.
The dog, appearing to be shepherd, wore a patch on its shoulder that read, "DO NOT PET."
Chicago Police officers seemed to be posted at nearly every intersection downtown as the city heightened security measures.
It was the bombing during the Boston Marathon earlier this year that inspired Marcy Wrzesinski to stand outside her apartment building on Sunday to cheer on the runners as they passed mile four in the Old Town neighborhood.
"The Boston Marathon I think freaked people out," Wrzesinski said.
A 10-year resident of Chicago, Sunday was the first time Wrzesinski made it out to watch the race.
"I normally watch from my bedroom window," she said. "I didn't want to shy away from it this year. I wanted to come out and give my support. Go America."
Wrzesinski and her husband Chet said they had not noticed extra security measures this year, except that newspaper boxes in their neighborhood had disappeared.
Spectators who had gathered on Wells St. in Old Town said they were surprised that there were so few uniformed police offices around.
"It's good that you don't see the presence because that makes people uncomfortable," said Kelly Kane, 43, who was cheering runners on as they approached mile 11.
Some runners high-fived and shook hands with the few officers who were visible along the route, said Bill Deitrick, a Gold Coast resident.
"I told the officer, I said, 'This is the best of humanity,'" Deitrick said.
Kane, who has volunteered in the past at the finish line, said people would typically pack into that area as the race drew to a close. That's not allowed this year because race organizers made the finish line accessible only to ticket holders.
"It's a shame that they can't do that, but it totally makes sense," Kane said. "I can understand why (officials) don't want people down there."
Deitrick, who along with his wife Emily was watching the marathon for the first time, said it had never occurred to him to worry about safety.
"It's America, it's an open society," he said.
The couple came out on Sunday because they heard helicopters from their Gold Coast home and figured it was a nice day to take in the race.
"Chicago gave 'em a heck of a day for this," Deitrick said. "It's a perfect day."
A number of runners said the Boston bombings would not deter them from focusing on today's race. They were confident that the level of security here could prevent any terrorist attack.
One runner, Shannon Seiferth, 23, said the bombings crossed her mind only because today's marathon was such a large-scale event with thousands of people participating. But she was not worried.
"I think the security measures are in place and I think people are going to be on high alert," said Seiferth, of Chicago.
She's running the race with Emily Stewart, 23, of Chicago. The two were classmates at the University of Michigan. Both were running in their first marathon.
To pass the time of the lengthy race, the two compiled playlists on their music devices, including music from rapper Eminem.
At the corner of Jackson Boulevard and Halsted Street in Greek Town, Maxines Jones, 54, of Country Club Hills was waiting for about 15 friends to come running by. Jones said she had run the race three times before but this time she would be cheering on the runners.
"I've filled my bucket list," she said.
Jones, who works for the Cook County circuit court system, had salted-lime wedges ready for the runners because it helps runners with cramps, she said.
Jones said the crowd barriers were tighter this year. The increased security meant she would not be able to run a supportive stretch with her friends, Jones said.
"That was a big help," Jones said of her experience as a marathoner.
"It wasn't so secured," Jones said of the crowd barriers in years before the bombings. "You can't run out and say hi."
"It wasn't all that strict" in past years, Jones said. "I understand it, but it puts a damper on the whole process."
Jones said she especially liked having friends run alongside her on the final stretch, "Those 6.2 miles are the roughest."
"You can't go out there," Jones said laughing. "You'll get arrested!"
Others said they felt the extra security presence.
"I can spot all the undercovers," said Sandy Thompson, 72, who came from Orlando, Fla. to cheer on her daughter, who ran the race.
Thompson, who works in security at Disney World, said she had no concerns about safety during the race.
"You can't be scared," she said. "And I think if something did happen, they would pick a different venue."
It was her 49-year-old daughter's final marathon, Thompson said as she rang a set of red cowbells and looked on into the rush of runners.
"I don't know what wave she's in so I just keep ringing these things," she said. "I know my arms are going to hurt tomorrow."
Kathy Phalin, 51, of the Edison Park neighborhood, was also on hand in Greektown to cheer on her 30-year-old son, Ralph, who was running the marathon for the first time.
"We dropped him off at 5:30," said Phalin.
Phalin said she wanted to come out and show her support for her son and all the runners
Mark Murphy, 60, was running in his first marathon. He's been a runner for 30 years, but he's only run in a series of shorter races in the Quad Cities area where he's from.
"You should be doing these in your 20s and 30s," Murphy, of Atkinson, joked before the race. "We'll see if I repeat after that."
Matt Grossman, 28, snapped a few photos of the skyline over Buckingham Fountain while other runners sat on either side of him getting in some pre-race stretching.
This is also his first marathon. He's been a runner for only about a year and a half, but like Murphy, he has competed in shorter races.
Only Grossman was running with tendinitis in his right knee, the result of his rigorous training for the race.
"I'm going to give it a shot. We'll see what happens," said Grossman, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Armstrong family were all in costume at the corner of Halsted Street and Jackson Boulevard because it was their 3-year-old daughter Gwendolyn's birthday and the party was after the race.
Gwendolyn's father, Duff Armstrong, 34, said security seemed a bit tighter but nothing too outlandish. Both Armstrong and his wife Megan said they've run the race in past years
"It's not noticeably a lot different," said Duff Armstrong, who was decked out as the Cat in the Hat and holding his 1-year-old son, Paul who was dressed as spiderman. "But there seems to be more security in front of the runners."
Robb Lucas, 41, was running in his third marathon, all of which have been in Chicago. He said this race will be a great opportunity to learn from mistakes he made in the other two, like starting too fast or tying his shoelaces too tight so he doesn't hurt his toes.
Lucas said he's run in many races and hopes to compete in the Naperville half-marathon in November. But he believes today's race will likely sideline him for a week.
Lucas said last year he was able to bring in his backpack. But this year, he couldn't. He, like every other runner, had to bring their belongings in clear plastic bags.
He arrived early to the Marathon grounds thinking security would be so rigorous that they'd be extra long lines. But he said he was able to zip through the line and get checked it fairly quickly.
Shawn Maxwell, 36, meanwhile, is competing in his first marathon.
"This is my first one, so I'm gonna make all my mistakes today," said Maxwell, of North Aurora.
His added bonus for finishing the race?
"There's beer at the end."
Earlier, a few uniformed officers stood by as a large wave of runners crossed mile four at LaSalle Drive and North Avenue at around 8 a.m.
Neighborhood residents said they'd noticed no new security compared to years past except that newspaper boxes had been removed before the race.
About 30 minutes before race time, a few dozen runners urinated in some bushes across from Buckingham Fountain. It would likely be the last time they'd be able to make a pit stop for the next several hours.
Hundreds of other runners waited in line to use port-a-potties on the other side of the fountain. Before the race began, hundreds of runners waited in line to use port-a-potties on the other side of Buckingham Fountain.
Meanwhile, thousands of other runners scampered to the "gear check" tent so they could drop off their belongings. They were only allowed to carry them into the Marathon grounds in clear plastic bags.
Uniformed cops stood guard on two watchtowers on the north and east ends of Buckingham Fountain to monitor all the foot traffic through the Marathon grounds. There were two other watchtowers with other officers on the west and south ends of the fountain
At 5 a.m., a few dozen security guards from Monterrey Security began checking people into the Marathon grounds along the Jackson Drive bridge, just east of the course along Columbus Drive.
The guards searched bags at several tables set up in the middle of the bridge. A large sign affixed to the checkpoint detailed a list of items forbidden on the Marathon grounds:
*suitcases and rolling bags
*costumes covering the face or any non-formfitting bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter if the body
*props and non-running equipment
*pets/animals (except for service animals)
At 5 a.m. a few dozen volunteers had scattered along Columbus between the start and finish lines, and about 40 uniformed Chicago police officers also walked around sporting neon yellow vests.
For continuing marathon coverage, please visit the Tribune's race-day blog.